The Virtual Program

Design Discovery Virtual (DDV) is a remote four-week summer program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD). Students will receive instruction online from Harvard University GSD instructors and lecturers and will collaborate with fellow students to complete their studio projects.

We welcome anyone, from recent high school and college graduates to seasoned professionals, who wants to explore the possibilities. Some of our participants are considering a career in design or planning, but not all. Design Discovery Virtual is for those with a broad spectrum of interests and remarkably diverse plans and goals.

Join our mailing list here.

The Experience

Participants in our program commit themselves fully to a path of intensive studio work, lectures, and workshops. Immersed in a culture that is both challenging and rewarding, they experience what education and work are like in the design and planning professions. They emerge — many of them exhilarated — with a more profound understanding of the possibilities ahead and the choices they will make.

Program Format

This program is taught remotely and has a hybrid format inspired by both seminar and studio teaching. In addition to providing design exercises, Design Discovery Virtual will have lectures and discussions that tie the design fields to larger social concerns and to the roles they play in making a resilient, just, and beautiful world. Synchronous discussions and group work are combined with asynchronous content to accommodate time zones outside of the East Coast United States. A participant-to-instructor ratio of no more than 10:1 highlights the collegial and collaborative nature of the program.

Program Structure

Four weekly themes structure the curriculum, and one day each week is dedicated to examining the current theme through the three lenses of Urban Planning and Design, Landscape Architecture, and Architecture.
The remaining days are filled with workshops and tutorials, office hours, desk crits, and presentations that focus on design production and its methods. In the last week of the program, participants have the opportunity to create and refine a portfolio of their work.

Program Schedule

Design Discovery Virtual consists of synchronous and asynchronous content. Synchronous blocks are taught live on Zoom and include tutorials, exercises, and studio work. You are required to attend synchronous sessions at the scheduled time. Asynchronous content is available on demand (pre-recorded lectures and tutorials) and it includes the time it takes to prepare readings, assignments and work on design projects outside of live instruction. You are free to complete asynchronous content when it best suits you but we recommend that you set and follow your own schedule.

To accommodate participants in different time zones, Design Discovery Virtual offers two synchronous schedule options, A and B, that are shown in the below table based on Harvard’s time zone (UTC-4:00). You can select either the A schedule or the B schedule for synchronous instruction and have to plan your asynchronous work accordingly. The link below the table provides sample schedules for a selection of time zones. Please note that DDV requires a full-time commitment and participants may choose to spend more time than is outlined in order to make full use of the program’s offerings.

Click on image to enlarge.

See sample schedules by timezone here.

Certificate and Academic Credit

Each successful Design Discovery participant receives a written evaluation from his or her instructor and a certificate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Although the GSD cannot offer undergraduate academic credit for Design Discovery, some colleges and universities will award academic credit for a student’s participation in our program.

Click here for more information and to request a copy of your evaluation.


Video Q&A

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How old do I have to be to apply to Design Discovery Virtual?
A: Applicants must be at least 18 years old and must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. A high level of academic skill is necessary to take full advantage of our rigorous program.

Q: How do I submit my transcript(s)? Do I need to send an official copy with my application?
A: Transcripts should be submitted electronically through the online application. Applicants should scan a copy of their transcript(s) and upload these documents into the online application. During the application process, it is not necessary to send an official transcript.

Q: Does my transcript need to be official, or can I scan an unofficial version?
A: Scanned transcripts can be unofficial or official. If we need further information, we may ask for an official transcript to be sent to our office for review.

Q: I am having technical difficulties with the online application (such as uploading a transcript). What do I do?
A: Contact the Design Discovery Virtual office by emailing

Q: I don’t have a background in design—can I apply?
A: Yes. Design Discovery Virtual is a program designed to introduce Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning & Design to those who have interest in the areas but have little to no experience with the disciplines.

Q: Do you teach design thinking?
A: That is exactly what we teach. The program is as much about the ‘mindset’ as it is about the ‘toolset’ of designers. Many of our students have gone on to other disciplines, taking with them what is now called ‘design thinking’; the processes, mental habits, and methods of research and collaboration that are second-nature to designers which can be beneficially applied to all fields and areas of study.

Q: When are admissions decisions made?
A: Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. Applicants will be notified of decisions by email. Only completed applications will be reviewed.

Q: Do I have to have a computer?
A: A device with a stable internet connection and sufficient resources to run Zoom and access the web-based Canvas course management software is required. Harvard will provide all participants with licenses to use these tools, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud. Rhino will be available as a free trial.. Financial aid applicants may request computer support.

Q: How are you creating a studio experience without a studio?
A: Studio work is about much more than physically working in a studio; it comes with specific mental habits, patterns of collaboration, and an open-minded exploration of possibilities, all of which translate well into a remote format. Needless to say, a remote studio comes with limitations as far as space, materials, tools, and social interactions are concerned. We have spent the last year studying best practices of remote teaching at the GSD that have inspired us to reinvent design exercises in ways that integrate easily obtainable everyday materials and encourage a collaborative work environment and we’re confident that this will allow you to immerse yourself in studio-based learning remotely.

Q: After completing the program, how do I request a Design Discovery Virtual transcript?
A: To request a copy of your evaluation, follow the instructions above under Certificate and Academic Credit.

Q: Can I be removed from your program’s mailing list?
A: To unsubscribe from our mailing list, email a request to with your name and address as they appear on the mailing label.