Harvard GSD Design Discovery Virtual

A virtual 3-week program for a global audience interested in design media and methods across Architecture, Landscape, and Urban Planning + Design. With an emphasis on digital media for design drawing and modeling, this program explores the potentials of design to address a series of contemporary topics. U.S. and international citizens are invited to apply to join us!


Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) is a 3 week virtual academic program that engages a global 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.  U.S. and international citizens are invited to apply.

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. Participants are also exposed to the wide range of perspectives about the built environment that this program’s global audience offers.  This program is taught by a diverse group of Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) faculty, masters, and doctoral degree program graduates and includes interaction with a broad network of design talent invited to serve as guest lecturers and critics for the program. 

Successful participants receive a program certificate, student evaluation, and produce a draft portfolio of design work that can be shared with design program admission committees, potential design employers, collaborators, clients, or home school programs for course credit consideration.

Program Summary

  • 3 weeks, virtual format
  • U.S. and international audience ages 18 to mid-career professionals
  • Introduction to design across all three disciplines:  Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning + Design
  • Digital media focus for drawing and modeling
  • Instruction by Harvard GSD faculty and advanced GSD masters and doctoral students

Design Discovery Virtual 2024 will run from June 10 – 28, 2024!

Need some help deciding between the GSD’s Design Discovery programs? See this FAQ:

Q: How do I choose between Design Discovery Virtual and Design Discovery In-person?     

A: As suggested guidance for how to choose:  If this academic program would be your earliest direct engagement with design, you might benefit from enrolling in our Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) program which provides an overview of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning + Design and how these disciplines involve distinct material, take different approaches to design, and follow different methodological steps in the making of a project.   If you already have some knowledge about the similarities and differences between the three design disciplines, you might benefit from enrolling in Design Discovery In-person (DD), as this program requires you to select a discipline you want to study with more singular focus.  

We encourage participants to consider carefully what they hope to take away from engagement with Design Discovery.  You might also make a selection between the programs by evaluating what media (digital or physical) you might be most interested in learning about and making with.    

Q: Can I enroll in both programs? 

A: Yes, you can enroll in both programs!  Please note that a valid visa for study within the U.S. is required to be supplied by international student participants of the Design Discovery in-person program. Application and tuition processes and fees would have to be followed for each program you’d want to participate in, as our program webpages describe in more detail:  Design Discovery Virtual and Design Discovery In-person.   The two programs are designed to be complementary to one another, so that participants of both would have little to no redundancy in their educational experience.  The programs also do not overlap with their timing to allow for enrollment in both. 

Q: Is there a fixed sequencing to the two Design Discovery programs? 

A: No, there is not a prescribed sequencing to these programs.  Participants may enroll in them as singular design experiences or as a pair in an order that suits the individual.  The two programs are designed to be complementary to one another, so that participants of both would have little to no redundancy in their educational experience.    

Q: What are the differences in format between the two programs? 

A: Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) allows participants to join from anywhere in the world, while Design Discovery in-person (DD) requires participants to temporarily reside in the Boston area to attend the program held in the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s main studio space, Gund Hall, in Cambridge, MA, USA.  Please note that a valid visa for study within the U.S. is required to be supplied by international citizenship participants of the Design Discovery in-person program. We can only accept valid visas of international students who will be returning to their domestic home school to complete their study after the conclusion of the DD program. DDV engages digital software to bring a diverse global community together to share ideas about the world and explore ways to introduce positive change through design.  DD invites participants to address these aims at a studio desk in Gund Hall with in-person lectures, pin-up conversations, and design reviews

Q: What if I’m an international student without a valid visa for study in the U.S.?

A: We invite you to join us for the Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) program! No visas are required with this program. It has been designed to address and engage an international audience. Design Discovery Virtual is just as robust, rigorous, and inspiring as our in-person program.  We’ve worked hard to ensure that community is built within the virtual environment through the program format and pace and that design and technical skill with digital media tools are taught in an engaging and accessible manner through our custom workshops.  The Design Discovery Virtual program is fantastic and we hope that you’ll strongly consider participating in this program.  It has a lot to offer!

Q:  Is housing an additional expense of the Design Discovery In-person program? 

A:  Yes.  The cost and reservation of Boston area housing for the Design Discovery in-person program is up to each participant to arrange.  Our Design Discovery Virtual program allows for participants to join from wherever they are with no additional housing costs.

Q: What are the differences in design content between the two programs? 

A: Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) instructs how all three disciplines (Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning + Design) address global issues through design during the program. Design Discovery in-person (DD) asks participants to select a particular discipline among these three to closely study through a series of relevant design questions posed.

Q: What are the differences in the material that I will engage between the two programs? 

