Design Studies

Bachelor of Science - Design Studies Major

Design is a way of thinking (about what might be better), and a process (of iterative prototyping), as well as the product of that thinking and process. The Design Studies program at West Virginia University provides the opportunity for cross-disciplinary study by pairing design thinking and design process courses with an approved minor or approved area of concentration of your choice.

Description of Program

Design Studies is a four-year, student-focused curriculum that is open to all freshmen and to students transferring into the program as long as they meet the GPA requirement.  Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 overall to enter the program, and must maintain an overall 2.25 GPA throughout their time in the major.

Students meet with their academic advisor at the beginning of their program to determine a program of study for their academic major.  Each student, as a requirement for graduation, must participate in a minimum of six credit hours of internship.  Internships will be allowed only after the student has finished a minimum of 50% of their minor coursework, and completed the required third year design studies coursework.  Typically, internships will occur during the summer between the student's third and fourth years.  Internship experiences will be unique to each student and will reflect their area of interest in the design fields.

Career Opportunities

Demand for graduates with Design Studies degrees has traditionally come from production, sales, marketing, and management firms related to design products and studio-trained designers (fashion, interiors, etc.).  More recently there has been growing recognition that design thinking/process supports entrepreneurship and innovation in all venues.  Internet searches of Business Week and/or Fast Company using the key word "design" will provide a quick overview of the rapidly expanding career potential in this field.

The offering of an interdisciplinary design major by West Virginia University is unique in the state and within the University.  Design Studies brings together positive aspects of the studio-based design majors and the multi-disciplinary studies major to provide a design-focused program that is flexible and student-centered.  Acceptance into the program is noncompetitive.  Employment in design-related occupations is expected to continue growing.

Click here to view the Suggested Plan of Study

General Education FOUNDATIONS

Please use this link to view a list of courses that meet each GEF requirement.

NOTE: Some major requirements will fulfill specific GEF requirements. Please see the curriculum requirements listed below for details on which GEFs you will need to select.

General Education Foundations
F1 - Composition & Rhetoric3-6
Introduction to Composition and Rhetoric
and Composition, Rhetoric, and Research
Accelerated Academic Writing
F2A/F2B - Science & Technology4-6
F3 - Math & Quantitative Skills3-4
F4 - Society & Connections3
F5 - Human Inquiry & the Past3
F6 - The Arts & Creativity3
F7 - Global Studies & Diversity3
F8 - Focus (may be satisfied by completion of a minor, double major, or dual degree)9
Total Hours31-37

Please note that not all of the GEF courses are offered at all campuses. Students should consult with their advisor or academic department regarding the GEF course offerings available at their campus.

Program Requirements

Specifically, the major consists of:

  1. University requirements
  2. A common design core
  3. Additional design-related courses
  4. Internship or professional field experience
  5. An approved minor, certificate, or approved concentration contributing to a design-related specialty
  6. A capstone experience

Students take a core of design courses to learn and understand the design language.  A minor, certificate, or approved area of concentration (e.g. Associates Degree) is required to focus their area of study and provide a context for their design thinking.  Finally, design-related requirements and recommended electives are chosen to support the understanding of design in a variety of contexts.  The capstone requirement will be met with a one-hour seminar course to prepare for the internship experience, a six-to-nine hour professional field experience or external study and a final course where students synthesize and present their experiences in the work environment.  Each student meets individually with her/his advisor to determine the most appropriate coursework choices for all requirements at the beginning of the semester in which they declare Design Studies their major.

Curriculum for the Design Studies major is determined by the area of interest chosen by the student.  The area of interest is explored through an approved minor, certificate, or  concentration area.  A list of minors currently approved for the Design Studies major includes: advertising, arts administration, business administration, communications, disability studies (certificate), electronic media, entrepreneurship, event planning, history/historic preservation, horticulture, landscape studies, photography, public relations, sustainable design and theatre.


  1. Students must complete a minimum of 120 hours to graduate in this major.
  2. Minors may require courses to be taken in summer. Check your specific minor for schedule requirements.
  3. All Design Studies majors must complete nine hours of Recommended Electives at the 300 level or above (see advising booklet and requirements for specific minors).
  4. GEF choice options are directed by the minor or concentration area chosen by the student. Please see specific requirements for your individual area of study before making course choices.

Curriculum Requirements

GEF Requirements
ENGL 101
ENGL 102
Introduction to Composition and Rhetoric
and Composition, Rhetoric, and Research
or ENGL 103 Accelerated Academic Writing
BIOL 105
BIOL 106
Environmental Biology
and Environmental Biology Laboratory
GEF 3, 4, 5, 6, and 715
University Requirements
ANRD 191First-Year Seminar1
DSGN 480Designing Innovative Futures (fulfills Writing and Communication Skills and Capstone requirements)3
Major Requirements
Design Studies Core Requirements:
A minimum grade of C- and minimum GPA of 2.25 is required for all Design Studies Core Requirements
DSM 130Introduction to Design3
DSGN 140Sustainable Living3
DSGN 220Design Thinking3
ID 330Design for Quality of Living3
DSGN 491Professional Field Experience: Capstone6
Additional Major Requirements
CSAD 270Effective Public Speaking3
Foreign Language (2 levels of same language) 6
Approved Minor *15
Minor Related Electives **27
Design Related Electives8
Free Electives (Number of electives may vary based on GEF courses and other electives chosen)14
Total Hours120

Suggested Plan of Study

The following minimum requirements are set to insure that students who graduate from the program will have the appropriate skill level and knowledge to succeed in their chosen field of professional work.  Design studies require a minimum of 120 credit hours for graduation.

