Harvard GSD Design Discovery

A 3-week in-person program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA for individuals interested in gaining knowledge within a single design discipline – Architecture, Landscape, or Urban Planning and Design. This program uses hands-on physical modeling, fabrication, and assembly to engage the material and scale of a selected design discipline.

Overview


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. 

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, clients, collaborators, or home school programs for course credit consideration. 

Program Summary

  • 3 weeks, in person format in Cambridge, MA 
  • Audience ages 18 to mid-career professionals
  • Introduction to single selected design discipline of focus:  Architecture, or Landscape, or Urban Planning and Design
  • Fabrication and physical model making focus
  • Instruction by Harvard GSD faculty and advanced GSD masters and doctoral students

Summer 2022 program dates will be made public and listed here in early January 2022!

Are you interested in learning how to use digital media software to visualize your design responses to contemporary global topics?  If so, check out our Design Discovery Virtual program

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 and 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 student participants of the Design Discovery in-person 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 and 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 and 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


Design Discovery students represent a broad range of ages, lifestyles, and training (most have no previous design experience), and this contributes to a stimulating environment. Many 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 and/or who are considering a career change. We host an average of 225 participants per year.

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. Harvard will not sponsor visas for enrollment in the Design Discovery in-person program. We invite international students who not hold such visa status to enroll in our fantastic Design Discovery Virtual program. Please see more information about that program at this link!

Alumni profiles


Learning Format


Participants in our program commit themselves fully to a path of intensive work thinking through making within the studio of Gund Hall at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The program complements studio design time at the desk with a series of lectures and workshops on the process of design, representation of ideas and intentions, as well as fabrication and modeling workshops. Deeply immersed in a culture that is both challenging and rewarding, participants experience what education and work are like in the design and planning professions. They emerge — many of them exhilarated — with a more profound understanding of the possibilities ahead and with more information about their relationship with the potentials of design in order to inform their choices.

Studio Format

Design Discovery studios focus on short, intensive projects similar to first-year graduate school projects within one of three selected design disciplines – Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and Design. Studios involve one-on-one guidance from design instructors, group discussions and reviews about design work, training sessions in graphics and model making skills, and individual presentations to instructors and guest professionals. Participants have direct access to select spaces within the GSD’s Fabrication Lab and Frances Loeb Library — one of the country’s foremost design and planning libraries.

Concentrations

As a Design Discovery student, you will engage in an iterative exploratory design process of drawing, fabrication and model making within the context of a design studio. This process will help build your ability to translate observations about the world into a visual and spatial language. We ask all Design Discovery in-person participants to select a single concentration for their study among three possible design disciplines described below. You will receive instruction in the fundamental design methodologies specific to each of the following disciplines, and you will select one of them as your program concentration:

  • Architecture is the design of individual buildings and their settings, with the understanding that buildings are the choreographers of dynamic conditions inside their walls and in their outside surroundings.
  • Landscape Architecture is the planning, design, and preservation of built and natural landscapes, from rural landscapes to urban parks and infrastructure projects.
  • Urban Planning & Design is the analysis and synthesis of forces that shape and reshape the built environment, with a focus on envisioning and illustrating places that reflect and support the diverse needs of society.

Schedule


Most students work evenings and weekends in the studio.

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
9:00-11:00am
Lecture by design or planning professional
9:00-11:00am
Lecture by design or planning professional
9:00-11:00am
Lecture by design or planning professional
9:00-11:00am Career Panel
Career Options
9:00-11:00am
Review of studio problem
Studios open all weekend 7:00am-10:00pm
11:15am-Noon
Introduction to studio problem
11:15am-Noon
Representation skills lecture
11:15am-Noon
Media design and techniques lecture
Noon-1:00pm
Lunch
Noon-1:00pm
Lunch
Noon-1:00pm
Lunch
Noon-1:00pm
Lunch
1:00-6:00pm
Studio
1:00-6:00pm
Studio
1:00-6:00pm
Studio
1:00-6:00pm
Studio
1:00-6:00pm
Review of studio problem
Studios open until 12:00amStudios open until 12:00amStudios open until 12:00amStudios open until 12:00am8:00pm
Movie night

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, including Harvard College, which awards eight (8) credits (or the equivalent of two courses).

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
  • Number of copies of evaluation written by studio instructor
  • Number of copies of written explanation of program
  • Names and addresses of document recipients
  • Other comments

Faculty + Staff


Section Instructors

Design Discovery 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

Architecture

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 Montserrat Bonvehi Rosich

Montserrat Bonvehi Rosich

Lecturer in Landscape ArchitectureView Profile

Photo of Megan Panzano

Megan Panzano

Senior Director of Early Design EducationLecturer in ArchitectureView Profile

Lecturers

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:

tuition + Financial Aid


Tuition for the 2022 Design Discovery Program is $2,500. 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 250.00 USD.

