Design Studio: How to Design

Permission of instructor
Limited to 25
Required of: 
BSA, BSAD and Architecture minor
Preference Given to: 
Course 4 and BSAD majors; Design/Arch minors; 1st- and 2nd-year students

Note: the Registrar's Catalog listing for this subject's room was incorrect (3-133). The correct room is N52-342C (IDC building)

Introduces fundamental design principles as a way to demystify design and provide a basic introduction to all aspects of the design process. Through lectures and weekly exercises, students will develop their skills and enable creativity, abstract thinking, representation, iteration and design development. An introductory class intended for students without a design background geared towards enabling more effective collaboration with designers and the ability to apply the foundations of design to any discipline. 

Exercise 1: The Design Process

The first project explores the process of design. Each week the class will dive into one aspect of the design process from context to concepts, drawing, making, iterating, building a narrative and finally presenting. This path exemplifies a traditional design process where a designer starts with an idea and works through testing, expanding, refining and eventually realizing it. Through weekly topics and assignments, students will develop a variety of design skills relating to each stage of this path. Students will be asked to develop a concept that applies a fabrication technique or a method of making to the design of a functional screen wall. The project will start with an exercise on analog drawing, where students will develop a series of rules for the design of their screen wall. In the next stages of the project, students will use white foam in combination with various subtractive fabrication methods (wire cutting, carving, sanding, melting etc.) to test, expand and refine the initial rules, transforming them from rules for design into rules for making. Concepts should be focused on the performance of the screen – i.e. with regards to privacy, shading, views, optics, movement etc. – and its relation to the method of making.


Context >> Concept >> Draw >> Make >> Iterate >> Analysis/Narrative >> Present


Deliverables for Exercise 1:



-Physical study models

-Final screen panel

-Concept/Context/Narrative statement

-Final Presentation


Exercise 2: Designing a Process

The second exercise will ask students to develop their own design and fabrication processes that goes from 1D to 2D to 3D. This 1D to 3D translation is the basis of many materials and physical things around us, for example, DNA or the translation of yarns into textiles or the use of 2x4s in the construction of buildings. This discovery-based or research-oriented design process starts by making, experimenting and testing a process, then develops a concept around what it is, why it is useful and what context it relates to. By starting with 1D materials, students will develop their own strategies for folding, creasing, weaving, braiding, felting or otherwise manipulating these materials into 2D and ultimately 3D structures. This lineage allows us to explore the fundamentals of geometry from line to surface to volume as well as think about methods of drawing and constructing objects & spaces.


Make >> Draw >> Iterate >> Concept >> Context >> Analysis/Narrative >> Present


Deliverables for Exercise 2:

-Prototype models


-Final Object/s


-Final Video

-Final Presentation


Structure of the Course - Weekly:

-Monday 15-30min intro presentation on the topic

-Then desk crits on last week’s assignment

-Wed: Student Presentations on the assignment from Mon

-Then desk crits & next week’s assignment


4.021 Tentative Schedule:

Exercise 1: (8 Weeks) The Design Process

Week 1 (Sept. 5) Introduction

9/5        Exercise Introduction / Context Introduction

Introduction Presentation

Abstract Series & Drawings

Week 2 (Sept. 10) Drawings

9/10      Studio / Desk Crits – Review 1st Drawing

9/12      Studio / Drawing Presentations

Week 3 (Sept. 17) Context & Concept

9/17      Concept & Context Intro Presentation

9/19      Studio / Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 4 (Sept. 24) Representation & FabricationIntro to fabrication/shop trainings

Intro Rhino/Adobe

9/24      Studio / Representation & Fabrication Presentation

9/26      Studio / Weekly Presentations + Desk Crits

Week 5 (Oct. 1) Make

10/1      Studio / Fabrication

10/3      Exercise 1 Interim Review

Week 6 (Oct. 8) Iterate

10/8      No Class - Holiday

10/10    Studio / Desk Crits

Week 7 (Oct. 15) Analysis/Narrative/Documentation

10/15    Studio / Narrative Intro + Desk Crits

10/17    Studio / Desk Crits

Week 8 (Oct. 22) Presentation

10/22    Studio / Desk Crits

10/24    Exercise 1 Final Critique


Exercise 2: (8 Weeks) Designing a Process

Week 9 (Oct. 29) Intro

10/29    Studio / Introduction to Project 2 - 1D, 2D, 3D Measuring Devices Presentation

10/31    Studio / Desk Crits

Week 10 (Nov. 5) Make

11/5      Studio / Make Desk Crits

11/7      Studio / Make Desk Crits

Week 11 (Nov. 12) Draw

11/12    No Class – Veterans Day

11/14    Studio / Draw Desk Crits

Week 12 (Nov. 19) Iterate

11/19    Studio / Iterate Desk Crits

11/21    Studio / Iterate Desk Crits

Week 13 (Nov. 26) Concept

11/26    Studio / Concept Desk Crits

11/28    Exercise 2 Interim Review

Week 14 (Dec. 3) Context

12/3      Studio /Context Desk Crits

12/5      Studio /Context Desk Crits

Week 15 (Dec. 10) Analysis/Narrative

12/10 Studio / Context Desk Crits

12/12 (Last Day of Classes) Studio / Narrative Desk Crits

Week 16 (Dec. 17) Presentation

12/17 Prepare Presentations

12/19 Exercise 2 Final Critique