Skip to content

In DCC, making is a mode of thinking, and this is a core part of our interdisciplinary curriculum. We bring together students from majors all across campus to study the impact of technology on society and to understand how our designs can make the world a better place. Our curriculum begins with HDCC105, the only lecture in our curriculum. Here, all freshmen meet together to build a foundation of ideas and approaches to understand the ways that design is all around us, but its impact is not always perceptible. From design's impact on how we learn, to studying issues of access to technology and how some communities are left behind, we explore a range of ways that technology is transforming our lives. Students then go on to study one of these topics in a small seminar in HDCC106 (in small classes of approximately 150 students). The sophomore year is focused on learning skills and thoughtful approaches for bringing students' own designs to life, culminating in a large-scale Capstone Project in HDCC209. These projects set students apart from the peers in their majors, giving them access to incredible internships and jobs through demonstrating their capacity for creative problem solving.

The DCC curriculum is designed to supplement and integrate seamlessly into your other academic pursuits, regardless of your major(s). For some students, DCC coursework grafts onto concepts, methods, and ideas from their other areas of study, allowing them to consider their major in different ways or push their thinking forward in more interesting directions. For others, the DCC curriculum provides an escape—a chance to nourish other parts of themselves beyond the expectations and experiences of their academic major. No matter your approach to your time in DCC, our courses help you satisfy General Education requirements (indicated below by four-letter codes) while encouraging you to make room in your education for creativity, imagination, and technological skill development & experimentation.

Academic Program Requirements

  • All students must maintain a GPA of 3.2 to remain in the Honors College, enroll in DCC courses, reside in Prince Frederick Hall, and receive their Honors Citation.
  • Beginning with students who began the program in 2020 and onward, all DCC students must complete 16 credits by the end of their sophomore year:
    • HDCC105 Introduction to Design Cultures & Creativity (3 credits—DSSP, DVUP, SCIS)
    • HDCC106 Seminar in Design Cultures & Creativity (3 credits—DSHU)
    • HDCC201 Capstone Proposal through Design Thinking (1 credit)
    • HDCC208 Seminar in Design Cultures & Creativity (3 credits—DSSP)
    • HDCC209 Capstone in Design Cultures & Creativity (3 credits—DSSP)
    • And, 3 credits from ONE of the following four options*:
      • a university 300/400-level course that centers methods, concepts, or technical skills of design, creative process, and/or technology;
      • HDCC379 Independent Study;
      • university-approved Study Abroad;
      • or, a university-approved Internship Course.
  • All students must successfully complete and present an original Capstone Project.

*Noteno matter which option is chosen for the final 3 credits, students must communicate with the DCC Director to solicit approval of their choice.

Current Courses

The DCC curriculum is anchored by three courses that remain largely consistent in content and structure:

  • HDCC105 Introduction to Design Cultures & Creativity is offered every Fall semester for first-year students
  • HDCC201 Capstone Proposal through Design Thinking is offered every Fall semester for second-year students
  • HDCC209 Capstone in Design Cultures & Creativity is offered every Spring semester for second-year students

However, the remaining two courses—HDCC106 (offered in the Spring semesters for first-year students) and HDCC208 (offered in the Fall semesters for second-year students), both Seminars in Design Cultures & Creativity—inject ever-changing excitement and vitality into the program. The options for HDCC106 and HDCC208 change every single academic year. We leverage the diversity and depth of expertise across the University of Maryland campus to recruit new faculty each semester, so that our course offerings may shift to suit the needs and interests of our students.

Below is a sample of current courses offered in DCC for the 2022-2023 academic year:

Taught in Fall 2022 by Dr. Jessica H. Lu for the first time, HDCC105 provides an introduction to Design Cultures & Creativity—as a community, as a living-learning program, and as an orientation to thinking about the world—for all incoming students.

