DMBA residency students laughing during a classroom game.

MBADesign Strategy

Unite strategic design, organizational management, generative leadership, and innovative technology for total value creation.


Design the future of business

The MBA in Design Strategy is more than a program. We’re a movement of future-focused designers, business strategists, educators, and engineers who want to frame the world in entirely new ways. We believe deeply in the value of design-based perspectives in business and that human-centric design is the future.

We're one of the few business schools in the country to implement a data science and artificial intelligence thread throughout our curriculum, not just as standalone courses. And we’re uniquely positioned within one of the best art school environments that also happens to be within a global center of entrepreneurial activity. Students capitalize on the creative energy and business acumen of our vibrant community to build their skill sets and networks.

A dmba student gives her presentation in front of a projected infographic.

Our two-year, low-residency approach

The MBA in Design Strategy is a full-time program that takes two years (four semesters) to complete. We follow a low-residency schedule. Classes meet only once per month, rather than weekly, from Thursday to Sunday. This makes it possible for students to either continue their existing jobs or complete internships during the fall, spring, and summer.

“The DMBA does a really great job at combining both qualitative and quantitative courses. I’m not only learning about the logistics in business and administration, but also learning how to become a more thoughtful human being.”

— Jeanette Melgarejo

MBA in Design Strategy 2017

Studios + Shops

Experiences that transform careers


Many of our students want to move vertically into management-oriented roles and others want to leverage strategic design capabilities that can span industries in really interesting ways. We have the resources to match and amplify your ambitions. In addition to dedicated studio space for heads-down work, MBA students have access to model-making, rapid prototyping, and media studios for the range of real-world projects they take on for clients in key courses: Market Insight Studio, Business Models and Stakeholders, and Operations and Systems.

Core DMBA pillars

  • Customer-centered research
  • Ideation, prototyping, and iteration
  • Business model design
  • Design thinking
  • Behavioral psychology
  • Management science
  • Experiential learning
  • Ethical, sustainable technology


Turning the unexpected into an advantage

Our faculty work with students to redefine what design at CCA means. Their expertise intersects broad fields of practice, including industrial design, corporate finance, global branding, experience strategy, emerging technologies, and more. Together, students and faculty take advantage of the spaces between disciplines, problem-solving in ways that may be unconventional and unexpected. They push design thinking frameworks to drive and accelerate transformative outcomes.

Portrait of Sara Fenske Bahat, Chair of MBA in Design Strategy.

Sara Fenske Bahat, Chair of MBA in Design Strategy

Chair Sara Fenske Bahat joined CCA’s DMBA community in 2010 through the fellows program, has taught managerial economics to first-year DMBA students since 2014, and was appointed chair of the program in 2020. Outside of the college, she advises startups at the intersection of finance and community, is vice chair of the Eastern Neighborhoods Citizen Advisory Commission, serves on the executive committee of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and much more.


Design thinking for the executive suite

This two-year, low-residency program is focused on the intersection of technology, business, and design, providing you with a strong network and deep industry ties through which to learn and thrive. From creating value beyond the monetary to innovating at the nexus of business, technology, fine arts, and design, the MBA in Design Strategy program will accelerate your career trajectory and catalyze holistic and sustainable growth in your organizations. To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses.

For those with a desire to push their design skill further, our dual degree with MFA in Design is a great option. This three-year degree incorporates courses from both programs and is perfect for students interested in hybrid design practices. Learn more

MBA Design Strategy

Year 1: Fall Semester

Live Exchange
3 units
Strategic Foresight Studio + Data Lab
6 units
Managerial Economics
3 units
Financial and Managerial Accounting
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Leadership by Design
3 units
Market Insights Studio + AI Lab
6 units
Managerial Finance
3 units
Business Models and Stakeholders
3 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Operations and Systems
3 units
Experiences Studio
6 units
Innovation Studio
6 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

Business Law and Negotiations
3 units
Venture Studio
6 units
Strategy Studio
6 units

Total 60 units


Creative strategists and leaders


Our MBA students are part of a growing community of thought leaders, innovators, and creators who are transforming human-centric organizations. They can be found all over the world, making an impact at Fortune 500 companies, startups, financial institutions, nonprofits, and well-known tech companies, such as Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, and IBM. Graduates also make significant waves at renowned agencies, like IDEO and fuseproject, where they’re at the forefront of emerging AV, AR, and AR/VR technologies.

