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Student Computer Requirements

University Computer Requirement

Beginning in fall 2020, all students at Iowa State University are required to own or obtain a laptop computer or other device appropriate to their discipline. The most current information about this requirement is available on the Information Technology Services computer requirement FAQ webpage.

First-Year Students

The first-year Core Design Program emphasizes hand drawing and manual skill building within studio courses, as well as digital literacy integration via our online Digital Design Literacy course. Students should purchase or bring a computer capable of running Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign for the simple project they will complete at the end of the digital literacy class.

Most computers purchased within the past four years should be capable of running these programs. More specific recommendations can be found below:

Core/first-year recommendation Windows 10/11 PC Apple Laptop (macOS version 10.15 (Catalina) or newer)
Processor (CPU)
  • Multicore Intel Celeron, Pentium, or i3 series Processor
  • Multicore AMD Athlon or Ryzen 3 series Processor
  • Intel processor or Apple silicon
System Memory (RAM) 8GB 8GB
Storage 128GB 128GB

The complexity of coursework increases as students advance through their degree program; therefore, we recommend waiting until the student is admitted to their chosen professional program (second year) before purchasing a more powerful computer.

Waiting to get a higher-end device will mean that, during their final year, students will have more processing power when they need it most. One year of computer hardware advancement can provide significant additional power that will save students time in opening, working on, and rendering files/projects.

Second-Year Students Entering Our Degree Programs

Students in most of the professional programs are encouraged to purchase a laptop computer when they are accepted in their second year. The machines specified are typically high-end laptops that can be quite expensive.  In addition, students are responsible for purchasing or downloading the software they may need. The college does provide a program for students who are accepted into the professional programs and wish to make the purchasing process easier. You are not required to participate in this program.

Design-intensive professions have become reliant on high-performance hardware and experience with a variety of platforms and software. Since your degree program’s curriculum is preparing you to enter the professional world, owning (or leasing) a laptop that is capable of running the software you will be using can be crucial to your success. Depending on your degree program, you may be required or heavily recommended to have a laptop with a minimum level of specifications. Additionally, there may be changes in what the university recommends/requires for this upcoming fall semester.

Here are some general specifications that meet or exceed the requirements of the commonly used software in the College of Design:

Recommended for these programs: Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Community & Regional Planning Graphic Design

Windows 10/11 PC

Apple Macbook Pro 16″

Processor (CPU)
  • Intel Core i5 Eleventh or Twelfth-Generation Processor (with 6 or more cores)
  • AMD Ryzen 5000 or 6000 series (with 6 or more cores)
  • Apple M1 Pro chip 10-Core CPU
System Memory (RAM) 32GB System Memory 16GB System Memory
Storage 512GB Solid-State Drive (SSD)
Graphics Card (GPU)
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 TI (with at least 4GB GDDR6)
  • AMD Radeon RX 5500M (with at least 4GB GDDR6)
  • 16-Core GPU