Design is embedded in nearly every encounter of everyday life, but it’s not always explicit or visible. In what ways does design alter who we are as humans and how we interact with the world? How can we study and center design’s role in shaping our lives, interactions, and our cultures, ultimately learning to practice intention, ethics, and creativity to design the world better? How does culture (social, political, economic, aesthetic, and otherwise) shape design practices, design standards, and definitions or assessments of “good” design? In this class, we’ll develop knowledge and skills to meaningfully analyze and assess design; investigate and amplify different cultural patterns, principles, and systems that inflect design; and explore how creativity and creative processes (both our own and of others) inspire new methods, approaches, and critiques of design to help us think differently about the challenges facing us and our worlds.

In the course of studying and engaging with these topics, this course will invite you to experiment with the affordances of several digital design platforms, including: Adobe® PhotoshopAdobe® XD, and Adobe® Premiere. You will also be encouraged to explore other free or open-source platforms and incorporate them in your learning and your design work. Rather than approaching these design platforms with the goal of mastery, this course approaches learning through an intentional lens that presumes “making is a mode of thinking.” By making and experimenting with hands-on projects and skills, this class presents different methods for information processing, critical analysis, creative problem solving, cultural engagement, and intentional intervention.

Taught by DCC core faculty member Dr. Alexis Lothian, this course is one of five options for HDCC106 in Spring 2023, for first-year students.

Writer and activist Walidah Imarisha describes visionary fiction as “fantastical literature that helps us to understand existing power dynamics, and helps us imagine paths to creating more just futures.” This class will explore how pathways to social justice have been imagined by creators whose radical imaginations challenge oppressive structures of gender, race, sexuality, capitalism, and empire. Over the course of this semester, we will use creative engagement with speculative fiction (in the form of film, television, music, and performance as well as literature) as our starting point to analyze intersecting systems of structural oppression and contemplate emergent possibilities for justice and transformation. And we will begin to imagine and design our own visions for more just futures.

Taught by DCC Associate Director Dr. Skye de Saint Felix, this course is one of five options for HDCC106 in Spring 2023, for first-year students, and is specifically geared towards preparing students for a variety of different second-year Capstone project possibilities.

Diversity and Design Thinking covers a variety of topics and approaches to best fit the learning needs of our DCC community. This course applies a critical perspective to design thinking, creativity, and our understandings of culture. We will examine power structures that shape knowledge and design production, from storytelling to music to digital creations. We discuss how agency, power, and ethics influence our creative designs and how we engage with our communities. This course also teaches students a variety of methods that can be useful for their Capstone projects, research interests, or future design plans. This includes conducting interviews, podcasts, archival research, mediated communication, curriculum design, artistic approaches, and more. Such approaches allow us to better understand how our ways of thinking and creating are shaped by culture and other markers of our identity like gender, sexuality, class, and race.

This returning course is taught by Dr. José Calderon, of the university's department of Computer Science, and is one of five options for HDCC106 in Spring 2023, for first-year students. It pairs exceptionally well with Dr. Calderon's HDCC208 course, Rewriting Musical Genre, typically taught in the Fall semesters.

Telling computers how to make music requires a model of computation as well as a model of music. We can reason about these models using abstractions. Abstractions allow us to express intent without getting bogged down in potentially irrelevant details. Musical notation is one such abstraction, as are the languages used to write programs. These abstractions are powerful, they can free us from tedium, help guide our thoughts toward a solution, or even limit what we're able to express (which may be a good thing!). We will look at the history of musical notation, including modern production tools, and various computer languages for music making with the goal of seeing how they shape our music and relate to the concept of abstraction.

This new course is taught by Dr. Damien Pfister, of the university's department of Communication, and is one of five options for HDCC106 in Spring 2023, for first-year students.

This course is an exercise in imagining a different future by criticizing the infrastructures and sensibilities of contemporary digitality. Several questions will guide our collaborative work: What kinds of habits do digital technologies engender, and are we happy with them? What are the consequences for creativity and culture when people are "always on" and plugged into the attention economy? How might we imagine digital technologies, and our relationships to them, in ways that expand accessibility, justice, and dignity? Through careful readings of three books—How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy,Your Computer is On Fire, and Viral Justice—we will survey contemporary criticisms of digitality while imagining how creativity and design offer alternative futures.

This new course is taught by a co-teaching pair: Dr. Diana Marsh and Ph.D. Student Lydia Curliss, of the university's iSchool. It is one of five options for HDCC106 in Spring 2023, for first-year students.

