Design tells a story. Share yours by #GivingPack.
Day of Giving is March 23, 2022
Design tells a story. Share yours by #GivingPack.
Design Studies Posters

At the core of Design Studies is an investigation into the formative role of design in shaping human values and experiences.

program or department head

Department Head

Derek Ham

Department Head of Art + Design

T: (919) 515-8549 E:

overview image

The Bachelor of Arts in Design Studies is geared towards students who are interested in an interdisciplinary orientation to design and material culture. At the core of Design Studies is an investigation into the formative role of design in shaping human values and experiences by engaging students in the critical evaluation of design through research, writing, and exhibition. In addition to design history, theory and criticism, students in Design Studies also engage in applying design processes and methods to fields outside of design, such as business, education, social causes and cultural initiatives. Design Studies produces students who are fluid in working with designers because of their insight into the design process.

Design Studies is a non-studio-based program offered ONLY at the undergraduate level.

The Bachelor of Arts in Design Studies is a non-studio undergraduate-only course of investigation, however 12 to 18 credit hours of application (making) are required to help students gain insight and practice in design methods and processes.

The Design Studies curriculum develops the following core competencies:

  • Design Thinking
  • Design Research
  • Design Process and Methods
  • Design Writing and Criticism

These core competencies extend across all of the design disciplines and can also be applied to fields outside of design. Recent graduates from the Design Studies Program have gone on to careers as user experience researchers, design strategists, media production managers and museum conservationists, to name a few.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Whose interests and talents in design lie in a critical analysis and cross-disciplinary application;
  • Passionate about issues of material culture;
  • Wanting a blend of formal, cultural, historical, social, physical, technological, ecological, economic and entrepreneurial knowledge;
  • Seeking a design-based education to develop innovative practices in fields outside of design.

While students majoring in Design Studies do go on to advanced study in studio-based design, the BA in Design Studies is not a preparatory program for the practice of design. Students wishing to enter the studio program may apply during their First Year in Design Studies.

Design Studies offers a number of specific focus areas. In addition, students are encouraged to choose a minor as a way to construct a unique, and individual concentration within design studies.

Track 1 - Design Studies: History, Theory + Criticism

Focusing on the history, theory and criticism within the field of design, this track prepares students for a life and career in observing, articulating and responding to material culture, and design contexts. Students in this track are encouraged to identify a specific focus area that is supported through a minor, or selected courses that are build upon each other.


Students in this track go on to careers in museum and art education, museum conservation, exhibition curation, handling and management, historic preservation, and design journalism and criticism.

Track 2 - Design Studies: Business Administration Concentration

As design thinking and innovation processes continue to be a major focus for business and the economy, this track focuses on the process and methods inherent in the field of design, but as applied to fields outside of design. Innovation process, creativity development, organizational methods and collaboration are all inherent in the field of design. This track studies these processes and looks to opportunities to apply and transfer these methods to the field of business innovation. Please note that students need to apply to the Poole College of Management if they wish to receive a formal Business Administration minor.


Students in this track go on to careers in strategy consulting, project management, design styling, marketing research, user experience research, information architecture, design research and strategy.

Track 3 - Design Studies: Non-Profit Studies Concentration

Much like the design studies and business administration track, the Non-profit management track of design studies develops and applies the process and methods inherent in the design process to the field of Non-Profit Management as a way to think strategically and creatively about community engagement and development. Please note that students need to apply directly to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences if they wish to receive a formal Non-Profit Studies minor.


Students in this track go on to careers in organizational consulting, grant writing, public programs coordination, development officers, educational program coordinator.

Minor in Design Studies

The Department of Art + Design believes that there is an essential need for students in a technically-based research university to engage in course work that fosters creative thinking and problem solving. To meet this need, the department offers courses to all students in the university as a minor in Design Studies. Minors are guided through a selection of courses with the consultation from a design adviser.


The minor in Design Studies consists of 15 total credit hours of study. A grade of “B” or better will be required for credit in all courses in the minor in Art + Design program. The course selection will be determined with guidance from the student’s minor adviser and tailored to the needs, interests, and goals of the student.


Although all efforts are made to accommodate minors, it is important for potential students to know and understand that access to Design Studies courses are based on a hierarchy where priority access goes to design studies majors.


Information on courses and curriculum