Kleiner Perkins Launches Design Fellows Program To Match Talented Designers With Portfolio Companies

Now more than ever, design has become a key part of product development and user experience. And this focus on design extends to all types of technologies, including both consumer and enterprise companies. But talented designers are hard to come by–some say there is a shortage. Venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) is announcing a new initiative today in the design world, aimed to foster talent in the design community and help startups find rockstar designers.

The KPCB Design Council and Fellows Program wants to match promising design students with startups, providing mentorship, real experience and more.

The KPCB Design Fellows Program is a 3-month work-based program intended to give top design students exposure to working on design challenges at KPCB-funded start-ups such as Coursera, Flipboard, Klout, Nest, One Kings Lane, Opower, Path, Shopkick, Square and Zaarly.

KPCB has also created a “design council” to serve as mentors and leaders to the Design Fellows, as well as help other KPCB startups with design-focused initiatives. Council members include Zach Klein, DIY; Sahil Lavingia, Gumroad; Elle Luna, Mailbox; Gentry Underwood, Mailbox; Marcos Weskamp, Flipboard; Wesley Yun, Samsung; Matt Beebe, Tylr Mobile.

Not only will the Design Council mentor fellows, but the group will also organize panels and other events to gather the best in class designers to network, share trade expertise and discuss key industry trends.

Two of Kleiner’s newest partners, Megan Quinn; formerly at Square and Google, and Mike Abbott, who previously worked at Twitter, are taking lead of the program.

The KPCB Design Fellows Program is similar in idea to KPCB’s Engineering Fellows Program, which focuses on placing students studying in fields related to computer science, engineering and software development, at startups. Candidates for the KPCB Design Fellows program can submit applications here from November 20, 2012 through January 31, 2013.

In a world where VCs are now becoming full-service firms that offer recruiting, marketing and more; it’s not surprising that KP is debuting a design fellowship to bring new, fresh talent to the startup ecosystem. Google Ventures made a similar move earlier this year, establishing a design team in-house to help portfolio companies.