This course will explore information justice through the lens of repatriation—the return of belongings, artifacts, or documents to communities of origin. From the Parthenon Marbles to the Benin Bronzes, debates about repatriation and who should own or steward historical items are increasingly making news headlines. In this class, we delve into this complex and heated topic, making use of our location in Washington, DC, to visit collections and meet guest speakers to understand how information justice plays out on the ground. We explore how cultural heritage professionals and governments are rethinking their responsibilities to Indigenous nations and other source communities whose belongings are in their care. We look closely at the concepts, international and national legal frameworks, and current practices around repatriation, deaccessioning, and digital knowledge sharing that a range of institutions—galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM)—are employing to repatriate collections and ‘decolonize’ their institutions. We will apply a critical lens to projects that employ collaboration and reciprocal relationship-building between institutions and communities. Throughout the course, students will hone their debating and writing skills, and learn about institutional collaboration, public policy, Native U.S. history, and the cultural heritage field.

A DCC fan favorite returns!

Taught by Porter Olsen (ENGL), this course explores the significance of storytelling across a range of digital media, including video games, mobile media applications, social media, and more. We begin by situating digital storytelling within a pre-digital history of oral, textual, and visual storytelling. We will then study and create our own stories using a variety of digital platforms. In doing so, we will engage critical questions surrounding how stories are told in the digital age. What, for example, constitutes the fundamental elements of a story, regardless of the media through which it is told? How do different storytelling platforms open and foreclose possible narratives? Who has the power to construct and shape the stories of the digital era, and how can digital tools empower more voices to prevent what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls, “the danger of a single story”? In this project-driven course, students will explore new digital technologies, create and produce their own stories across a range of digital platforms, and analyze stories in digital forms. The class activities will also help prepare students to choose and begin developing the proposal for their DCC Capstone project.

DCC is delighted to present a brand new course, taught by Danielle Abe (ARCH).

What is “community,” or what should it be? In a world threatened by problems like housing segregation and environmental racism, how can we navigate the different answers to this question? In this class, we will learn about the complex relationships between planning, architecture, sustainability, and equity—including how to apply your knowledge of them toward solutions in real places. We will explore these ideas through reading, watching documentaries, participating in discussions, and creating visual representations that reflect our understanding of and positioning within these topics. We will explore case studies and then apply our knowledge by designing visual schemes and action plans for real-world sites. The course is designed to help you demonstrate and develop your skills in research while encouraging you to creatively express your ideas.

We are proud to welcome Anat Szendro Sevilla (iSchool) back to DCC to teach Creativity through Visual Communication, which she first taught in Fall 2021.

As technology takes over our lives, there is one skill a machine cannot compete with… creativity. Moving. Talking. Writing. Using our hands. These are the building blocks of the creative process, and are the basis for innovation. In this class, we will be exploring creativity through visual design. Over the course of the semester, we will learn the fundamentals of visual design and tools for effective visual communication. How should we interact and form a connection with our viewers? We will use creative approaches to problem solving for the purpose of applying them in a broader context.

Some of the topics we will touch upon are: the history of visual design, composition, logo design, typography, image, color, grid, creative blocks, low vs high tech, and creativity as a platform for innovation.

The class will have a strong hands-on component, we will make mistakes and grow out of them. The class requires an open mind, a sketch book, and some raw materials TBD.

We are thrilled to welcome artists Jessica Gatlin (ART) and Dan Ortiz Leizman (ART) to DCC for the first time, for this co-taught course:

From a wide breadth of historical, contemporary, and experimental resources, students will explore a variety of physical and digital media for the means of preparing and issuing serial artworks for public sale, distribution and/or readership. Students will be exposed to a number of relevant established institutions, events, and collectives while being encouraged to participate and create new means for distribution.

Jose Calderon (CS) joins us from Computer Science with another compelling course the fuses studies in music and technology.

Students will learn how to identify and emulate various musical genres by recreating tropes and idioms from various genres. By using tools such as Sonic Pi or Euterpea, students will learn to express key elements of a genre programmatically, enabling us to mix and match genres in potentially new ways.