Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Igor Marjanovic, Architecture and Art and Design, (515) 294-7153

Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778

Iowa State University's first-year design students learn the art of collaboration

AMES, Iowa -- Whether they plan on becoming architects, graphic designers, city planners or sculptors, the 650 first-year students in Iowa State University's College of Design have something in common: The Doorway Project.

In teams of two, three and four, students designed and built a functional doorway that collapses and fits into a suitcase. For their final jury review, they unpacked and installed the doorway for jurors and classmates to use. The doorways were as varied as the students themselves -- from open squares of copper pipe swinging from chains to mysterious zippered slits in layered panels of taut fabric.

The Doorway Project is the final studio assignment for students in the first year of the college's new Core Design Program. Meant to help develop spatial awareness and an ability to use space as a design tool, the Doorway Project also teaches the art of collaboration.

"This is a very disparate group of students. This project gives them the opportunity to appreciate the perspective of other students. They learn that the team needs people of different strengths and that they have to help each other," said Tim Hickman, an architecture instructor who taught one of the 18 sections of Design Studio 102x spring semester.

Collaboration -- among design disciplines, faculty and students -- is the premise for the development of the new Core Design Program, said Igor Marjanovic, an assistant professor of architecture and art and design, who was hired in 2003 to direct the Core Design Program.

"Contemporary design practices are interdisciplinary. The project selected in the World Trade Center Memorial competition, for example, is a collaboration among architects, landscape architects and artists -- a customary combination in many successful design practices," Marjanovic said.

That's why integrating first-year students in a common curriculum is a trend in design higher education in the United States.

Iowa State's program is the most ambitious of the handful of similar programs under way because it encompasses more students and more majors for a longer period of time, Marjanovic said.

For two semesters, Iowa State's first-year design students attend a common set of studio and lecture classes intended to prepare them for application to any of the college's professional degree curricula. They focus on the design process -- the ability to relate the concepts of design to the physical world, to the world of ideas and to the world of imagination.

"Classes in the Core Design Program create a shared language, experience and community that expose students to all disciplines in the college," Marjanovic said. The disciplines are architecture, art and design, community and regional planning, graphic design, integrated studio arts, interior design and landscape architecture.

After completing the Core Design Program, the students are required to apply for admission to the enrollment-managed professional programs -- architecture, graphic design, interior design and landscape architecture. Admittance depends in part on the quality of their portfolio of original work. About 60 percent of students who complete the first year will pursue majors in the college.

"Iowa State is one of the few, true design colleges in the U.S. because it focuses on the studio environment," said Marjanovic. "The studio experience involves 15 to 20 students and a faculty member who meet for up to 15 hours per week to produce design and art projects. It's a unique learning and working environment. Success is measured through the quality of design work, which is evaluated in formal reviews by external jurors."

In the first year of the new Core Design Program, students are producing more complex designs, Marjanovic said.

"Their work has become more speculative, more engaged. They've become more interested in theory and history. We talk to them a lot about the context of design works and socio-political influences, including mass media and the local economy. So their work has become very informed when compared to first year students in the past," he said.

"The Core Design Program creates a broader education. Students are exposed to diverse faculty and a diverse set of issues. In the past, an architecture student heard only about architecture. Now, they're exposed to different design fields," Marjanovic said. "It's going to create a unique design professional, very different from those who come out of traditional design programs, versed only in one field."


Climbing through door

Through the doorway

For print-quality photos contact News Service at 294-3720

  • Through the door

    • Cutline: Iowa State University first-year design students Brian Gondokusumo, Singapore, and Fueche Vang, Des Moines, watch as Core Design Program Director Igor Marjanovic steps through the doorway their team designed for the final studio project.
  • Suitcase

    • Cutline: In the Doorway Project, first-year design students at Iowa State must design a doorway that collapses to fit into a suitcase. Students assemble the doorway for use at their final review. From left: Fueche Vang, Des Moines; Ian Van Schepen, Arnolds Park; and Greg Kirschbaum, Davenport.
  • Assembling

    • Cutline: Iowa State University students in Design Studio 102x assemble their design for The Doorway Project. From left: Ian Van Schepen, Arnolds Park; Fueche Vang, Des Moines; Greg Kirschbaum, Davenport; and Brian Gondokusumo, Singapore.


"The Core Design Program creates a broader education. Students are exposed to diverse faculty and a diverse set of issues. In the past, an architecture student heard only about architecture. Now, they're exposed to different design fields."

Igor Marjanovic
Director, Core Design Program