Skip to main content

This is where deep disciplinary knowledge and cross-disciplinary interests come together in action. Human-centered design is an opportunity to critically and actively engage with the messy and challenging problems facing our world at a scale we can actually impact. This is a space for experimentation, exploration, cultivating creative expression, and messing around with materials and ideas responsibly. This is a place to get your hands on some real tools for making change.


In this 1-credit, introductory course we explore what designing towards justice might look and feel like. Students will employ human-centered design, a process that centers the lived experience of people most impacted by a challenge in creatively addressing it. We will look at the implications of design in shaping the world around us and develop a critical lens on designs' role in making change. Students will explore what it means to re-frame challenges as opportunities, engage in humble inquiry, observe in new ways, synthesize qualitative research, co-generate ideas, prototype, and test their designs. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 16 students 

This 4-credit project-based collaborative studio emphasizes a design process that engages those most impacted by a given design scenario in creatively and collaboratively designing possible new scenarios that benefit both people and the planet. We will take a critical look at the impact of design on the world around us and how the field is evolving. We will develop our own perspectives on designs' role in shaping the future by investigating design narratives, contemporary practices, and emerging frameworks. Together we will explore what it means to frame and reframe challenges as opportunities, attune our awareness, practice listening with humility, heighten our observation skills, engage stakeholders, synthesize qualitative research, co-generate ideas, make those ideas tangible through prototyping, test our concepts with people in context, give and receive feedback, and communicate our designs.

Whether you are starting your Smith journey, embarking on or returning from an immersive experience abroad, weaving your interests through a Concentration or self-designed major, or wrestling with expressing what a Smith education has prepared you to do, this is the class for you. Test different integrative paths of your own design, tell your own story, and create a digital portfolio to showcase your work. By the end of class, you will be able to articulate connections between your work in and outside of the classroom, and to explain how Smith is preparing you to engage with the world beyond. Enrollment limited to 12. (E)

This class will teach students 3D printing literacy and introduce students to the contexts within which this technology is being used in different fields. We will explore the technology of 3D Printers and learn how to design and produce 3D printed objects. Students will be introduced to various software used to generate 3D designs,covering the basics of Computer Aided Design and Scanning. We will also learn how to prepare these models for printing using printer-specific software and finally create the 3D printed models. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 24 students

This course explores the materiality of paper through hands-on making and research. Papermaking is a craft of multiple cultural traditions with a depth of history and context. Connections to land, resources, labor, and techniques can be examined by following a sheet of paper from its beginnings through to its disposal. During this course, we will work together to make paper from plant-based and recycled materials. In partnership with on-campus collections, we will study the societal and environmental context of paper. Course participants will explore one aspect of papermaking in depth through a final independent project. S/U only. Enrollment limited to 12.

Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions

Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions (CLDI) is an integrative cohort program sponsored in partnership by the Wurtele Center for Leadership and the Design Thinking Initiative. CLDI is for students who are looking for intensive opportunities to put collaborative leadership skills into practice. The program offers students an opportunity to learn, develop and apply human-centered design leadership in a real-world setting.

CLDI connects students with embedded, fully paid summer experiences around the world where they will have a chance to practice collaborative change-making in the context of a local organization and contribute to the advancement of socially, economically, and environmentally healthy communities. The program offers students an opportunity to learn, develop, and apply human-centered design leadership in real-world settings. Each year CLDI Fellows apply in the fall to participate in specific internship experiences and are matched with a host organization for the following summer through a rigorous application process.

Learn More About Being an CLDI Fellow

Prototyping Studio

Capen Annex features a prototyping studio stocked with tools for bringing ideas from the design phase to reality—including two laser cutters, a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter, sewing machine, and basic power tools. The studio is open to all members of the Smith community.

Visit the Studio
Photo of colored pencils

Student Project Scholarship Fund

Applications for a Student Project Scholarship are considered on a rolling basis. Scholarships are granted to students interested in supplementing their entrepreneurial vision, creative course projects, fabricating prototypes, or furthering the development of personal projects. Students are limited to: (i) one approved request each academic year and (ii) up to $1,000 in total funding. *Petitions for larger grants will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Scholarships may be used for costs associated with research or personal projects, startup ventures, prototypes, course-related activity or attendance at conferences not covered by the SGA Conference Fund.


  • You must be in good academic standing at Smith College.
  • You must not graduate from Smith College prior to utilizing the funds.
  • You must have completed all paperwork necessary to receive payments from Smith College.

Successful applicants will receive funds, disbursed as reimbursements through the Controller’s Office, after completion of the approved activity and presentation of lessons learned to members of the review committee.

Apply to the Scholarship