The Design Process

Learn more about each step of the Design Process and how this problem-solving tool helps students work through a design challenge from beginning to end. The Process is broken down into six flexible steps that can be worked through in any direction to help get to a final solution.

Getting Started for Students

This tutorial provides an overview of the website, explains how to create a new student user account, and walks you through the process of uploading media and text to your design projects.

Getting Started for Teachers

DiscoverDesign is an online platform where students and teachers come together to design solutions for real-world challenges. It empowers teens to gain architectural skills, learn design principles, engage in problem solving, and connect to an online community of their peers, their teachers and design professionals around the world. This tutorial teaches how to engage this resource in your classroom.


What is an Architect and/or Urban Planner?

Urban planners, sometimes also called city and regional planners, help a community solve problems such as inadequate housing, traffic congestion, and the location of new schools and parks. Good planning enables communities to develop good choices for where and how people live, work, and play.

Get an inside look at what a real architecture firm does at CannonDesign (video produced by BuiltWorlds)

What is an Engineer?

Engineers play a key role in the design, construction, manufacture, and operation of most today’s products, buildings, and materials. They are often thought of as problem solvers who figure out, for example, how to construct a bridge or improve technology.

To learn more about the Education, Salary, Skills, and Opportunities for an engineer, please check out the links below:

What is a Construction Manager?

Constructors manage, coordinate, and supervise the construction process from the conceptual development stage through final construction on a timely and economical basis. Given designs for buildings, roads, bridges, or other projects, constructors oversee the organization, scheduling, and implementation of the project to execute those designs. They are responsible for coordinating and managing contractors, materials, and equipment, budgets, schedules, and contracts as well as for insuring safety of employees and the general public.

To learn more about the Education, Salary, Skills, and Opportunities for a construction manager, please check out the links below:

RIBA Role Models

Twelve role models in architecture explain how they have been able to forge careers within architecture. In doing so they send a message to others who may share one or more aspects of their identity – such as gender, background, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or education – that this could be a profession where they might thrive.

How to Get Involved Locally

Here are some architecture and design organizations with local chapters across the United States:


What's the Big Idea?

You know your school building better than almost any other building you use everyday day. Love it or hate it, because you spend a lot of time there, you must have opinions about the design of your school. Here are six great examples of school buildings around the country - each with a different big idea to teach.

Society   Site

Spaces   Systems

Structure   Stuff




National DiscoverDesign Competition 

In the United States, the term "affordable housing" is used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable to the "median household income" Currently, there is a lack of affordable housing across the country and architects, urban planners, and designers are trying to find creative solutions to this crisis. To solve the problem they are using large sets of data about location, population, average income and other local information to inform their design choices..

Chicago Architecture Biennial BP Competition 

The BP Design Competition is a local ideas competition which challenges participants to think outside the box and imagine a pocket park for a Chicago area neighborhood. The 2015 competition was hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, in partnership with The Chicago Architecture Biennial, North America’s first architecture Biennial. The Biennial’s theme, “State of the Art of Architecture,” provided a platform for creative minds to explore how our day to day lives can be transformed by the built environment.



Design Process Worksheets

The Architecture Handbook, From the Chicago Architecture Foundation

Here you will find worksheets and activities from the Chicago Architecture Foundation's award winning high school textbook, The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings. The first book of its kind in the country for high school students, The Architecture Handbook teaches both the fundamentals of architectural design and technical drawing through hands-on activities.

Schoolyards To Skylines, K-8 curriculum from the Chicago Architecture Foundation

For a quick overview of how architecture may be used as a dynamic interdisciplinary tool for teaching all grades, all subjects, and help meet state learning standards, check out these free downloadable sample lessons from the book:

Black Spectacles

Video tutorials for developing skills in architectural software.

SketchUp Resources

A great introduction to SketchUp that will take you through building several projects to learn the essential of SketchUp. Also, you can try the web application for free

“Third Teacher” / School Design and Learning

"A new push to change schools and education is coming from an unlikely source. It’s not teachers, parents, or students. It’s coming from architects and designers hoping to start a movement to rethink the design of schools and schoolyards while to improving teaching and learning."

Learn more about The Third Teacher, a resource of ideas on how design can transform teaching and learning.

Math + Infrastructure

How Michigan Is Using Math to Fight Potholes: A new statistical model might make the annual spring road repair cheaper for the Mitten State—and for the trucking industry.


Digital Resources for Design Challenges

DEFINE the problem

COLLECT information
US Census. Search by your zip code to see great data about the built environment under “Housing Characteristics”
Google Maps with maps, aerial photos, and street view can help students understand the site of a new design project.