Payment Policy

A nonrefundable application fee of $80 must accompany each application. If admitted, your decision and tuition are due within two weeks.

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 deadline of April 30, 2022. Please see the application for more information.

Please Note: Design Discovery 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 submitted online via the online system.

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 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 financial aid application form is part of the program’s online application. Once you indicate an interest in applying for aid, the aid application option will appear on your online status page. In order to apply for aid, submit this form and supporting documents online with the rest of your application by the deadline.

A: Design Discovery 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 online application in order to access the financial aid application form. We advise submitting the financial aid application form prior to receiving your admissions decision letter.

A: No. You will be notified in a separate email from the Design Discovery Program Administrator, Kelly Wisnaskas, about your financial aid award.

A: Late financial aid applications will not be considered.

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

COVID-19 Health + Safety Information


Due to the impact of the global pandemic, participants of the Design Discovery In-Person program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design will be required to follow Harvard University protocols with respect to health and safety when convening on campus for the summer of 2022.

Participants who wish to participate in the summer 2022 in-person program will be required to share vaccination status with Harvard University and will be required to following COVID-19 self-administered testing according to the University required testing cadence. Required test kits will be provided on campus throughout the duration of the summer program and testing will be managed through Harvard University channels at no cost to participants. Social distancing and masking protocols will also have to be followed as will restrictions regarding food and drink consumption in indoor campus settings.

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

Apply


To apply for the Design Discovery program, please submit the following required materials:

  • An essay (500 words max) that describes a particularly satisfying project you have undertaken. This project need not be related to design or planning, although this is preferable. You might, for example, write about participating in a political campaign, mastering a musical instrument, doing research on a special topic, or organizing a social event.
  • A resume or CV 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.
  • Transcripts should be submitted online by the applicant and are required 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.
  • A non-refundable $80 application fee is due upon application submission.
  • International applicants, except those from countries where English is the native language, must submit ONE of the following:
    • 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 are reviewed on a rolling basis beginning in late February. Applications will continue to be reviewed until June 1 or until all spots are filled. Early submission is strongly encouraged.

DeadlineDate
Online Application OpensFebruary 15, 2022
Financial Aid Application DeadlineApril 15, 2022
Application DeadlineMay 23, 2022
Registration/Payment DeadlineWithin two weeks following admission
Cancellation Deadline for Full (100%) Refund*July 1, 2022
Withdrawal Deadline for Partial Refund**July 15, 2022

*Contact Design Discovery to cancel your enrollment by this date to receive a full (100%) refund of the $2,500 program fee.

**Contact Design Discovery to cancel your enrollment by this date to receive a partial (50%) refund of the program fee (amounting to $1,250).

Frequently Asked Questions


Video content: To hear about the following subjects, scroll to the video timestamp indicated. 00:06: Introduction 00:45: Program History 03:52: What do you learn in the six-weeks? 04:40: What does a designer do? How does a designer solve a problem? 06:55: Pedagogical format/What do you mean when you talk about studio? 11:57: Who are the instructors? 13:40: Trajectory of the six weeks 16:30: What do people do after the program? 22:10: When is the best time to enroll in Design Discovery? 24:03: How is the program funded? 26:25: Is there financial aid? 27:37: Do participants receive credit? 28:45: Questions and Answers

A: Once decisions have been made, you will receive an email notifying you of an update to your application.

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

A: No. Any former applicant wishing to reapply to the GSD Design Discovery 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: 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. Harvard will not sponsor visas for enrollment in this program. We invite international students who do not hold such visa status to enroll in our Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) program. DDV is just as robust, rigorous, and inspiring as our in-person program. Please see more information about that program at this link.

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: Contact the Design Discovery office by emailing [email protected].

A: Yes. Design Discovery is a program designed to introduce Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning & Design to those who have interest in the areas but have little to no experience with the disciplines.

A: Participants of the program are exposed to all three concentrations through lectures, but your studio work will focus on only one chosen concentration. Participants have one week to switch concentrations once the program has begun.

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: Beginning in January, admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. Applicants will be notified of decisions by email. Only completed applications will be reviewed.

A: A good portion of participants live on campus in dormitories provided by the Harvard Law School. Others live within walking distance of the school.

A: Participants are given access to all programs on the GSD network. It is required that all participants bring a laptop. Wireless internet is available in Gund Hall as well as in the dormitories.

A: To request a copy of your evaluation, follow the instructions above under Certificate and Academic Credit.

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.