Design, Environment and the Arts (Design), PhD

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Earn your PhD in design, environment and arts at Arizona State University, the university ranked #1 for innovation. A flexible curriculum gives students access to top-notch faculty, courses, studios and laboratories in architecture, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, visual communication design, urban design and related disciplines.

The PhD program is a flexible, interdisciplinary program that permits designers to develop the experience, skills and framework to become competent researchers, scholars, innovators, visionaries and leaders in the various disciplines of design, environment and the arts. Broad in scope, the program involves interdisciplinary research interests at both the micro- and macro-scales of design, environment and the arts. Research experience prepares students for careers in academia, as well as industry, government or the nonprofit sector. There are opportunities for research specialization in areas such as:

  • technology, innovation and entrepreneurship
  • sustainability and resilience
  • social justice, placemaking and placekeeping
  • global health and human factors
  • history, culture, theory and philosophy

At A Glance

Design, Environment and the Arts (Design), PhD

Plan of study

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

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Application procedures and requirements

Application period

Online applications are open September 15 with a priority deadline of January 15. However, we accept applications until July 1st.

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Paying for College

Teaching and Graduate Assistantships

Assistantships are appointed each term to a select number of graduate students who are excelling in The Design School. Learn more about teaching assistantships including eligibility and application details.

Financial Aid

Learn more about your financial aid options

Degree requirements

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

Concentration (15 credit hours)
DSC 558 Lighting Design (3)
DSC 594 Conference and Workshop (3)
EPD 791 Seminar (3)
GRA 501 Creative Environment and Collaborative leadership (3)
GRA 561 Methods in Visual Communication I (3)
GRA 562 Methods in Visual Communication II (3)
GRA 581 Internship in Teaching Design (3)
GRA 590 Reading and Conference (3)
INT 515 Decorative Arts in Historic Interiors: A Thematic Overview (3)
INT 516 Textiles in Historic Interiors: Appearance, Function, Symbolism (3)

Electives or Research (21 credit hours)
EPD 790 Reading and Conference (9)
EPD 792 Research (12)

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

Additional Curriculum Information
Students choose five courses from the list of concentration courses above. Other equivalent courses may be used as concentration coursework with approval of the supervisory committee.

When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this degree.

Admission requirements

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

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a master's degree in a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution. Examples of appropriate fields include art history, architectural history, and design history. Fields in the humanities such as history, literature, archaeology and anthropology also may be considered. Students without graduate experience in the history of art, history of architecture and history of design may be asked to fulfill deficiencies.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the applicable master's degree.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. GRE scores
  4. letters of recommendation
  5. personal statement
  6. abstract of proposed research
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of current residency.

Applicants must submit a personal statement, abstract of proposed research and contact information for two references to Slideroom ( It is required that these be submitted in addition to the Graduate College application requirements.

Mission of the programs

The PhD Program prepares students to become public intellectuals and transformative practitioners in shaping the environment at all scales – from the design of cities, buildings and landscapes, to interiors, products and graphics, to the arts.

Goals of the program

The PhD Program has two goals:

  • To educate people who will pursue academic paths or assume leadership roles in professional design, environment and art practices, the public sector and the nonprofit sector.
  • To educate people who will emphasize sustainability, innovation, community building, cultural and contextual awareness.


PhD interdisciplinary experience opportunities

The PhD in Design, Environment and the Arts Program in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts strongly believes in the benefits derived from an interdisciplinary experience while at ASU. Consequently, the PhD Program developed several academic connections with other programs at the university. Such connections provide our PhD students with enviable opportunities for interdisciplinary studies and research. For example, many courses offered in these programs are both relevant and available to PhD students. Furthermore, faculty members from these other programs can participate as members of a student's dissertation committee, although they cannot serve as chairs

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What to expect during the PhD program?

Students within the PhD program will follow a specific sequence, including concentration and specialization coursework, the successful completion of the comprehensive exams and prospectus, research and dissertation coursework, and finally, the successful completion of the dissertation defense

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Selecting your mentor

The faculty of The Design School and School of Art participate in offering the degree. Faculty from disciplines outside of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts may participate in the program if appropriate to the interdisciplinary nature of the student’s research interest.

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Current PhD students

You will find abstracts of paper presentations made by some of our current students at national and international meetings/seminars/conferences.

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Frequently asked questions

Please find a list of frequently asked questions related to the PhD program

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