The first-year Core Design Program consists of 13 credits of design coursework – distributed across the fall and spring semesters – and offers a broad spectrum of foundational knowledge. This coursework creates a shared experience and community that introduce students to all majors within the College of Design.

All incoming undergraduate students interested in studio-based majors complete the Core Design Program before advancing into a degree program. Students interested in Community and Regional Planning or Art and Design programs can choose to direct-enroll in those majors.

There is no set sequence for completing the required Core courses. We recommend enrolling in two to three required design courses in each semester, fall and spring, of your first year at Iowa State.

Inside the College of Design Credits
Design Studio I (DSN S 102) 4.0
Design Seminar I (DSN S 115 or DSN S 110) 1.0*
Drawing I (DSN S 131) 4.0
Design in Context (DSN S 183) 3.0
Design Digital Literacy (DSN S 132) 1.0
Outside the College of Design Credits
Social Science and/or Humanities 6.0
Math and/or Science 6.0**
General Education 6.0
Total 31.0

* 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 (1 credit) in place of DSN S 115: Design Collaborative Seminar (1 credit).

** Students who intend to apply to the Architecture major are advised to take MATH 145, PHYS 131, and PHYS 131L during their Core year. Students who intend to apply to the Industrial Design program are advised to take PHYS 101 and a MATH course during their Core year. Students who intend to apply to the Landscape Architecture program are advised to take MATH 140 during their Core year. Graphic Design applicants are advised to enroll in COM S 106 during their Core year.

While these specific math and science courses are not required to apply to the programs, they are required to advance once the students are admitted to the professional degree programs. Students ideally complete these courses during their Core year or take them over the summer between completing the Core and enrolling in the professional programs. Not all courses are offered during the summer, so it is strongly recommended that students interested in these majors complete the courses during the Core.

All students at Iowa State University are required to own or obtain a laptop computer or other device appropriate to their program of study. The first-year Core Design Program emphasizes hand drawing and manual skill building within studio courses, as well as digital literacy integration via the online Digital Design Literacy course. Students should purchase or bring a computer capable of running the programs used in the digital literacy course.

Note that the College of Design provides Core students with a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud for access to Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop software for the digital literacy class. Please do not purchase an individual subscription.

After completing the Core, undergraduate students admitted into a design major and design graduate students are presented with the opportunity to purchase a laptop through the College of Design through our laptop program.

To ensure that all students in the Core Design Program have access to high-quality, low-cost materials for their required projects, the College of Design has partnered with the University Book Store to create a specialized toolkit.

In addition to keeping costs low and maintaining consistent quality, another advantage for students is easy access: you can order a toolkit to be delivered to the Design Store, a branch of the Iowa State University Book Store located on the second floor of the College of Design building.

The supplies in the toolkit are common to all studio sections of the two required Core courses, DSN S 102: Design Studio I and DSN S 131: Drawing I. This kit provides you with the basic supplies necessary for these courses.

There may be other supplies, not included in the basic kit, that your instructors may also require you to have. These additional supplies reflect different media preferences among faculty members and will be communicated in course syllabi.

Students working on class project in the King Pavillion.

A Cyclone in the Making

Find your place at Iowa State University’s College of Design, where we like to ask questions, poke and prod, create something new, and make a difference through design.