A: Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) uses digital media (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Rhino, 3D modeling software) to provide experience with the relationship between 2D images and 3D form and space across Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning + Design.   Design Discovery in-person (DD) emphasizes physical modeling, exploring a selected discipline’s material capacities and scale as a means to learn design methods through questions posed over a series of assignments.

Who Attends DDV

Design Discovery Virtual students represent a broad range of cultural backgrounds, geographic locations, ages, lifestyles, and training (most have no previous design experience). The collectives drawn to this program from across the globe make the virtual format a rich and stimulating space within which to learn about design. Many participants are college students or recent graduates, but the program is also helpful to professionals in their 30s, 40s, or older who are interested in learning about design to inform their work and/or who are considering a career change. We host an average of 225 participants per year.

In the summer of 2022, participants from 23 countries and 23 US states enrolled in the program.

Alumni profiles

Learning Format

Program Time Commitments

What?When?How much?Description
Flexible synchronous meetingsWeekdays3 hr/dayStudio, seminar, and workshops
Flexible synchronous meetingWeekdays1 hr/daySmall group meetings with instructor and peers
Asynchronous contentBased on individual availability1 hr/dayPrerecorded lectures and tutorials
Preparation timeBased on individual availability4 hr/dayIndependent design thinking and making
Total time 55 hr/week

Program Format

Participants in our program commit themselves fully to a path of intensive studio work, lectures, and design technique workshops within the virtual format of the program. Immersed in a culture that is both challenging and rewarding, they experience what education and work are like across the disciplines of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning + Urban Design. The cross-disciplinary approach of the Design Discovery Virtual program reveals areas of similarity and difference among these three design disciplines. Participants emerge — often inspired and exhilarated — with a more profound understanding of the impact of design on the global built environment and what possibilities for further design study and practice exist that better informs the choice they will make.

This program is taught remotely and has a hybrid format inspired by both seminar and studio teaching by Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) faculty and advanced masters and doctoral students of the school. In addition to providing design exercises, Design Discovery Virtual will have lectures and discussions that tie the design fields to larger social concerns and to the roles they play in making a resilient, just, and beautiful world. Synchronous discussions and group work are combined with asynchronous content to accommodate time zones outside of the East Coast United States. A participant-to-instructor ratio of no more than 10:1 highlights the collegial and collaborative nature of the program as a true reflection of the act of design, more generally.

Three weekly themes structure the curriculum, and one day each week is dedicated to examining the current theme through the three lenses of Urban Planning + Design, Landscape Architecture, and Architecture. The remaining days are filled with workshops and tutorials, office hours, desk crits, and presentations that focus on design production and its methods. In the last week of the program, participants have the opportunity to create and refine a draft portfolio of their produced design work.

Image of Design Discovery Virtual program participants next to three-dimensional modeling software showing a three-story home alongside an aerial map of city blocks and an image containing the title, "Cities & Climate Change."
Image containing digital design work produced by Design Discovery Virtual participants.

To see more examples of student design work and the life of this program, follow us @designdiscoveryharvardgsd on Instagram.


Design Discovery Virtual consists of synchronous and asynchronous content. Synchronous blocks are taught live on Zoom and include tutorials, exercises, and studio work. Participants are required to attend synchronous sessions at the scheduled time. Asynchronous content is available on demand (pre-recorded lectures and tutorials) and participation includes the time it takes to prepare readings, assignments and work on design projects outside of live instruction. Participants are free to complete asynchronous content when it best suits individual schedules, but we recommend that participants set and follow their own schedule.

For summer 2024, we will offer our Design Discovery Virtual program with two different schedule options that can be selected from to best align with the geographic location a global participant will be joining from. Below is a sample schedule for the time zones we will be offering for summer 2024. Once a time zone schedule is selected, all program attendance must follow that particular assigned schedule (it is not possible to combine schedules as a participant). Please check back in the coming weeks for updates on our 2024 schedule options.

Please note that DDV requires a full-time commitment. Many participants choose to spend more time than is outlined in order to make full use of the program’s offerings.

General Schedule

Please check back soon for more specific information about our program schedule for 2024.

Sample Schedules

The below sample schedules include suggestions for how participants can schedule independent work throughout the program. You may choose to spend more time than is indicated, however, it is not unusual for students taking studio-based courses to spend more time on projects than indicated on this schedule.  The time commitment for each project will depend on many factors including (but not limited to) the specific skills you would like to improve and the program content you are most interested in.

Click on schedule images below to enlarge them.

