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Core Design Program

Curriculum and Course Sequence

Interdisciplinarity is introduced at the start of the College of Design experience. Required of all incoming undergraduate Design students, except those interested in Community and Regional Planning, the first-year foundational Core Design Program consists of 13 credits of design coursework, distributed across the fall and spring semesters. These studio and lecture classes help students choose the major(s) that best fit them and learn design principles that enhance communication while working individually and together in teams.

During the Core year, students learn drawing skills that enable designers to think visually and formulate ideas through sketching, mapping and making diagrams. Students also practice using basic design software tools for depicting, creating, modifying and presenting their work.

The Core Design Program allows students to:

  • make informed degree choices
  • apply to multiple programs at the end of their first year
  • gain skills necessary to succeed as designers
  • experiment with interdisciplinary work at the earliest stage of their college education

Core Courses

There is no set sequence for completing the required Core courses. We recommend enrolling in two to three required design courses in the fall and spring semesters of your first year at Iowa State. In some cases, students complete all five courses in one semester (usually the spring semester). If you do not pass one of the required courses in the fall, you can repeat it in the spring semester.

Inside the College of Design

  • DSN S 102: Design Studio I – 4 credit hours
  • DSN S 115: Design Seminar I – 1 credit hour*
  • DSN S 131: Drawing I – 4 credit hours
  • DSN S 132X: Digital Design Literacy – 1 credit hour
  • DSN S 183: Design in Context – 3 credit hours

Outside the College of Design

  • Social Science and/or Humanities Electives: 6 credit hours
  • Math and/or Science Electives: 6 credit hours**
  • General Education Electives: 6 credit hours
  • All students must take ENGL 150 or be placed directly into ENGL 250, which can be taken as a sophomore, prior to application to our enrollment-managed degree programs. Students who advance place into ENGL 250 (determined by ACT-E or SAT-V score) still must complete a total of 31 credit hours prior to applying to enrollment-managed programs. These credits may be counted as electives.

TOTAL     31 credit hours

*    Required of all undergraduate students who enter the College of Design. Students who are part of the Design Exchange Learning Community take DSN S 110: Design Exchange Seminar I (1 credit hour) in place of DSN S 115.

**   Students who intend to apply to the Architecture program are advised to take MATH 145 and PHYS 111 during their Core year. Students who intend to apply to the Industrial Design program are advised to take PHYS 101 or PHYS 111 and a math course during their Core year. Students who intend to apply to the Landscape Architecture program are advised to take MATH 145 during their Core year. While these specific math and science courses are not required to apply to these programs, they are required to advance in the professional programs beyond the first year.