Rolling bearings are vital elements in rotating machinery and vibration signal is a kind of effective mean to characterize the status of rolling bearing fault. This paper presents a novel intelligent method for fault diagnosis based on empirical mode decomposition, fractal feature parameter extracting and orthogonal quadratic discriminant function classifier. The new method consists of three steps. Firstly, with investigating the feature of impact fault in vibration signals, the raw vibration signals are decomposed into intrinsic mode functions by empirical mode decomposition. Secondly, using the method of time sequences fractal dimension calculating, fractal feature parameters are extracted from intrinsic mode functions. Then, each raw signal sample has a feature set. Finally, training set and testing set are inputted into the orthogonal quadratic discriminant function model in the classification phase to identify different abnormal cases. The proposed method is applied to the fault diagnosis of rolling element bearing, and the test results indicate that the novel intelligent diagnosis method is sensitive to fault severity and capable of fault detection and fault diagnosis.