Going to class in our Design program feels different. Literally. Rather than shuffling from classroom to classroom throughout the day, you—together with classmates in your year—own a single learning space for the whole year. Other programs at Cornish work the same way. We create environments that foster collaboration, cross-pollination, and flow.

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.

Learn to Innovate

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 Areas of Study

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.

Design Degree Requirements

Design Model Program

Model Programs are updated at the beginning of each academic year. This PDF contains the current year’s model programs for this program. Students should refer to the model program that was in effect for the year and term of their entrance to Cornish.

Design course descriptions

During the first year of study, all Art, Design, Film 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. This PDF contains the current year’s course descriptions for this program.

Design Learning Outcomes

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:

  • approach design projects confidently by applying a rigorous design process
  • research, analyze and synthesize complex information in the development of innovative concepts for clients and audiences
  • create unique work, grounded in knowledge of composition, form, style,media and materials, both historical and contemporary
  • apply advanced manual and digital skills to the creation and production of design
  • contribute to a team, and have practice in assuming the responsibilities of leadership
  • employ strong oral and written communication skills
  • plan to never stop learning

Laptop Policy

All incoming students will need to purchase a laptop and software before the start of classes. Provided below is a list of minimum system requirements to run the software that will be taught at Cornish College of the Arts:.

If you have already invested in a different system or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Visual Arts IT Coordinator.

Faculty & Staff


Eric Holden

Eric Holden

Computer Support Coordinator


Adam Crawford

Adam Crawford

Instructor, Motion Graphics


Reilly Donovan

Instructor, XR

Jake Fleisher

Jake Fleisher

Instructor, UX Design


Catherine Hubert

Instructor, UX Digital Tools


Esther Loopstra

Instructor, Illustration


Saki Mafundikwa

Instructor, Design Research


Elisabeth Patterson

Instructor, C+CS


S. Fisher Qua

Instructor, Transition Design


Gayna Williams

Instructor, Design Research UX

Illana Zweschi

Illana Zweschi

Instructor, Drawing


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.

  • Print Lab
  • 3D & Sculpture Labs
  • Photo Lab
  • Materiality Lab
  • Drawing Lab
  • Media Lab (video, computing, animation)
  • Digital Print Lab
  • Production Studios ( video & sound)

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.

Design Galleries

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.


First Slide

May 15, 2017

Ruffner Draws On Cornish Expertise For Augmented Reality

This year’s Consilience Event at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) features artist Ginny Ruffner. In 2015, Ruffner was invited into the Design classroom at Cornish Cornish College of the Arts to learn alongside our students, new tools and techniques she is using in the creation of her exciting augmented reality projects The result was a fruitful creative and technical learning as well as mentoring exchange.

Artist Ginny Ruffner’s interactive augmented reality installation Poetic Hybrids had some assistan...

First Slide

May 10, 2017

Creating Fables With A Baby Grand

Cornish Playhouse resident artists Ruth Marie Tomlinson (faculty), Fritz Rodriguez (alumni), John David Tomlinson, and Tania Kupczak have been deconstructing, cataloguing, rebuilding, and constructing fables of a Sohmer & Co. Baby Grand piano. The deconstruction began in November of 2016 and will culminate over Memorial Day weekend with a closing reception on May 25.

What do you do with a decommissioned piano? At Cornish College of the Arts, you turn it into art. In...

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April 13, 2017

Leslie Phinney Celebrates 35 Years Of “People First Design”

Leslie Phinney ‘79 is the Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Phinney Bischoff, an integrated brand strategy and design firm with offices in Seattle, WA, and Sun Valley, ID. Throughout its 35-year history, Phinney Bischoff has had the privilege to work with many beloved Seattle brands, including BECU, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle Symphony, The 5th Avenue Theatre, and Woodland Park Zoo.

Her name is familiar for a reason: Leslie Phinney is the great-great-grandniece of real estate pione...

March 1, 2017

Alumni In The News - March

She studied art at Cornish but Colleen Atwood has gone on to become one of Hollywood's best known costume designers, receiving her fourth Oscar in 2017. Several other Cornish artists and designers were in the news in late February and March.

Ria Brodell '02 has a show opening March 3 at Gallery Kayafas in Boston, Ria Bro...

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February 14, 2017

Historic Seattle Lecture Explores Cornish History

David Martin, the curator of Cascadia Art Museum exhibition on Cornish College of the Arts' history, will lecture on the history of the school on March 6, 7 p.m., at PONCHO. This event is part of the Historic Seattle 2017 educational program for lovers of buildings and heritage.

“Miss Aunt Nellie” as she was affectionately known, was arguably the most important figure in Wa...

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January 18, 2017

ArtPlace America Director Speaks at Cornish

Executive director of ArtPlace America, Jamie Bennett, will arrive on campus Thursday, January 19, to meet Creative Corridor students and speak on art in the community.

The interim chair of Creative Corridor, Genevieve Tremblay, was delighted to get a note from ArtPlac...

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January 9, 2017

Alumni in the News - January

Cornish alumni have been busy: producing art, furthering their academic careers, making the world a better place, and winning awards. Find out where a Cornish education has taken them.

Design grad Grace Reyer '16  who also studied film at Cornish, wrote Film+Media Chair ...

October 19, 2016

HoloLens Project Highlighted At Seattle Interactive

In 2016, nine student teams at Cornish College of the Arts created pieces for Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens headset. Their work was later shown at the Seattle Interactive 2016 conference.

Cornish students and their teachers were asked to present their work with Microsoft's HoloLens at th...

First Slide

September 14, 2016

Cornish Presents 2016/17: Theater, Music, Dance, Performance, and Jazz

While best known for the terrific jazz at PONCHO co-produced with Earshot Jazz, Cornish Presents is a multidisciplinary series of visiting artists, beloved alumni, and distinguished faculty. The 2016/17 season is no exception.

Following last month’s special remount of Raisins  in a Glass of Milk at the Cornish Playhous...

Raisins in a Glass of Milk August 25-27, 8:00 p.m. Begun as a senior thesis project, Ra...

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September 2, 2016

Nathan DiPietro and Clyde Petersen Receive 2016 Neddy Artist Awards

The winners and finalists of the 2016 Neddy Artist Awards will gather on September 15 at Pivot Art + Culture in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. In recognition of the Neddy Artist Awards' 20 years of supporting contemporary artists in the Puget Sound region, works from the 2016 winners and finalists will displayed with a representation of past Neddy Artist Award winners.

The 2016 Neddy Artist Awards go to Nathan DiPietro (painting) and Clyde Petersen (open medium). The...

“Neddy Artist Awards: 20 Years” will run September 15 through October 23 at Pivot Art + Culture...