Undergraduate Program

The School of Design offers a Bachelor of Design degree (BDes) in three areas of design focus – products, communications, and environments. Students who are interested in career opportunities that are positioned in one or more of these areas are encouraged to apply to the BDes program.

The school offers two other options for undergraduate students: the BXA program and a design minor. The BXA program is aimed at students who are interested in evenly balancing their study of the humanities or sciences and design. Students admitted to other programs on campus who are interested in gaining fundamental design skills are encouraged to apply for a design minor.

Undergraduate Framework

Our undergraduate program provides students with a solid foundation in design for interactions and design studies, while enabling them to develop specialized skills in products, communications, or environments. Students are taught to think in terms of systems at multiple levels of scale, and to situate their work within larger social and environmental contexts.

Three areas of design research inform both the undergraduate and graduate curricula: design for services, design for social innovation, and transition design. These are important new areas for design practice evident throughout the coursework and projects of our undergraduate program, particularly during the junior and senior years.

Design for Interactions

Our undergraduate coursework balances making and theory, helping students explore the scope of design and the roles designers play in aiding relationships between people, the built world, and the natural environment. They investigate the impact of design on people and the planet to better understand their responsibilities and opportunities as designers.

We approach teaching with a focus on fostering curiosity. By studying the world around us, our relationship to it, and the positive effect we can have on others, we gain a sense of place and purpose. We further nurture students' inquisitive nature through the integration of new technologies in our courses. 

Our program is a leader in design education, uniquely positioned within a highly ranked university. The School of Design provides a flexible curriculum that affords students the opportunity to customize their studies in design. This approach helps students identify areas of design that excite them and discover meaningful ways that they can contribute to society as they work toward a Bachelor of Design or the BXA Intercollege degree. 

Products

Students learn to design products as integral components of communication and environmental systems in support of human needs and interactions. They engage in an iterative and collabora­tive process of design through research, observation, modeling, and evaluation. Students study current production and manufac­turing processes, including sustainable practices, such as lifecycle product ecologies. They learn to prototype using both analog and digital technologies.

Some examples of projects with a product focus:

  • Soft goods, furniture, transportation, and consumer products 
  • Design for new material technology applications
  • Computationally enabled interactive devices
  • Quality of life and assistive products

Communications

Students learn to design effective communications for interactions between people, products, and environments. They use storytelling, the organization of information, and visualization methods to communicate ideas in physical and digital forms. Students move seamlessly between various media, generating and expressing ideas that educate, inform, and delight audiences. They study the dynamics of communication in a globally networked society in which technologies and modes of both individual and mass communication are rapidly changing.

Some examples of projects with a communications focus: 

  • Educational campaigns for social advocacy 
  • Communication systems for complex information 
  • Interactive design for inciting social participation
  • Developing frameworks for dynamic information 

Environments

Products and communications are situated within complex environments that can be physical, digital, or multimodal. Students study environments as integrated and dynamic systems that function at various levels of scale. The design of environ­ments requires that students bring together diverse sets of skills, collaborate in inter- and trans-disciplinary teams, and use a broad range of prototyping methods that include both analog and digital technologies.

Some examples of projects with an environments focus:

  • Flow of visitors in museum settings
  • Device/interface influences on cognitive/behavior states 
  • Redesign of vehicle interiors / interfaces
  • Interactive environments / sensors in learning environments