Sample Schedule A

Boston / New York / Santiago / La Paz / Manaus / Havana / Miami

Sample Schedule B

Beijing / Perth / Singapore / Manila / Hong Kong / Taipei

design kit + learning tools

We’ve crafted our virtual program to help build community and peer-to-peer learning through the design tools we use. Design Discovery Virtual participants will receive licensed access to 3D modeling and digital design software programs for the duration of the program included with their tuition. Workshops for the use of these digital design programs will be provided in coordination with design exercises. Additionally, each Design Discovery Virtual participant will have a design kit mailed to their home address, including tools and materials to supplement the digital design work occurring on the computer. All of these materials are included in the cost of program tuition.

Evaluation + Certificate

Each successful Design Discovery participant receives a written evaluation from his or her instructor and a certificate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Although the GSD cannot offer undergraduate academic credit for Design Discovery, some colleges and universities will award academic credit for a student’s participation in our program.

Requesting a copy of your evaluation

Participants will receive a digital copy of the written evaluation following the conclusion of the program.

Although we cannot provide an official transcript of your work in the program, we can send a letter explaining the nature of the program and a copy of your evaluation. If you would like to request this letter and/or a copy of your evaluation, please email [email protected], including the following information:

  • Full Name
  • Email Address
  • Year attended CD/DD
  • Documents requested: evaluation written by studio instructor and/or written explanation of program

tuition + financial aid

Tuition for the 2024 Design Discovery Virtual Program is $2,700. Please expect to purchase additional materials and supplies for projects throughout the course of the program. Depending on your location this could be as much as an additional 200.00 USD.

Payment Policy

A nonrefundable application fee of $85 be be paid in full for each application before the application deadline of April 22, 2024 in order to be considered for admission to our 2024 program.

Financial Assistance

Financial aid takes into account many factors; however, as a guide, if the applicant and/or parents (if appropriate) have a combined gross income that exceeds $40,000, an aid award is unlikely.

To apply, please submit a Financial Aid Application Form along with the required documentation by the program application deadline. Please see the application for more information. This form will be available to complete within your program application.

Please Note: Design Discovery Virtual financial aid is not federally subsidized and is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. International students are not eligible to apply. Requests for aid will not be considered without a completed program application. Late applications will not be considered.

Tuition and Financial Aid FAQ

A: Yes. Further payment instructions will be provided in your admittance letter. Tuition payments must be completed online via the online system by the deadline of April 22, 2024.

A: Tax forms from parents are required for every applicant under the age of 30.

A: No. We are unable to waive the application fee.

A: No. Design Discovery Virtual financial aid is not federally subsidized and is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only. International students are not eligible to apply for financial aid.

A: Yes. The Design Discovery Virtual financial aid application form is part of the program’s online application. Once you indicate an interest in applying for aid, the aid application application form will appear for filling out. In order to apply for aid, submit this form and supporting documents online with the rest of your application by the application deadline.

A: Design Discovery Virtual financial aid funds are need-based awards, which means that funding is based on the financial situation of the student. Financial aid takes into account many factors; however, as a guide, if the applicant’s and parents’ (if appropriate) combined adjusted gross income exceeds $40,000, an aid award is unlikely.

A: Yes, you need to complete the Design Discovery Virtual online application in order to access the financial aid application form.

A: Yes, we will notify all aid applicants of their admission along with their aid award by email in early May 2024.

A: We cannot accept applications for financial aid beyond the program application deadline.

A: Awards only apply towards tuition and possible support for a computer device.

Faculty + Staff

Section Instructors

Design Discovery Virtual sections are taught by graduating or advanced GSD students who have a concentration in the field they are teaching. Sections have a maximum of ten students per instructor. Each section is coordinated by current GSD faculty.

Coordinating Faculty


Urban Planning + Design

Landscape Architecture

Program Director

Headshot of Jenny French

Jenny French

Assistant Professor in Practice of ArchitectureView Profile

Photo of Yun Fu

Yun Fu

Design Critic in Urban Planning and DesignView Profile

Headshot of a caucasian female looking at the camera

Kira Clingen

2023-2024 Daniel Urban Kiley Fellow and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture 2023-2024 Daniel Urban Kiley Fellow and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Office for Urbanization AffiliateView Profile

Photo of a female looking at the camera and smiling

Megan Panzano

Senior Director of Early Design EducationLecturer in ArchitectureView Profile


Design Discovery invites exceptional professionals and academics to give lectures and join career panel discussions on design, history, theory, office practice, and other aspects of each profession. Speakers are often available for informal conversations afterward.

Past speakers have included:

Panel discussions have included:

Design and Planning Practices, Career Options, Public Process and Design , Design Research, and Preparing a Portfolio.


