Harvard GSD Design Discovery Youth

A summer program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA for Boston area high school students interested in learning about design and the material, processes, and scales it involves. This program instructs in how to translate participants’ varied and valuable observations of the world into the visual and spatial language of design.


Design Discovery Youth (DDY) is a 3-week program that, for the summer of 2024, will take place in a hybrid format with session both online and at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, MA. The program engages an audience of Boston area 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. 

Program Summary

  • 3 weeks, hybrid format online and in Cambridge, MA 
  • High School audience, ages rising sophomores to seniors from Boston area
  • Introduction to design and its potentials to impact the world
  • Instruction by Harvard GSD faculty and advanced GSD masters students

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

Applications for summer 2024 are now closed.Please sign up to join our newsletter at the link above for information about next year’s programs.

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. Applicants must be permanent local residents of the Boston/Cambridge area to be eligible. For the purposes of this program, “local” is considered within no more than a 20 mile distance from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy St. Cambridge, MA 02138.  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.

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).

To see more examples of student design work and the life of this program, Harvard GSD Design Discovery on social media! 


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.

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.

Below is a sample schedule for our hybrid program for summer 2024. Please note, the program dates and times/day are not likely to change, though the specific activities listed in the schedule below on each day are subject to change. Our program will send the confirmed program schedule to all admitted students in early May once our admission process concludes so that plans may coordinated with more details. 

Design Discovery Youth 2024 sample schedule graphic

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

Program Director

Program Coordinator

Photo of a female looking at the camera and smiling

Megan Panzano

Senior Director of Early Design EducationLecturer in ArchitectureView Profile

Shaka Dendy

Program Coordinator, Early Design EducationView Profile

COVID-19 Health + safety information

On May 11, 2023 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the federal government will end their Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. This will change the response to COVID-19 and will end many COVID-related requirements affecting communities and institutions. Both locally and nationally, reported cases and COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths have declined. However, COVID-19 has not disappeared.

  • Students, faculty, staff, and researchers should continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines if they test positive for COVID-19. This includes isolating from others for five days and masking until day 11. Persons at high risk for complications should consult with a health care provider about antiviral treatment.
  • If you test positive, please adhere to the CDC’s isolation guidance and do not attend in-person events until the guidance has been followed in full.

As a participant of the Harvard GSD Design Discovery Youth program, you are required to have health insurance that covers major illnesses and accidents within the United States. If you do not have such coverage with a US or other carrier, you are required to purchase it to match these requirements. Upon acceptance of your application, you will be asked to verify that you have insurance to match the above coverage requirements.

Please check back for more current information, as updates occur on a rolling basis.


Applications for summer 2024 have now closed. Please check back in Jan 2025 to apply to discover design with us!

Youth program on a site visit in Boston, MA


  • 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. 

There are no application fees or tuition fees for this summer design program at Harvard’s GSD.


Applications will be available online at this page in early January of 2024 for the summer 2024 Design Discovery Youth program. Applications are due online by the program application deadline of April 22, 2024. Early completion of the applications are encouraged! Application decisions will be communicated to all applicants via email on May 6, 2024. Program registration is due by email confirmation by May 13, 2024.

We have a limited number of enrollment positions in this program. We encourage interested Boston area high school students to apply to join us early in their eligibility.

Do you want to be kept informed about the Harvard GSD’s Design Discovery programs? Please join our newsletter here to get the latest updates!

Follow Harvard GSD Design Discovery on social media for more examples of student work and for more images and videos of the life of our programs.