The School of Design's first-year experience is a prerequisite for all of the undergraduate degrees in the school. It provides a focused, design-studio-based education in the first year that is critical to the development of a solid understanding of the fundamental elements of the design disciplines.

Equally important during this first year is the introduction and critical investigation of the commonalities and variances between the design disciplines housed within the School of Design. Students learn basic visualization and making skills as well as an ability to apply iterative thought and action processes to a given problem. In addition, students receive a focused introduction to the ethical and philosophical grounding of the various design professions.


In the fall semester students take one studio course, one academic course, and a design history course as well as the writing course required of all first-year students by Syracuse University. In the spring semester, they take two required studios and another design history course along with a required symposium. This 31-credit curriculum fosters communication and practice across disciplinary boundaries and offers students multiple opportunities to investigate and explore the various disciplines and the common themes throughout the School of Design.

In addition to these required courses, students have choices of studio art and academic electives in both semesters. Studio electives provide students with a broad, rich experience. Students take at least one academic or studio elective in the fall semester. In the spring semester, students are required to take one academic elective and one studio elective. Students may take academic electives from other areas of the University, including VPA.

Your first-year courses include:

  • DES 101 Design Concepts (fall semester): This course introduces the basic, shared core skills common to each of the four programs of study.
  • DES 102 Design Application (spring semester): This course builds upon the basic skills from DES 101 by offering opportunities to apply a rigorous and iterative process to design problems.
  • DES 103 Introduction to Design Thinking (fall semester): This course exposes students to the application of specific design processes to the various disciplines and requires critical evaluation of the similarities and differences between them.
  • CMD 104/EDI 104/FAS 104/IND 104 Fundamentals of Design (spring semester): Each program offers a Fundamentals course that builds upon DES 101 and 102 with a discipline-specific focus; course content is delivered by faculty with direct experience within that specific discipline with the intention of allowing students to make a confident decision about which program of study is right for them. Additional elective credits allow students to take more than one of these program-specific 104 courses during the spring semester.

You can learn more about our courses in Syracuse University's undergraduate course catalog.