Design, Environment and the Arts (Digital Culture in Design), PhD

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The PhD in design, environment and the arts with a concentration in digital culture in design focuses on the role of computational systems in enhancing creativity and the quality of human design. Graduates of the program should be thinkers as well as doers; they should learn to question the existing paradigms that govern the digital world as they impact design and the arts; they should be able to analyze systematically how digital tools affect the way designers and artists think, conceptualize, create and evaluate their designs and artwork; and, as a result, they should be able to come to a unique synthesis, leading the way in these fields.

This concentration program primarily will explore the impact of digital culture on how built environments, products and visual communications are designed and analyzed by design professionals and are utilized by their intended audience. Students should be able to systematically question existing paradigms and ontologies of digital tools, evaluate the new paradigms that emerge as a result of digital culture, and propose new frameworks for design disciplines. Issues such as user interface design for new products, computer simulation of performance of buildings and products, effects of digital tools on architectural form giving, digital design processes, better incorporation of human factors into design tools, usability and interaction design are some examples of faculty expertise and areas of focus.

Program offered

Design, Environment and the Arts (Digital Culture in Design), PhD

Offered by
Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts


Plan of study

The Plan of study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Program requirements

Required Core (6 credit hours)
EPD 700 Research Methods (3)
EPD 710 Current Research in Design (3)

Required Concentration (12 credit hours)

Research and Approved Electives (24 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
EPD 799 Dissertation (12)

Other Requirements (30 credit hours)
a previously awarded master's degree or approved relevant coursework (30)

Additional Curricular Information
Students must be thoroughly familiar with design and the arts and are expected to demonstrate a high level of academic maturity before being admitted to the program. Up to 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree can count toward the requirements of the doctoral program.

Of the 54 credit hours remaining after the master's degree, 12 must be dissertation credit and 12 may be research. These 24 credit hours plus the remaining 30 credit hours must be completed after admission to the program. No transfer credits are allowed to fulfill the 54 credit hour minimum requirement completed after admission to the program.

The student is required to take 12 credit hours in the concentration and a minimum of nine credit hours of specialized coursework outside the concentration; a minimum of six credit hours in current research and research methods is required.

Each student entering the program is required to submit a plan of study during the first year.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must submit an online Graduate Education application.

Students are admitted to the program only upon completion of a degree in architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture or fine arts, or upon the demonstration of equivalent standing. Students must be familiar with design and the arts and will be expected to demonstrate a high level of academic maturity before being admitted to the program.

The doctoral executive committee evaluates the applications and supporting materials during the spring for fall semester admission. Admission decisions are based on:

  1. the ability of the potential mentor to devote time to the student
  2. the compatibility of the applicant's career goals with the purpose of the degree program
  3. GRE scores
  4. previous academic training and performance
  5. recommendation letters
  6. the research mission of the institute and the research interests of faculty

The recommendations of the committee are forwarded to the program director for approval. Upon the written recommendation from the program director, the vice provost for Graduate Education will notify all applicants in writing of the admission decision.

In addition to submitting the Graduate Education online application and meeting Graduate Education requirements, applicants must submit the following doctoral application requirements online at the time of application. The application will be considered incomplete if one of these items is missing:

  1. a statement of purpose summarizing career objectives and the reasons for pursuing doctoral education
  2. an indication of proposed area of concentration (design, history, theory and criticism, digital culture in design, or health care and healing environments)
  3. an indication of a potential mentor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts*
  4. three letters of recommendation (preferably academic, although could be professional)**
  5. a sample of sole-authored written work in English or any other evidence relevant to admission to the program (i.e., master's thesis, research paper or published articles)
  6. GRE scores (required)
  7. proof of English language proficiency***

*We recommend that you email the faculty members who you feel have related research interests, to introduce yourself and to inquire about their availability to be a mentor to you.

**Students will provide the names and contact information of three recommenders at the time of their online application. Recommenders will receive an email with a link to the online letter of recommendation to complete. Students are able to see which recommenders have already completed their recommendation by logging into the My ASU system and viewing their "To Do" list. Once a recommender has submitted the letter of recommendation, the recommender's name will be removed from the "To Do" list. All letters must be in English.

***A Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 100 iBT or 600 PBT or an overall International English Language Testing System (IELTS) band score of 7.50, with no individual band below 7.00, is required of all applicants whose native language is not English ( International applicants who are interested in receiving funding as teaching assistants must take the Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit (SPEAK), administered at ASU, and become certified. Additional information is available on the department website.

A minimum of a bachelor's (or equivalent) or a graduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university is required. Bachelor's must be in the field of architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, arts media or engineering.

Applicants should have a minimum of a 3.00 cumulative GPA (scale is 4.00=A) in the last 60 hours of a student's bachelor's degree program.

Students should identify a proposed research topic, or list of possible topics, that aligns with the research mission of the program and the research interests of faculty.

Student must have identified a doctoral program faculty member who has agreed to serve as a mentor.

Applicants must fulfill both the requirements of Graduate Education and those of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

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