Bachelor of Design

The Bachelor of Design (BDes) degree is a four-year degree that offers three tracks for specialization: Products (industrial design), Communications (graphic design), and Environments (both physical and digital). Our curriculum emphasizes the importance of designing for interactions between people, the built world, and the natural world. (Learn more about our program framework.)

Working in collaborative, dedicated studio spaces, students cultivate skills and learn design theories, methods, and processes that help develop and refine their ideas. They craft objects, communicate concepts, and develop complex systems that facilitate meaningful interactions.

Customize your degree.

Carnegie Mellon has one of the only undergraduate programs in design that enables students to customize their degree. You can choose to keep a fairly narrow focus in order to develop deep expertise, or take a broad approach that results in a more interdisciplinary concentration. The diagram below shows just two example pathways that students might chart through the curriculum.

The first year of the program introduces students to all three design tracks: Communications (C), Products (P), and Environments (E). This year of study is intended to provide broad exposure, allowing students to gradually adjust their path as their interests become clearer and talents emerge. By the third semester, students begin to focus their attention on two preferred tracks.

Starting in the spring of their Sophomore year, studio courses focus on a single track at a time. By choosing among these courses, students develop expertise in a single track, or expand their range of experience by choosing two of the three.

In the final two semesters of study, students work in multi-disciplinary teams and apply disciplinary expertise to capstone projects in the areas of Design for Service (Sv) and/or Design for Social Innovation (Si). Again, they have the opportunity to work on projects in both areas, or focus on a single area to deepen their exploration.

In the spring each year, the School of Design hosts Confluence, a career event attended by more than 70 top companies. Confluence helps our students land summer internships (particularly after the second and third years in the program), adding real world design experience to their growing list of credentials. Study abroad opportunities are also available to students during the junior year.

BDes course curriculum

An overview of the types of courses offered in our undergraduate program is provided below. For more information, please contact us to schedule a call with our academic advisor, or plan a visit and take a tour of the facilities while you're here. Current students should refer to the University’s Schedule of Classes for complete course offerings and descriptions.

BDes: Year One

1 Fall First Year

Explore basic concepts in design by deconstructing products, communications, and environments. Examine interactions in the built and natural worlds from a design perspective.

Studio: Survey of Design 10 units

Investigate how design works in the world, and learn to describe your thinking about design through sketching, modeling, photography, and video.

Visualizing 10 units

Use visual design tools and methods to communicate ideas.

Place 5 units

Develop an understanding of place-based design thinking.

Histories 5 units

Explore a plurality of design histories extending beyond the dominant, Anglo-European story of Design.

Computing @ Carnegie Mellon 3 units

English 9 units

Psychology 9 units

2 Spring First Year

Work on projects to develop skills across all three design tracks: products, communications, and environments. Enhance your understanding of the broader impact of design in the world.

Design Lab 10 units

Practice design approaches, methods, and tools in focused 5-week sessions.

Collaborative Visualizing 10 units

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

Futures 5 units

Frame design in a temporally-extended systemic context.

Experience 5 units

Explore how design touches people’s lives, and shapes their materials and non-material worlds.

Photo Design 10 units

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

Global History or Gender Studies 9 units

BDes: Year Two

3 Fall Sophomore

Customize your pathway by focusing on two design tracks of your choice. Investigate the roles that physical, visual, and digital forms play in our lives, and learn methods to understand how people think and work.

Studio I: Form & Context 9 units

Practice design approaches and methods in two of the three design tracks in focused 7.5-week sessions.

Prototyping Lab 9 units

Refine skills using design tools in two of the three design tracks in focused 7.5-week sessions.

Systems 5 units

Prepare to design for, and within, complex systems.

Cultures 5 units

Explore ways in which societies shape design, and how design shapes societies in return, rooted in historical and philosophical origins of identities and cultures.

Design Selective 9 units

Build skills like color & communications, digital imaging, or mechanics & electronics.

Academic Elective 9 units

4 Spring Sophomore

Take a deeper dive into a single design track. Build knowledge and hone skills in the design discipline that interests you most, and learn methods and processes that help you develop and refine your ideas.

Studio II: Design for Interactions 9 units

Focus on one of the tracks you studied in the third semester.

Prototyping Workshop 9 units

Develop skills to prototype and iterate design concepts.

Persuasion 5 units

Develop the capacity to put across a message, in a way that people understand and value.

Power 5 units

Explore the concepts of politics, the political, and the powers that intertwine with design.

Academic Elective 9 units

Free Elective 9 units

BDes: Year Three

5 Fall Junior

Determine whether you want to specialize within a single track or diversify across two tracks. Work on projects that expand your view of contexts, constraints, and other system-level considerations.

Studio III: Design for Complex Systems 10 units

Focus on one of the tracks you studied in the third semester.

Design Electives 18 units

Choose from a mix of courses— some focus on building skills, while others begin to introduce design research areas (design for service and social innovation)

Academic Elective 9 units

Free Elective 9 units

6 Spring Junior

Apply skills from your design track(s) to projects situated within an area of design focus: design for service or design for social innovation. Develop the communication skills to create compelling stories about your concepts.

Studio IV: Design for Social Systems 10 units

Focus on one of the two design tracks you studied in the fourth or fifth semester.

Design Electives 18 units

Study in one of the design research areas (design for service or social innovation).

Academic Elective 9 units

Free Elective 9 units

BDes: Year Four

7 Fall Senior

Work within a single area of design focus, or gain broader experience by studying both social innovation and service design. Prepare for the next steps on your professional path by working on real- world problems with real- world constraints.

Design Research Studio 12 units

Work on a team-based project that focuses on service design or social innovation.

Design Elective 9 units

Study in one of the design research areas (design for service and social innovation).

Academic Elective 9 units

Free Elective 10 units

8 Spring Senior

Take advantage of electives and outside courses that will further complement your unique sets of skills and knowledge. Work with faculty advisors on a self-defined project that synthesizes what you’ve learned.

Capstone Project 12 units

Work on a self-defined project in the research areas of design for service and social innovation.

Design Elective 9 units

Choose an elective that complements your specialty.

Free Elective 9 units

Free Elective 6 units

© School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, 2014

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