First Year
ANRD 1911Design Related Course3 
DSM 1303Minor Course3 
ENGL 101 (GEF 1)3GEF 33 
GEFs 4, 5, and 69GEF 73 
 16 12
Second Year
DSGN 1403Minor Course3 
ENGL 102 (GEF 1)3DSGN 2203 
CSAD 2703Foreign Language3 
Foreign Language3Minor Related Electives6 
BIOL 105
BIOL 106 (GEF 2)
 16 15
Third Year
ID 3303Design Related Course2DSGN 4916
Design Related Course3Minor Course3 
Minor Course3Minor Related Electives7 
Minor Related Elective3  
 12 12 6
Fourth Year
Minor Course3Free Electives9 
DSGN 4803Minor Related Electives7 
Minor Related Elective4  
Free Elective5  
 15 16
Total credit hours: 120

First-Year Level

Students should begin the Design Studies program with an introduction to design and first-year courses.  Students should make an appointment with the program chair at the end of the first semester to determine course selection based on a chosen required minor, certificate or concentration area.  Design studies is an open-enrollment major for incoming freshmen.  Students may also transfer into the major during either fall or spring semesters as long as they meet the minimum entry requirements.  Transfer students must have an overall GPA of a 2.5 to apply for acceptance into the Design Studies major.  It is advisable that students interested in transferring into the major make an appointment with the Advising Center (contact Joy Patterson at to discuss details prior to officially transferring paperwork.

Second-, Third-, and Fourth-Year Levels

All design studies students are required to maintain at least an overall 2.25 GPA to remain in the program with good academic standing.

  • Students' grades will be monitored each semester.
  • Any student who has an overall GPA below 2.25 will be notified and put on academic probation for the upcoming semester.  It will be necessary for the student to raise their GPA to the required 2.25 in order to continue in the design studies major coursework.
  • Students who have an overall GPA below the required 2.25 will not be allowed to enroll in DSGN, DSM or ID coursework until the GPA has returned to the minimum required.
  • Students who have not been permitted to enroll in design courses because of a low GPA may enroll in design courses after they have met the appropriate GPA, space permitting.
  • All Design Studies students are required to earn at least a C- in each required Interior Design, Design & Merchandising and Design Studies (DSGN) course.
  • Students' grades in DSGN, DSM and ID courses will be monitored each semester.
  • Any student who has earned a grade of "D" or lower in any of the DSGN, DSM or ID courses will be notified of the problem and will be expected to repeat the course and earn a grade of C- or above prior to graduation.

Major Learning Outcomes

Design Studies

The primary student learning outcomes for the Design Studies major include preparing students to:

  1. Integrate design thinking into the business context provided by their minor course of study,
  2. Synthesize knowledge gained through coursework and experiential activities effectively, and explain its application to real work situations within the design profession and selected area(s) of interest in verbal and written formats,
  3. Effectively evaluate and use research in the context of a design problem,
  4. Share work experience with others and gain a greater understanding of design in a variety of contexts,
  5. Understand the daily realities of their professional design area and how those realities relate to the expectations of other design contexts.

DSGN 140. Sustainable Living. 3 Hours.

Explores the personal, social, economic and environmental aspects of making sustainable choices. Sustainability principles and practices are discussed along with assessments of consumption and lifestyle decisions. Also listed as PLSC 140 and RESM 140.

DSGN 220. Design Thinking. 3 Hours.

This course establishes the value of design thinking, identifies the components of the design thinking process, and helps students develop proficiency by using the process in multiple contexts.

DSGN 280. Sustainable Design and Development. 3 Hours.

An overview of social, environmental and economic aspects of the built environment. Site considerations, infrastructure, green buildings, marketing, financing, community. (Local field trips possible.).

DSGN 293. Special Topics. 1-6 Hours.

PR: Consent. Investigation of topics not covered in regularly scheduled courses.

DSGN 315. Survey of Non-Western Design. 3 Hours.

This course examines design from beyond the tradition of Western civilization. Students will study interior design, architecture, and art as shaped by religious beliefs, political systems, and geographical context.

DSGN 340. Design for Energy Efficiency. 3 Hours.

An overview of energy efficiency in residential and small commercial settings. Energy, building shell, air leakage, insulation, hvac, lighting, appliances, water heating, indoor air quality. (Local field trips possible.).

DSGN 393. Special Topics. 1-6 Hours.

PR: Consent. Investigation of topics not covered in regularly scheduled courses.

DSGN 470. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Systems. 3 Hours.

PR: DSGN 280. A detailed study of the LEED green building certification systems, including the various green systems, codes and standards referenced by LEED.

DSGN 480. Designing Innovative Futures. 3 Hours.

PR: ID 330 and DSGN 491A and DSGN 494. This capstone course provides an opportunity to analyze and synthesize information from previous coursework and internship experiences to develop professional proficiency levels in integrated design approaches.

DSGN 490. Teaching Practicum. 1-3 Hours.

PR: Consent. Teaching practice as a tutor or assistant.

DSGN 491. Professional Field Experience: Capstone. 1-18 Hours.

PR: Consent. (May be repeated up to a maximum of 18 hours.) Prearranged experiential learning program, to be planned, supervised, and evaluated for credit by faculty and field supervisors. Involves temporary placement with public or private enterprise for professional competence development.

DSGN 493. Special Topics. 1-6 Hours.

PR: Consent. Investigation of topics not covered in regularly scheduled courses.

DSGN 494. Seminar: Capstone. 1-3 Hours.

PR: Consent. Presentation and discussion of topics of mutual concern to students and faculty.

DSGN 495. Independent Study. 1-6 Hours.

Faculty-supervised study of topics not available through regular course offerings.