Bachelor of Design

The Bachelor of Design (BDes) degree is a four-year degree that offers three areas of design specialization: products (industrial design), communication (graphic design) and the design of physical and digital environments. Our curriculum emphasizes the importance of designing for the interactions between people, the built (designed) world and the natural world (environment).

CMU has one of the only undergraduate programs in design that enables students to customize their degree. They can choose to specialize in one of the three areas or combine any two in an interdisciplinary concentration. The first three semesters introduce students to all three areas of design specialty and provide them with the flexibility to adjust their path as their interests become clearer. 

Curricular Structure

The Diagram below shows two (out of many) pathways a student might chart through the curriculum, focusing on Products (P), Communications (C) or Environments (E). The final two semesters of the BDes curriculum provide students with another way in which they can customize their design degree. Working in multi-disciplinary teams, they apply their disciplinary expertise to capstone projects in the areas of design for services (Sv) and/or design for social innovation (Si). They may choose to work on projects in both areas or focus on one to deepen their expertise.

Working in collaborative, dedicated studio spaces throughout the four years of their education, students acquire skills and learn design process and theories that help them craft objects, communicate concepts, and develop complex systems that facilitate meaningful interactions.

In addition to their design studies at Carnegie Mellon, we strongly encourage students to participate in summer internships after the second and/or third years in the program, facilitated through our annual career event, Confluence. Study abroad opportunities are also available to students in their junior year.

Below is an overview of the types of courses offered in our new curriculum. You may also choose to schedule a visit to speak with our academic advisor and take a tour of the facilities.

BDes: Year One

Students learn to explore and understand interactions in the built and natural worlds from a design perspective. Projects focus on skill development, quick prototyping, and design approaches while gaining exposure to the broad impact of design in the world.

1 Fall First Year

Studio: Survey of Design + Workshop 12 units

Study the scale and territory of design

Visualizing 9 units

Learn the tools and methods to visualize ideas

Placing 9 units

Examine identity, values and worldview through the history of the local bioregion

CMU Computing 3 units

Required University course

English 9 units

Required University course

Psychology 9 units

Required University course

2 Spring First Year

Design Lab + Workshop 12 units

Learn & practice design approaches, methods, & tools used in the design of products, communications, and environments via 5 weeks sessions

Collaborative Visualizing 9 units

Learn to work with others to visually generate, iterate, and refine ideas

Systems 9 units

Study models of interrelations to find where to intervene and how

Photo Design 9 units

Learn how to deconstruct and construct images in the world and in the studio

Global History 9 units

Required University course

BDes: Year Two

Students investigate the relationships people form with designed artifacts and the roles that physical, visual, and digital forms play in our lives. They apply what they learn to the design of products, communications, and environments that facilitate interactions.

1 Fall Second Year

Lab 1: Understanding Form & Context (Products/Communications/Environments) 9 units

Deepen learning of design approaches and methods used in two areas of design— products, communicates, or environments via 7.5 wk sessions

Prototyping Lab: (Products/Communications/Environments) 9 units

Deepen skills using design tools in two areas of design—products, communications, or environments via 7.5 wk sessions

How People Work 9 units

Intro to human principles of design and research methods

Design Selective 9 units

Focus on skill-building such as digital imaging, color or mechanics & electronics

Academic Elective 9 units

Any non-design & non-studio course, usually taken outside the College

2 Spring Second Year

Studio 1: Designing for Interactions: (Products/Communications/Environments) 9 units

Deepen and hone skills and knowledge in the design of products, communications, or environments for interactions

Prototyping Lab 9 units

Develop skills appropriate to prototyping of products, communications and environments

Research Methods 4.5 units

Study of exploratory & ethnographic methods; participatory & generative design; evaluation/testing

Cultures 4.5 units

Develop the understanding of the differences between people, stemming from their ethnicity, gender, class, etc.

Academic Elective 9 units

Any non-design & non-studio course, usually taken outside the College

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

BDes: Year Three

Students study how design functions at various levels of scale and degrees of complexity situated in specific contexts. They design products, communications, and environments that function as cohesive systems that live within the built and social worlds.

1 Fall Third Year

Studio II: Designing for Complex Systems (Products/Communications/Environments) 9 units

Deepen and hone skills and knowledge in the design of complex systems involving products, communications, or environments

Futures 9 units

Learn the tools and methods to visualize ideas

Design Elective 9 units

Mix of courses—some focus on skill-building; others begin to introduce students to design research areas (design for services, social innovation & transition design)

Academic Elective 9 units

Any non-design & non-studio course, usually taken outside the College

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

2 Spring Third Year

Studio III: Designing for Social Systems (Products/Communications/Environments) 9 units

Deepen and hone skills and knowledge in the design of social systems through practical applications

Persuasion 9 units

Verbal argumentation and improvisation; social media strategies

Design Elective 9 units

Emphasis on design research areas (design for services, social innovation & transition design)

Academic Elective 9 units

Any non-design & non-studio course, usually taken outside the College

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

BDes: Year Four

Students work to identify their next steps in professional practice, entrepreneurship, or in academia. They apply their design skills and knowledge to client-based and/or self-defined projects that focus on the design of services or social innovation.

1 Fall Fourth Year

Design Research Studio 12 units

Apply skills and knowledge to design for services and social innovation

Design Elective 9 units

Emphasis is on design research areas (design for services, social innovation & transition design)

Design Elective 9 units

Emphasis is on design research areas (design for services, social innovation & transition design)

Academic Elective 9 units

Any non-design & non-studio course, usually taken outside the College

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

2 Spring Fourth Year

Capstone Project 12 units

Self-defined project in the research areas of design for services or social innovation

Design Elective 9 units

Students choose an elective that complements their area of specialty

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

Free Elective 9 units

Any non-design course

© School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, 2014

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