Sketchup: Free, powerful, and easy to use modeling software.
Your school may block for students, but we can recommend showing them to students or using them yourselves. Our favorite Sketchup tutorials from the guys at

DEVELOP solutions / build a TEST model
Sustainable by Design. Free tools to help students understand sun angles, calculate overhangs on buildings, and understand the path of the sun… and why it matters in building design.
A free plugin from IES allows you to assign important sustainable design information like location, building and room type, construction types and HVAC systems to a SketchUp model.
Energy analysis tools that pull climate data from thousands of locations around the country.

A simple and free Photoshop-like program. Allows students to manipulate images in many ways.
Free software to download lets students convert most any graphic file type to any other type.
Sketchup’s 3D warehouse lets students share their models with the world, and also import them into Google Earth.

Sweets Network. Provides detailed information on thousands of building products. Free registration required. CAD/BIM files, SketchUp files, images, and specs also included.



Design a Container House

Design a Food Stand for your School 

Design a new Technology Wing for your School

Design a new School Locker

Redesign your School Cafeteria



Ace Mentor Program of America

Ace is something that really isn’t like any other organization. At Ace they provide opportunities for not only students, but also alumni and even real world firms. Students attend ace to learn and to grow alongside mentors at firms in order to get hands on and real world experience. At the end of the program, students have a chance at getting awarded scholarships, internships and even summer design projects.  Mentors learn and work with students which help them grow. Firms work with Ace so that they have the chance to even at one point hire new employees. Ace is a nation-wide organization that focuses on not just youth, but what connects to them as well.

After School Matters

ASM is a non-profit organization that is based in Chicago. They provide huge lists of programs in partnership with ASM to teens all over the city. These programs are all either paid apprenticeships or paid internships. This gives students a glimpse of real world experience and allows them to explore fields that they are considering for college. ASM creates a space for teens to go after school. Whether it be a downtown program or a community center in their neighborhood.

Art Corps

This organization opens the doors to students interested in the art section of STEAM. From student involvement to community collaboration, Arts corps does its best to help people get more involved with art and get more in tune with their creative spirit.  They provide programs for teens during the school year and during the summer. They even work with schools to assure art is not a forgotten class. Their home is in Seattle, check out their website and get more insight on which they are as an organization.

Chicago Architecture Center 

The Chicago Architecture Center inspires people to discover why design matters. CAC is the leading organization devoted to celebrating and promoting Chicago as a center of architectural innovation. As Chicago’s forum for the exchange of ideas on urban design, CAC inspires people to participate in the building of vibrant communities and to demand the highest standard in urban design. CAC awakens young people to achieve their potential through the discovery of architecture, engineering and design.

Chicago City of Learning

This Website allows students to really explore themselves. They provide an endless list of programs in a variety of subjects and fields. One thing that is special about CCOL is that it has a reward system that awards students with digital badges after they complete an activity or finish a program. CCOL connects students to these great opportunities and more across the City of Chicago. There is so much to do in our city – from beautiful museums, parks, our iconic Navy Pier. CCOL is one way for students to begin to discover these amazing places. Chicago City of Learning does not allow that- it makes sure that you are well aware that there are things that can and will blow you mind in our beautiful city

Digital Youth Network

DYN exposes youth to the digital world we live in today. They work with underprivileged youth to help them develop their technical skills. One of their goals is to give these kinds of chances at technology to low income students and to those who really don’t have the technology at home. Take a look at their website if you are interested in really getting involved in technology.

Engineering Service Center

This a site that focuses on programs in engineering on a national level.

Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is an organization that provides people of all age the chance get to know FLW when it comes to his architecture. From programs for youth to tours, they give a perspective of Frank Lloyd Wright that most people don’t even know.

K12 Lab Network

K12 Lab Network inspires and develops the creative confidence of educators and supports education innovators catalyzing new models for teaching and learning. is an eco web that develops ethical imagination and environmental stewardship. introduces what design is, what design does, and why design is important.

Project Syncere

A program that launched in 2009 that's mission was and still is to instill an engineering core into students who strive for it. But since their launch, the organization has decided to expand its teaching spectrum into the rest of the STEM fields. They provide student with summer camps and programs of that nature. That isn’t all they do, they also work directly with schools and local universities to expose their programs and lessons on students during and after school.

21st Century Skills

Learn more about the 21st Century skills that content meets.

MHA Labs

Mozilla Web Literacy



2017 iMATHination Conference (January 2017)

Activities and resources for participatory design using open data sources


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