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. 

Participants receive a program certificate, student evaluation, and produce a draft portfolio of design work that can be shared with design programs or professionals in pursuit of additional forms of design education and internship experiences to follow. 

Image of four studio desks with the hands of Design Discovery Youth participants drawing plans and sections of architecture on paper.

Who Attends

Design Discovery Youth (DDY) is an intensive summer program that seeks to immerse rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in the world of design. Most participants come with little to no experience with design, drawing, modeling the way a design process unfolds. All of these skills are shared as a part of this program through built references, technique workshops and iterative design assignments.

Image of a Design Discovery Youth participant arranging paper models to photograph in a darkened space.
Image of a Design Discovery Youth program participants seated at a studio desk constructing a physical model of a design.

Learning Format

Students will be exposed to drawing, modeling, and representation techniques associated with architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism, as well as graphic, industrial, and fine arts design. The program strives to foster design skills and put students on track for exploring these ideas at the collegiate level.

Participants explore the impact of line work in drawing, learn how to physically model their drawn designs, and how to use digital media to illustrate and express their ideas. A combination of group and one-on-one instruction helps each student develop their ability to bring creative ideas to life!

DDY is run and taught by advanced graduate students in the fields of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and Urban Design from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD).

Image of a studio desk inside Gund Hall at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  On the desk is a desk lamp, a partially build model out of balsa wood framing, several drawings, and large timber canopy over the desk.


Students examine problem solving and thinking through making within the design disciplines through small and large-scale projects, weekly discussions, and fast-paced group design challenges. During the three-week program, students are taught and exposed to the many techniques through which designers capture and convey ideas. Program days include participants sharing observations of the world around them through the lens of design assignments, discussion of design references with respect to how to visually communicate those observations to other audiences and the 3-dimensional built possibilities that extend from those ideas.

Creative guests are also invited to present and discuss their academic and professional experiences in design with participants. Program guests capture a range of different paths of application of design thinking through making that participants could choose to pursue.

Image of six study models in thin wood sticks defining the corners and edges of multi-story houses with different gable roof profiles.  The models are sitting on a studio desk on top of a paper printed with a striped pattern.

Evaluation + Certificate

Participants receive a program certificate, student evaluation, and produce a draft portfolio of design work that can be shared with design programs or professionals in pursuit of additional forms of design education and internship experiences to follow.

Tuition + Financial Aid

The GSD Design Discovery Youth program is free to those who qualify. Applicants must be from the Boston/Cambridge area. A device with a stable internet connection and sufficient resources to run Zoom and access the web-based course management and digital design software is required. The use of Adobe Creative Cloud is optional. Harvard’s Graduate School of Design will provide all participants with licenses to use these tools for the duration of the program. If needed, applicants may request computer support by emailing [email protected] with your name, program and year, and needs.

Faculty + Staff

Lead Faculty

Lead Faculty

Program Director

Delara Rahim

GSD MDes ADPD, 2020

Julia Spackman

GSD MArch I, 2023

Photo of Megan Panzano

Megan Panzano

Senior Director of Early Design EducationLecturer in ArchitectureView Profile


Image of a Design Discovery Youth participant constructing a physical model out of lumber members inside Gund Hall at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

Apply to GSD DDY 2022


  • Essay:  In 400 words or less, explain how your background, extracurricular activities, and aspirations have contributed to your interest in this program. Please describe specifically what you hope to get out of the Design Discovery Youth (DDY) program and how you feel it will prepare you for your future. Feel free to describe a project that you have completed and what you have learned from it, even if it is not related to design.
  • Academic Recommendation Letter: A letter submitted by a teacher or coach on your behalf.
  • Administration Confirmation:  Please provide the contact of an administrator at your school who can confirm your good attendance record and GPA. 


Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis beginning in April.  Applications will continue to be reviewed until all spots are filled.  Early submissions are strongly encouraged.