Where process takes center stage

A longstanding College of Design tradition, option studios are the original sandbox for innovative, multidisciplinary explorations in design.

Every spring semester, the college offers approximately 15 advanced, project-based elective studios (DSN S 546 courses) that examine diverse themes in the built environment, design, and the arts. They provide 250 to 300 students from all College of Design majors an opportunity to engage in different challenges, different scales, and different patterns of work. These studios, which are often co-taught by faculty from different departments, are open to juniors, seniors and graduate students. Many option studio topics align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Upcoming Option Studios

Explore the Option Studios available to students for the Spring 2024 semester.

Past option studio projects

More than Poor and un/Housed: Designing Abolitionist Spaces of Care

Students presenting homelessness project.

This studio challenged students to develop a robust understanding of housing insecurity, homelessness, and trauma, and to design potential housing solutions for unhoused populations. Taught by Jane Rongerude, associate professor of community and regional planning, and Julie Stevens, associate professor of landscape architecture and College of Design Innovation Fellow. The class exhibited its work as part of a symposium on ending homelessness in central Iowa.

NASA’s Innovative Mission through Design

Students at NASA.

Through this studio, student teams created experiential proposals and conceptual designs for a next-generation spaceport-themed hotel. Taught by Pete Evans, assistant professor of industrial design; Mike Ford, associate professor of practice in interior design; and Andrea Quam, associate professor of graphic design. The studio was not affiliated with NASA, but students were able to visit Kennedy Space Center on a field trip to learn more about NASA’s innovative work.

Experimental Structures: More with Less

Architecture student presenting experimental structure project at Student Innovation Center.

This studio explored ways that students could harness more purposeful applications for contemporary structural experiments including design methods and tools, material applications, and progressive fabrication techniques through a hands-on, design-build process. Taught by Rob Whitehead, associate professor of architecture. This class was partially supported through the Vernon Stone Fund in Architecture.

College of Design student researching.

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.