Early Design Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Early Design Education (EDE) at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) is a set of five academic programs that introduce design and its potentials to change the world as we’ve come to know it to audiences of different ages and degrees of design familiarity. All programs are crafted to engage respective participants with design means and methods across scales with the assumption that the program is one of the earliest experiences of thinking through making encountered. Each program opens up the breadth and depth of design talent at Harvard’s GSD to the diverse global public. Please see more information about each program below. We invite you to direct any questions to [email protected].


Design Discovery Virtual

Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) is a 3 week virtual academic program that engages an international audience of individuals 18 years old to mid-career professionals interested in an introduction to design, its media and methods, across the three disciplines of Architecture, Landscape, and Urban Planning + Design.  The program explores the potentials of design to address a series of relevant contemporary issues within the built environment.  Program participants benefit from a cross-disciplinary lens on the collaborative development of design responses to weekly topics through visual communication with an emphasis on digital media for design drawing and modeling.  Students are taught by a global group of Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) faculty, masters, and doctoral degree program graduates in addition to daily interaction with a broad, diverse network of design talent invited to serve as guest lecturers and critics for the program. 

Design Discovery

Design Discovery (DD) is a 3 week in person academic program that takes place at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, MA and engages an audience of individuals 18 years old to mid-career professionals interested in gaining knowledge within a single, selected design discipline.  Participants enroll in either Architecture, Landscape, and Urban Planning + Design.  The program explores the potentials of design to impact the built environment and the active conditions it choreographs through the material and scale specific to a particular design discipline.  Program participants direct design to contemporary issues with an emphasis on hands-on physical modeling, material capacities, fabrication, and assembly, in complement to the Design Discovery Virtual program’s digital media emphasis.  Students are taught by Harvard GSD faculty and masters and doctoral degree program graduates in addition to engagement with a broad and diverse network of design talent, across the three disciplines, invited to serve as guest lecturers and critics. 

Design Discovery Youth

Design Discovery Youth (DDY) is a three week long in-person program that takes place at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, MA and engages an audience of high school students, rising sophomore to senior year in age, who are interested in learning about what design is, its media and methods, and the scales it involves.  The program explores how to translate participants’ varied and valuable observations of the world into the spatial and visual language of design.  Students are taught by Harvard GSD faculty and masters degree program graduates in addition to interacting with a diverse community of Boston area design talent and agencies. 

Black in Design Mentorship Program

The Black in Design Mentorship Program (BiD Mentorship) is a 10 week academic and professional mentorship program that invites Boston area Black high school students to learn about what design involves and how guidance and collaboration are essential to the act of design.  This program, a partnership between Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Boston design firm Perkins&Will, promotes greater representation of Black talent in the design fields by linking high school participants with current GSD graduate students who provide academic instruction and Perkins & Will designers who offer professional mentorship to both.  The program aims to expand the ecosystem of engagement among Black designers by building these mentorship trios to extend support into participants’ future pursuit of design, beyond the program. 

Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies

Harvard Undergraduate Architecture Studies is a 4 year long degree program that teaches design thinking through making within the liberal context at Harvard College. This program is collaboratively run by the Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences History of Art and Architecture Department. The four making-based courses of the program explore various scales and motivating agents of design by emphasizing architectural disciplinary specific things that can productively engage other disciplines across Harvard College.  The design work produced within this program address a series of assignments that begin more abstractly, studying the relationship of material, form, effect and means of assembly and build up to applying discoveries made in these exercises to the design of an intervention for a physical site that accommodates various scales of registration of its context as well as the human body as an occupant of it.   In this program, design is taught by Harvard GSD faculty and advanced degree students in ways that leverage intersection with the brightest minds and scholars from across Harvard.   This is a non-professional degree program in Architectural Studies. 

Students of the program receive a Harvard A.B. degree in History of Art and Architecture, Design Studies. Because this program is part of a degree-earning concentration at Harvard College, admission questions and processes go through Harvard College.   

Image of a student constructed pavilion in the Gund Hall, showing students and faculty interacting with it.