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The first year of the Design degree provides the foundation skills for the rest of the course. The emphasis is on gaining the design, mathematical and presentation skills that underpin the entire course.

Most of the lecture courses in first year are taught jointly with the Architecture Tripos. The largest difference between the two courses is that the Design course includes a lecture course on Mathematics and Programming (see below).

The first year of the Design course teaches you to create designs and present your ideas in drawings, models and words. The skills you learn in the first year form a firm foundation for the rest of the degree.


Studio is taught as a whole year group. Studio explores the four primary strands of Create, Critique, Analyse, and Explain. Projects are chosen to provide opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the context of creative interdisciplinary design. Usually the projects set will be buildings, but this will not always be the case and students might also be set projects that might involve making objects, furniture, products or bridges. The projects will vary from year-to-year, but the themes and learning outcomes remain the same. Examples of studio themes in year one  are:

Michaelmas Term    Understanding Design

The short projects in this term introduce basic design concepts such as iteration, an understanding of form and modes of orthographic and axonometric drawing, basic hand modelling techniques and how to present your ideas.

Lent Term   Comfort, Sustainability and the Environment

Students attend the environment and sustainability lectures in the architecture course and the projects in this term are set to explore what sustainability and comfort means in architecture and the basic concepts involved. Students will design spaces and carry out simple environmental calculations on them to test their success, looking at U-values, thermal comfort, at natural light and acoustics.

Easter Term   Understanding Structural Form

The project or projects in this term as devised to test understanding of the Form and Forces course and how structures dictate and affect form. Students design a small building or structure and test its structural efficiency. It might be a bridge or tower or it might be a building or a full size structure tested to destruction. The students will apply the methods they have learnt in their other courses to analysing the design.


The professional skills course is shared with the Architecture tripos. The course is divided into two parts in first year a) An Introduction to Management Practice and Law and b) Communication Skills.

The Introduction to Management Practice and Law course introduces students to the role of design professionals in society. It looks at professional bodies and accreditation, ethics, codes of conduct, regulations and rules. It introduces the ideas of collaborative working and team skills, participatory design and engagement, inclusivity and accessibility and the importance of diversity and engagement. It explores the roles of individuals in design and building practice and the different roles in the process.

The Communication Skills course aims to provide students with an introduction to the various study and communication skills they will require both to complete the course successfully and to be able to perform effectively in practice. It starts with training in verbal presentation and preparing making digital presentations. It covers the basics of essay-writing. It introduces types of design drawings and models. Students are taught how to draw by hand in the first instance. In the Lent Term they learn to use Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator. Basic 2D CAD is introduced in the Easter Term. They are taught how to make models by hand using paper and card.


The Materials and Fabrication Course is divided into two parts: the Materials part of this course involves a basic introduction to Materials Science. It explores the basic structures of materials and the way the choice of materials affects design. The course will explore the range of materials available for design, their chemical and physical structure and how materials are chosen for particular purposes. The Fabrication part of this course looks at the basic materials used in buildings and how they are assembled. As a whole the course, which is taught jointly to both architecture and the design tripos, aims to give a basic introduction to Materials Science and Building Construction. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This course provides a basic introduction to structural engineering design and calculation. The first part of the course is taught jointly with the architecture course and involves using graphic statics to gain an understanding of how loading affects structural form. The course in the Easter term is taught only to students in the Design Tripos and is tested in the studio work. It extends these ideas and the mechanics taught in Mathematics and Programming I to the structural analysis of simple structures and the basics of structural mechanics. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This course provides the mathematical understanding necessary to understand concepts in science and structural design. The course presumes the students have Mathematics A level or equivalent. As syllabuses vary, the course will begin by revising A Level Mathematics and basic calculus and trigonometry. The course will then go on to cover the ground covered in Further Mathematics. By the end of the year it aims to have provided students with the basic mathematical tools they will need to proceed to the second year, introducing students to fundamental concepts of mathematics (such as geometry, calculus and linear algebra and matrices). The course is assessed through written examinations at the beginning of Lent and Easter Term. Supervisions are provided throughout Michaelmas and Lent with practice questions to prepare for the exams.


This course, taught with the Architecture course, aims to introduce students to the rich history and theory of design, encouraging them to think about different approaches to design and enabling them to be critical of the design work of others by examination of the historical, social, theoretical, cultural, ecological contexts of the design problems and solutions. The course is assessed by two essays, one submitted at the beginning of the Lent and one at the beginning of the Easter term.