In Design, you’ll be mentored by faculty from firms that have changed the industry. You’ll have access to specialists tapped for particular skills, like experimental typography or product packaging. You’ll also learn from the students around you.
Our curriculum is project-based. That means that everyone in your cohort is working to solve a common problem. You decide your approach. Say you’re working on a project to promote water conservation. You might design an app for neighborhoods to compete to see who can keep their faucets shut off. Or maybe you’ll produce an animated PSA. Of course, faculty will help you navigate particular challenges, but you’ll also be learning, in real time, from your classmates’ approaches. You’ll rapidly prototype, adjust, and refine.
And you'll do it in Seattle, a thriving innovation hub surrounded by the natural beauty of the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound, a city both entrepreneurial and artisan. Our Design alums work at Amazon, PopCap Games, and every major design firm in one of the most creative communities in the country. They’ve launched clothing lines and award-winning games.
In Design, you’ll become an adaptive, flexible, improvisational creator. We’re thrilled to see what you do.
Design is moving faster than ever. As the connected world gets more complex, it demands designers who are able to work across platforms and technologies, seamlessly interweaving print, media, user-experiences and the markets they serve.
Cornish Design has always kept up with changes in technology and culture, but this year it has launched a curricular plan that goes beyond "responding to change" and gives our students the tools they need to lead innovation, rather than merely adapt to it.
Cornish Design offers a student-centered education. Our department is small enough to work with every student personally, and we support each student’s particular range of talents. First, students develop the time-honored foundational skills: drawing, 2D fundamentals, and 3D fabrication. Then, while using the most current in digital tools, they incorporate design history, semiotic and systems analysis, and design thinking into their skill-sets.
A solid design education is an exceptional long-term investment. The ways we facilitate problem-solving strategies in our students ensures that they are able to “pivot” and act quickly and intelligently in our evolving world.
Cornish designers never grow stale, because they are not trained in a single agenda or in one way of approaching problems. They learn design as a way of thinking that can be applied to all the different kinds of practice that are currently converging. The Cornish way of thinking about design underlies all aspects of our program's cross-concentrations, and is what makes our education unique.
Design students begin their study as freshmen in Foundations, which gives them the basic skills they need to excel in Design's three concentrations. This first year—a year of project-based learning—hones the student’s skills with work featuring topics ranging from designing for social change to imagining future worlds.
In the sophomore year, the student declares a concentration. That’s when important building blocks get into place: digital skills, basic foundational thinking in the concentration’s area of expertise, and the beginnings of critical and systems thinking.
Junior year is more independent, Students develop individual capabilities and take part in our program’s exceptional internship opportunities. Juniors go deeper into what they find most valuable in design, tapping the resources that our department has to offer.
Finally, the senior year focuses on a culminating capstone project—the Degree Project—in which all of the student’s skills in honing design process, systems thinking, creative planning, and hand and digital skills come together in an exhibition at the end of the year.
Through their four years as a part of Cornish Design, guided and mentored by a faculty made up of award-winning, practicing designers, students master the tools and skills needed to become working designers. Perhaps just as important, they learn to question the designer’s role in the world and their own responsibility to that world and to their own talent and well-being.
We've divided Design into three major areas: narrative design, informative design, and responsive design. Our students explore these three areas by making work around a chosen theme in each five-week chunk of the semester. Through hands-on projects, instructor-led workshops and lectures, mentorships, internships and the advantage of online skill-learning resources, you learn to think your way through change, and develop the sense of personal agency that lies at the heart of every successful designer.
The Design program follows a generalized model, but each student’s program is individualized based on placement testing, transfer credits, and individual progress as the student advances. The first year of the program is spent in Foundations. Then the student chooses to specialize in visual communication and motion design.
During the first year of study, all Art, Design, Film+Media students are in Foundations courses together. For the second through fourth year of study, students concentrate on their area of interest. Specialized professional practices courses bridging the gap between being a student and becoming a working professional, group study developed by students, and independent study focusing on a special project of the student's choice are available for those who meet the current criteria.
Course descriptions are updated at the beginning of each academic year and available for download. For this and previous years, please refer to the online archive of catalogs
All incoming students will need to purchase a laptop and software before the start of classes. Provided below is a list for you to make sure you have everything you will need.
In order to redeem the education discount you can either take your Cornish Student ID with you to an Apple store, or you can purchase directly through the Apple online store.
Our primary goal is to provide the educational foundation for graduates to continue in advanced degrees and to become leading design professionals and active citizens in our local and global communities. To achieve this goal, students engage in a variety of curricular experiences throughout the four-year programs culminating in the following learning outcomes.
Upon graduation, students will be able to:
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The program structure is designed to be flexible and responsive, where students work together and have access to open learning spaces and the sharing of facilities. During your four years at Cornish you will work within a studio-based environment supported by a diverse range of media, workshop and production facilities.
A unique feature of the program is the exploration of the relationship of old, new, and emerging technologies ... material, chemical, analogue and digital processes and techniques.
The Main Gallery has been a significant feature and resource at Cornish for many years, and has hosted the work of many renowned artists. Alongside the main space, students are invited to submit proposals to create work for The Collaboratory, a project space located in the gallery that is dedicated to interdisciplinary explorations across the College. This represents the very best of Cornish’s unique identity as one of only three colleges in North America that offers both the visual and performing arts.
Student agency is at the heart of Cornish. The Closet Gallery is a student run exhibition space. It is for the students, by the students. Our goal is to provide a professional environment for students to showcase their work while pursuing their degree. We also strive to provide opportunities for students to see the work of fellow peers while providing a community of supportive feedback. The Closet Gallery is open to all current Cornish students from any department and encourages experimentation along with collaboration,” says Curator, Sam Whalen.
The Visiting Artist Program is a key feature of your study and provides the context to meet artists working professionally. You will also have access to the annual lecture series linked with the Neddy at Cornish.
Numerous resources are open to Cornish students such as the Mary Alice Cooley Print Collection, and the Henry Art Gallery Collections at the University of Washington.