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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

During the first-year Core Design Program, there is relatively little digital design work. The majority of the work is email correspondence, online class materials like syllabi distribution or grade reporting, and general word processing for non-design general education courses. The Core program emphasizes hand-drawing and manual skill building, rather than digital development at that stage.

For that reason we don’t recommend that students purchase an expensive laptop capable of running our design software in their first year. Rather, we recommend a lower-end consumer-type computer that could serve general-use and personal use purposes for the first year.

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:

Windows 10 PC Apple Macbook Pro 16″
Processor (CPU)
  • Intel Core i5 Tenth or Eleventh-Generation Processor (with 6 or more cores)
  • AMD Ryzen 4000 or 5000 series (with 6 or more cores)
  • Intel Core i7 Ninth-Generation Processor (with 6 or more cores)
System Memory (RAM) 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)
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5500M (with at least 4GB GDDR6)

For more specific recommendations, please refer to the section for your major.

Architecture

Students accepted into the professional architecture program (BArch) are required to have a laptop and software that meets or exceeds the specifications listed here. (Recommendations for the 2021/2022 school year will be posted once they are finalized.)

Graphic Design

Your computing needs will be basic in the second year: word processing, research, image manipulation, page layout, and illustrating logos and symbols, etc. In your junior year, you will use the same software and dig a lot deeper into these programs. Please plan for this progression accordingly. There are many options for computer hardware and software that accommodate a wide range of budgets. Here are the current specifications. (Recommendations for the 2021/2022 school year will be posted once they are finalized.)

Interior Design

Your computing needs will be fairly basic in the second year: word processing, research, image manipulation, page layout, and, in the second semester, CAD drawing and rendering, both of which involve large files. In your junior and senior years, you will be using the same software, but working in far larger and more complicated files, so your computer’s capabilities will be critical. Please plan for this progression accordingly. There are many options for computer hardware and software that accommodate a wide range of budgets. Technical requirements are shown here (Recommendations for the 2021/2022 school year will be posted once they are finalized.); minimums are shown alongside recommended specifications, and we strongly recommend the higher performance specification for your flexibility both now and in the future.

Industrial Design

Your computing needs will be basic in the first year: word processing, research, image manipulation, page layout, etc. In your junior year, you will be provided software for CAD and rendering that runs exclusively on the PC platform. Please plan for this progression accordingly. There are many options for computer hardware and software that accommodate a wide range of budgets. Here are the current specifications. (Recommendations for the 2021/2022 school year will be posted once they are finalized.)

Landscape Architecture

These specifications have been put together by faculty in the college with specialization in computing in design. The specifications are to help you select a computer to give you a foundation to succeed in your work. (Recommendations for the 2021/2022 school year will be posted once they are finalized.)