Design Discovery students represent a broad range of ages, lifestyles, and training (most have no previous design experience), and this contributes to a stimulating environment. Many are college students or recent graduates, but the program is also helpful to professionals in their 30s, 40s, or older who are interested in learning about design and/or who are considering a career change. We host an average of 225 participants per year.


Alumni Profiles


Anjerrika Bean

  • Attended: After first year of doctoral studies
  • Design background: None
  • Interest: Urban Planning & Design
  • Today: Research Assistant, Howard University Department of Sociology and Criminology; community builder and co-founder of an organization to help rebuild inner-city neighborhoods in Baltimore, MD.

“We all came to the studio at Design Discovery with such different perspectives. We only see what we know as individuals, so our viewpoints enriched one another. In the end, we were all richer for sharing the experience together. In addition to working with a diverse group of students, it was amazing to interact with many great instructors and have access to stakeholders, including local city officials, to whom we presented our final projects.”

Marcus Mello

  • Attended: After sophomore year in college
  • Design background: None
  • Interest: Architecture
  • Today: GSD graduate with dual Master degrees in architecture and urban planning; works as an architect at Boston Planning and Development Association; has taught at Design Discovery

“Design Discovery is very intense — and completely worthwhile! Its structure and options appealed to me, and the projects were very challenging, but in a good way. I had to stay focused. I learned about design and the grad school experience, and it opened my eyes. Sketching at my desk and out in the field, near Fenway, I started seeing Boston and Cambridge with an entirely new perspective, through a design lens. Design Discovery also revealed a broader spectrum of design careers. The experience helped me start a portfolio and build a network that helped guide me when I applied to design schools and pursued a career in architecture. I highly recommend the program.”

Svafa Gronfeldt

  • Attended: Mid-career
  • Design background: None
  • Interest: Architecture
  • Previous career: Education and university leadership
  • Today: EVP at Alvogen and Entrepreneur-in-residence at MIT’s designX innovation accelerator

“When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, and when I turned 50, I revisited this idea through Harvard GSD’s Design Discovery. The experience was even better than I had imagined. Design Discovery promotes design as a way of thinking, a way of approaching decisions, that’s applicable to all aspects of a design-centered career. I’m not aiming to become an architect in a firm, but I don’t have to — I can still be engaged in design. As an instructor at MIT, I help innovators launch and grow their ventures by combining business principles with the principles of design and planning. This new journey integrates my educational background and career experience with the design mentality, which is about problem solving and the constant search for improvement through iteration. This approach is applicable to just about any profession or field.”

Jiayu Zhou

  • Attended: After junior year in college
  • Design background: None
  • Interest: Architecture
  • Today: About to complete college

“From Design Discovery, I learned that design is not only about drawing or making beautiful models but more about thinking. Studio art involves the exchange of cultures, values, and concepts, which takes design far beyond what we see on floor plans and textbooks. Design is everywhere, and it is influenced by government, law, businesses, and NGOs. Design Discovery helped me understand that architects, landscape architects, and urban planners are leaders in society who cooperate and innovate to improve or even revolutionize that society. As participants in this program, we learned how to design things that are “good” — things that support positive changes in the way people interact, think, and live.”

Christian Long

  • Attended: Mid-career, after graduate school
  • Design background: None
  • Interest: Architecture
  • Previous career: Education
  • Today: Co-founder at Wonder and founder of a national design camp for young creatives

“The ideal Design Discovery candidate is someone who seeks an intense experience exploring how the design mindset can apply to all fields and challenges. The program gave me a tangible opportunity to intensely explore the field of architecture as I was contemplating a career shift. While it helped me realize that I actually didn’t want to become a traditional architect, it did lead me toward significant strategy and visioning roles in the field of school design and architecture. Since then, I’ve started four design studios and have been designing schools and universities around the world.”