Stanford Joint Program in Design

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Stanford Graduate School of Product Design
Joint Program in Design
Motto A joint design program of Art and Engineering. Focus on innovation, research, & design of new products.
Established 1958
Parent institution Stanford University
Students 25 (all graduate)

The Joint Program in Design or "Stanford Design Program" is one of the professional schools of Stanford University, in Stanford, in the U.S. state of California. It is generally considered a leading design school in the United States. The school offers degrees in Mechanical Engineering and in Fine Arts/Design and is closely connected with the Stanford The does not grant degrees, so the Design Program can be considered the degree-granting leg of the


Students in Design Loft

The school was founded in 1958. It has three full-time faculty. It maintains very close links with the venture capital, finance and technology firms of nearby Silicon Valley.

Admissions statistics and student profile[edit]

Aerial view of the Main Quad.

The school has historically been the most selective program at the already highly selective Stanford. For the class which entered in 2001, approximately 4 percent of applicants were offered admission. Only 10 to 15 students enter the program each year. There are about 300 total alumni.[citation needed]


Stanford's Design program dates from 1958 when Professor John Arnold, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, first proposed the idea that design engineering should be human-centered. This was a radical concept in the era of Sputnik and the early Cold War. Building on Arnold's work, Bob McKim (Emeritus, Engineering) along with Matt Kahn (Art), created the Product Design major and the graduate-level Joint Program in Design. This curriculum formalized in the mid-1960s, making the Joint Program in Design (JPD) one of the first inter-departmental programs at Stanford or other nationally prominent Universities. The texts in those days were McKim's recently published Experiences in Visual Thinking, and Jim Adams', Conceptual Blockbusting, a Guide to Better Ideas. The "loft" was a bootleg attic space in Building 500 that the University didn't know about (and the faculty pretended didn't exist). ME101: Visual Thinking was the introductory class for all product design students and the class included four "voyages" in the Imaginarium, a 16 foot geodesic dome that presented state-of-the art multimedia shows designed to stimulate creativity.

The Loft moved to its current location behind the Old Firehouse. Bob McKim went Emeritus; Matt Kahn, Rolf Faste and David Kelley continued instruction in the tradition of merging art, science and needfinding though the 1980s and 1990s. Forty-some years later ME101 is still taught, and the Mechanical Engineering Department and the Department of Art continue this historic collaboration with faculty drawn from both schools for instruction.

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