To apply for the Design Discovery Virtual program, please submit the following required materials with your online application:

  • Application Fee: A non-refundable $85 application fee is due upon application submission.
  • Statement of Intent Please tell us (in 250 words or less) what you hope to achieve by attending this design program.
  • Resume or CV (PDF) which includes the following information: employment; education; extra-curricular collegiate and community activities (note whether an office held was elected or appointed); honors; awards; professional registration; professional societies; publications; avocations; hobbies; travel. If you served in the military, indicate rank on entry and rank on separation.
  • Academic History
  • University Transcripts (upload scanned copy, does not need to be official) Transcripts should be submitted with the program application from all colleges and universities from which the applicant has received credit. When uploading a transcript, please make sure the scanned version is legible. Transcripts that are not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. If the university or college does not issue transcripts, a certified letter and certified English translation must be provided. It should list courses and examinations taken, grades, and degrees and dates of degrees received. Admitted students who have attended a school outside of the U.S. may be asked to submit a WES (World Education Service) certified transcript, at the applicant’s expense.
  • Upload .jpg, .tiff, or PDF image files of your original design work or photography (optional)
  • Financial Aid Application (optional, U.S. applicants only)
  • International applicants, except those from countries where English is the native language, must submit ONE of the following (U.S. citizen and dual citizen applicants do not fall into these requirements):
    • Duolingo test
      The minimum required score is 115.
    • A valid score from the TOEFL internet-based test
      The minimum required TOEFL iBT total score is 92, with the following minimum section requirements: reading, 23; speaking, 23; listening, 23; writing, 23. Please have test results submitted to the Harvard Graduate School of Design, institution code 3455. For further information about the TOEFL exam, please visit www.ets.org/toefl.International applicants who are currently enrolled in a university within the United States are exempt from this requirement.

Application Deadlines

Applications and application fees are due by the program application deadline of April 22, 2024. Early completion of the application and application fee are encouraged! Application decisions will be communicated to all applicants via email on May 6, 2024. Tuition payments and program registration are due in full by May 13, 2024.

Online Application OpensJanuary 2024
Application Deadline (including Financial Aid Applications)April 22, 2024
Admission + Aid Decisions Sent to Applicants May 6, 2024
Registration/Tuition Payment DeadlineMay 13, 2024
Cancellation Deadline for Full (100%) Refund*June 1, 2024
Withdrawal Deadline for Partial Refund**June 14, 2024

*Contact Design Discovery Virtual to cancel your enrollment by this date to receive a full (100%) refund of the $2,700 program fee.

**Contact Design Discovery Virtual to cancel your enrollment by this date to receive a partial (50%) refund of the program fee (amounting to $1,350).

Frequently Asked Questions

A: Admissions and aid decisions will be emailed to applicants by the notification date listed in the chart above.

A: No, the Design Discovery Virtual program does not grant deferrals. If you are admitted but unable to attend, you would need to reapply in another year.

A: No. Any former applicant wishing to reapply to the GSD Design Discovery Virtual Program must resubmit all forms and documentation.

A: Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. A high level of academic skill is necessary to take full advantage of our rigorous program.

A: Transcripts should be submitted electronically through the online application. Applicants should scan a copy of their transcript(s) and upload these documents into the online application. During the application process, it is not necessary to send an official transcript.

A: Scanned transcripts can be unofficial or official. If we need further information, we may ask for an official transcript to be sent to our office for review.

A: Please contact the Design Discovery Virtual office by emailing us at [email protected].

A: That is exactly what we teach. The program is as much about the ‘mindset’ as it is about the ‘toolset’ of designers. Many of our students have gone on to other disciplines, taking with them what is now called ‘design thinking’; the processes, mental habits, and methods of research and collaboration that are second-nature to designers which can be beneficially applied to all fields and areas of study.

A: We will review all completed applications (submitted online applications with accompanying paid application fees) submitted by the application deadline of April 22, 2024. Admissions and aid decisions will be communicated to all applicants via email on May 6, 2024. Registration and tuition payments, in full, are due by May 13, 2024 so that we may begin supplying preparatory materials for participation in our program.

A: A device with a stable internet connection and sufficient resources to run Zoom and access the web-based Canvas course management software is required. Harvard will provide all participants with licenses to use these tools, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud. Rhino will be available as a free trial. Financial aid applicants may request computer support.

A: Studio work is about much more than physically working in a studio; it comes with specific mental habits, patterns of collaboration, and an open-minded exploration of possibilities, all of which translate well into a remote format. Needless to say, a remote studio comes with limitations as far as space, materials, tools, and social interactions are concerned. We have spent the last year studying best practices of remote teaching at the GSD that have inspired us to reinvent design exercises in ways that integrate easily obtainable everyday materials and encourage a collaborative work environment and we’re confident that this will allow you to immerse yourself in studio-based learning remotely.

A: To request a copy of your evaluation please follow the instructions here.

A: To unsubscribe from our mailing list, email a request to [email protected] with your name and address as they appear on the mailing label.

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