Potential careers paths

  • Design strategist
  • Business designer
  • Product marketing manager
  • UX strategist
  • Product manager
  • Business consultant
  • Content strategist
  • Brand strategist
  • Design and innovation lead
  • Customer experience designer
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Agency founders

“I wanted a practical way to bridge the gap between the designers and corporate counterparts of the business world, and other programs seemed focused on either one or the other, but rarely both.”

— Justin Paul

MBA in Design Strategy 2017

News + Events

What’s new for MBA students?

How to Apply

The new school of strategy

As a low-residency graduate program for early- to mid-career professionals, the MBA in Design Strategy is intended for those who have a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of post-degree professional experience—and many of our students have far more than that. Ours is a rigorous and accredited graduate program, taught at an advanced level.

Students come from all over the world, and every continent, with an annual international student body of approximately 30%. Our student body veers from the usual makeup of MBA students, as is only to be expected given the degree to which the program differs from the norm. Only slightly more than half of our students come from design backgrounds. The rest come from business, NGOs, education, and, increasingly, engineering. Read our FAQ to get a high-level overview.

Application fundamentals

When applying online, you’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae (MBA in Design Strategy applicants are required to provide a link to their LinkedIn profile instead of a traditional resume.)
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

In addition, you’ll submit a personal essay that’s tailored to your specific master’s program. After you submit all materials, you may be contacted for an online or on-campus interview with the graduate program manager or a faculty member.

The following are optional compliments to your application:

  • Portfolio
  • Video

Testing requirements: We do not require GMAT or GRE scores. International students must, however, supply recent TOEFL scores or otherwise demonstrate English proficiency prior to submitting an application. Official English proficiency exam scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE) must be sent to the college directly from the testing agency. International applications will be considered incomplete and not reviewed until proof of English proficiency has been received. Learn more about international admission requirements

How to apply to the DMBA

View details on specific requirements and learn about optional supplements for your application to the MBA in Design Strategy graduate program.

A note on supplemental materials: The absence of a portfolio will not reduce chances of acceptance for non-designers. For applicants of all backgrounds, the absence of a video will not adversely affect your admission consideration.

How to format your resume and essay

Resume via LinkedIn profile

Applicants are required to provide their resume in the form of their LinkedIn profile. Include your LinkedIn profile URL with your online application form. Don’t have a LinkedIn account? Create a free LinkedIn profile

Personal essay requirements

In a personal essay of 500 to 1,000 words, you must address all four of the topics below:

  1. We expect that our students have several years of professional work experience in the commercial, nonprofit, NGO, or government sectors. Discuss your relevant professional work experience and how it has shaped your current educational and career goals.
  2. Describe a product or service, and the company associated with it, that you either particularly admire or dislike. Explain the reasons for your admiration or dislike. If you admire the product or service, what can other design strategists learn from this company? If you dislike the product or service, what would you, as a future design strategist, do to change it?
  3. If your current employer or company was featured in Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist, what would the headline be and what would the article convey?
  4. In seven sentences, teach us something about either a professional skill or other skill you have. Be creative and have fun with this one!

Your personal essay must be submitted as a PDF.

How to format optional application supplements

What should you include in your portfolio?

The portfolio is optional for DMBA applicants, and not including it will not affect acceptance consideration for non-designers. If you wish to provide a portfolio, you can include a portfolio URL with your LinkedIn profile and personal essay. Portfolios should complement your essay. Your essay should refer to the relevant section(s) of your portfolio. You should only include content in the portfolio that is relevant to your essay.

The portfolio should visually explain the manner by which you framed the design situation, articulated the problems to be solved, and the processes you used. Portfolios may be uploaded to any internet host, such as or your personal website. Alternatively, you may post a PDF portfolio to a file-sharing site. Be sure to make your online portfolio publicly accessible.

Note: If you don’t refer to it in your personal essay, please don’t submit a portfolio. In addition, SlideRoom portfolio submissions are not permitted for the DMBA program.

What kind of video should you submit?

The video is optional for DMBA applicants and can be used to supplement your personal essays with a story, interview, or project highlight. The absence of video will not adversely affect your admission consideration. Post a three- to five-minute video to a hosting site, such as YouTube or Vimeo, and include the video’s URL in your personal essay. Be sure to make your video URL publicly accessible.

Note: If you don’t refer to it in your personal essay, please don’t submit a video. We're unable to accept video files at this time.

Contact our associate chair with questions

Join us. Design the future of business.

Susan Worthman, Associate Chair of MBA in Design Strategy

Susan Worthman

Associate Chair, MBA in Design Strategy

+1 415-551-9350

[email protected]

Connect with alumni and current students

Contact Associate Chair Susan Worthman to be connected with alumni and current students.

Innovate breakthrough business solutions

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