Design Foundations


All design disciplines encompass a broad spectrum of foundational knowledge; not the least of which is thinking like a designer and embracing the research and design process. The First-Year Design Foundations course sequence consists of 18 credit hours of design coursework (9 in Autumn Semester, 9 in Spring Semester) and is the beginning of the interdisciplinary core coursework included in all of our design majors. During foundations, students focus on learning the basic drawing skills that enable designers to think visually and formulate ideas through sketching, mapping and making diagrams. Students practice using basic design software tools for depicting, creating, modifying and presenting. They are introduced to typographical principles and page design that enhance communication and presentation. Students work individually and in teams and participate in open discussions and reviews of design ideas.

This Design Foundations sequence begins with a highly competitive selection process to become a design foundations student and concludes with a competitive portfolio-based major admissions review process. More specific information about this process can be found below.


Curriculum and Course Sequence

All required courses in the Design Foundations Program must be taken in an exact sequence, as they are offered only once per academic year and each course is a required prerequisite for the following courses. Any student failing a required course will be removed from the foundations program and be required to stop the course sequence.


Autumn Semester

DESIGN 2110: Design Fundamentals 1, 3 hours
DESIGN 2310: Visualization Principles 1, 3 hours
DESIGN 2700: Introduction to Design Practice, 3 hours
Arts and Sciences 1100.09: College Survey, 1 hour
GE Courses, 6 hours


Spring Semester

DESIGN 2130: Design Fundamentals III-IV, 3 hours
DESIGN 2330: Visualization Principles III-IV, 3 hours
DESIGN 2750: Design History, 3 hours
GE Courses, 6 hours
Portfolio Review — Application to Major Program


Technology and Supply Requirements

The Department of Design is very sensitive to the economic, financial, and environmental costs traditionally associated with art and design educations. With this in mind, we have worked hard to reduce these costs where ever possible. 

Digital Flagship 

Having the right tools is important, which is why Ohio State provides a common device to support your learning and life through its Digital Flagship Initiative. The Department of Design supports this by having ensured that the Digital Flagship Devices are heavily integrated into the Foundations curriculum and that all learning goals can be met using this device. 

ALX Grant Lending Libraries

Many of the tools that we find useful in the foundation program are less useful to students later on in their curriculums. With this in mind, Ohio State Design has utilized Affordable Learning Exchange Grants to build a library of tools and systems for students to share material surpluses. Check out the video below for more. 

Design Foundations Supply Kit

To ensure that all students have access to quality materials for those consumables they are required to purchase, Ohio State Design works with our local Blick Art Materials store to create specific supply kits. We work with them to keep costs low, quality high, and to bring the student kits to Hayes Hall so that students have everything they need, when they need it.


Admissions, Selections, and Portfolios

Step One: Apply to Ohio State

You apply to The Ohio State University. When you do this, you select one of our three design majors: Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communication Design. DO NOT SELECT ART or ARTS, INNOVATION, AND DESIGN EXPLORATION, they are a different departments and will not flow into the following process.

To be considered for selection to our Design Foundations program, a student must be eligible for Columbus Campus coursework for the Autumn semester they will be starting into the Design Foundations program. Admission to The Ohio State University does not guarantee acceptance to any of the undergraduate major programs in design or the design foundations program. Students who are admitted to the university expressing an interest in one of our three undergraduate programs directly enroll into the College of Arts and Sciences with an area of interest in their respective design discipline declared. 


Step 2: Selection to Design Foundations 

Most years, there are about 150-200 students admitted to Columbus campus with a declared area of interest in one of our three undergraduate degree programs. They are competing for 100 spots in our Design Foundations first-year Design Foundations course sequence. The Department of Design selects students equally distributed between our three majors to go through its first-year Design Foundations course sequence on an annual basis. The primary criteria for selection to the foundations program are the same criteria used by university admissions in their wholistic review process.

Prospective students are notified between beginning in February and continuing through May regarding their Design Foundations selection status. If you are selected to be a Design Foundations student, you start in your design courses during the up coming Autumn Semester.

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Information for Transfer, Major Change, and Regional Campus Students: 


Any student who did not attempt to enter the foundations program in their first year at Ohio State may petition to be selected for a following autumn term. This applies to Ohio State student who started in any other major and/or on one of our regional campuses and are now eligible to attend Columbus campus. Additionally, this applies to students transferring from another institution of higher learning where they were not studying with in a formal design related degree program or have not yet completed 18 or more semester credit hours in Art, Design, or Architecture specific coursework.

Please be aware that the sequence of courses for all Design major programs is four years in length. Any student who did not enter the foundation course sequence for their first year will have another four years of mandatory course work in a major program, should they be accepted.

Transfer, Major Change, and Regional Campus Students who wish to petition for selection to the design foundations program should submit the "Design Foundations Petition." The Design Foundations Petition is accepted annually from March 01 to April 30. 

Submit Design Foundations Petition


Step Three: Acceptance to a Design Major Program via Portfolio Review

At the end of the foundation year, students submit a portfolio for review. The portfolio consists primarily of work completed in the Design Foundations courses, though there is opportunity for supplemental work as well. From the portfolio review, finalists for each major are selected and given opportunity to interview with the major area faculty. Through this process, no more than 54 students are selected to become Design majors (16-18 in each of the three design disciplines). 

Students Not Accepted to a Design Major Program

Those students not accepted to one of the major programs via the portfolio review process at the close of each Spring semester, but who successfully completed the 18 hours of Design Foundations coursework, will have completed the Design Foundations Minor, and will be able to pursue another major in the university. The Design Foundations Minor is a highly exclusive minor only open to to students who have gone through this process. 

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Information for Art, Design, or Architecture Transfer Students: 


Any student intending to transfer from an undergraduate major program from a recognized, peer institution of higher learning and has completed 18 or more semester credit hours in Art, Design, or Architecture specific coursework may request to be considered for acceptance to an Ohio State Design major program beyond design foundations.

Transferring students who wish to petition for possible acceptance to an Ohio State Design major program at a level higher than Design Foundations should submit the "BSD Program Petition." This petition is accepted annually from January 02 to April 15. Outcomes of these petitions are announced by May 01 and students not selected may still be eligibly to submit the Design Foundations Petition mentioned above if desired. 

Submit BSD Program Petition


Rationale for a Selective Acceptance Process

All highly-ranked US design programs limit the number of students who enter their programs. This practice keeps class sizes small, and guarantees placement in all required major program courses. Some schools handle the need to limit the number of major students in different ways. They may accept first-year students directly into design programs, but will then eliminate extra students through excessively rigorous coursework.

We don't agree with this approach, as students eventually not accepted to these programs often end up with wasted course credits, poor grades, and low spirits. We are committed to the success of our students and have structured our major programs accordingly. The standard for entrance to our major programs may be very high, but the students who are accepted typically perform at very high levels, and go on to productive and successful careers in the profession.