Cornish views design as a collection of practices, and our students explore a full spectrum of skills and techniques. Here students will find the tools needed to express their own views and visions, as well as increase their digital literacy, learn about systems-thinking, define and solve problems, and question the social and cultural implications of design.
Letter from the Design Chair
It’s a great time to be a designer! Many kinds of design, once in silos, are converging, and graphic novelists now find themselves working with motion, illustrators make package design, UX designers partner with interior architects—the relationships are endless. But underneath, all these kinds of designers have something in common. They have been schooled in identifying and solving problems. They have honed their “conceptual thinking,” that is, their ability to understand a problem by identifying underlying patterns and connections. And they then solve the problem with these fresh insights in mind, an approach that leads to innovation in design rather than repetition of known techniques and formulae. At Cornish, students develop into “360 degree” professionals with broad and transferrable skills.
I’m excited by Cornish’s robust expansion. The renovation of many of our downtown campus buildings and the building of our new residence hall and campus center are metaphors for the changes happening in our curricula. In this, the 100th year of the College, we have not forgotten Nellie Cornish’s original vision of a place where students can immerse themselves in innovative programs.
At Cornish, design is participatory, user experience-based and multi dimensional. We’re in the midst of curricular changes that support our belief that the student needs to be at the center, and we’ll be supplementing that experience with integrated Humanities and Sciences and Critical and Contextual studies. In our up-coming “reorg,” research-led and theme-based projects will continue to give students an excellent design education, while an understanding of contexts, and experiences in the professional arena, will round out their ability to make clear decisions for themselves and others in a complex world.
Welcome to Design
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, currently enrolling 133 students. 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 according to a single agenda or one way of approaching problems. They learn design as a way of thought that is resilient to the converging of different domains of professional practices. The cross-concentration development of our program and conceptual approach is what makes Cornish a unique educational experience.
Design Areas of Study
Design students begin their study as freshmen with the new combined Art, Design, Film + Media Foundation year, giving them the basic skills they need to excel in the three concentrations listed above. 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— either Design: Visual Communications and/or Motion, or Interior Architecture. 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 have learned to question the designer’s role in the world and their responsibility to that world and to their own talent and well-being.
The Interior Architecture curriculum provides an educational setting that enables students to develop into analytic creators and transformers of space. The practice of Interior Architecture creates innovative interiors for existing buildings and integrative design collaborations with architects in the development of new structures, including Living Systems Architecture. Today, the emerging field of Interior Architects strives for economic-collaborative design thinking, as it relates to functional improvement, visual enhancement, and social and psychologically shaped spaces in which we live.
We've divided Design into three major areas: narrative design, informative design, and responsive design. Starting in 2015, our students will 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, our students will learn to think their way through change, and develop the sense of personal agency that lies at the heart of every successful designer.