Updated for the 2024 Admissions Cycle

The goal of the DEA Design Challenge is to communicate your point-of-view. The work you submit should say something about who you are, your opinions, and your personal goals. There is also an optional category if you wish to submit additional examples of your creative expression. Be sure to review the DEA Design Challenge instructions carefully and thoughtfully prepare your materials. 

The Design + Environmental Analysis (DEA) Design Challenge is required of all first-year and transfer DEA applicants. This submission will be considered along with your required application materials. Applications to the DEA major will not be considered without the submission of a DEA Design Challenge

Submitting your DEA Design Challenge 
All DEA Design Challenge components must be submitted via SlideRoom. Mailed materials will not be accepted, reviewed, or returned.

Your DEA Design Challenge must be submitted to SlideRoom by the application deadline that corresponds with your application status. Late submissions will not be considered.

The DEA Design Challenge Components
The DEA Design Challenge consists of the following three required components and one optional component (see below). Applicants must complete and submit the three required components.

  1. Required — the written challenge
  2. Required — the two-dimensional challenge
  3. Required — the three-dimensional challenge
  4. Optional — Your own creative samples

All work must be original and produced by the applicant only, with no assistance from consultants, Artificial Intelligence, etc. Submissions found to have significant similarity to work posted on the internet or from other sources will not be accepted.

DEA Design Challenge Instructions (2024)

Respond to one of the following prompts. Your essay should not exceed 200 words. Submit (1) file with your Written Challenge essay to SlideRoom.

  • Design Strategy and Innovation
    How do you see design as a potential change agent in everyday life? Referencing DEA’s Design Strategy and Innovation theme, write about how you envision a world that responds to the needs of various people, communities, and/or yourself that are unmet.
  • Sustainable Futures
    How might we use design to address, mitigate, and transform the challenges around the future of our planet?  Referencing DEA’s Sustainable Futures theme, write about how you envision design as a primary player in efforts to bring health to our earth. 
  • Health and Well-Being
    How might design promote health and well-being throughout the life course? Referencing DEA’s Health and Well-Being theme, write about how you envision design working to support and enhance human health.

Diagram a task / process of your choice, without using words or text, to convey a message. The definition of “message” might be interpreted as an opportunity to enlighten, enable, or educate an end-user. The creative presentation of the sequence and the quality of visual communication will form the basis of your work’s evaluation. Submit (1) file of your finished 2-D Challenge to SlideRoom.

Review the following instructions. 

  • Create a 5-step diagram, i.e., similar to a comic book strip layout, that communicates the process and the message.
  • Consider the sequential steps, context, and objectives involved while doing the task / process.
  • Use any two-dimensional media: pen, pencils, markers, digital camera, computer software, etc.


Design and hand-build a three-dimensional “gift” that captures, engages, ignites, celebrates and / or reflects the human spirit. Your gift may be for someone you know, a person(s) yet to be known, or a collective group. Submit (2 – 5) files of your finished 3-D Challenge (written statement plus images) to SlideRoom.

Review the following instructions. 

  • This gift must be hand-built, incorporating any materials (including but not limited to wood, clay, paper, natural or recycled materials) you determine will best express your intentions. Digitally created gifts will not be accepted. 
  • Write a statement that describes what the gift is, who the recipient is (or recipients are), and its intended impact / effect. This essay should not exceed 200 words, including a title. 
  • Produce a maximum of (4) photographic images of your gift for SlideRoom submission. Explore views from diverse angles and submit high-quality images that are well-lit and large enough to be seen by reviewers.

Submit up to (4) additional images of prior creative work for consideration. Submissions might range from poetry to photography, drawings to paintings or models. For each image, provide a title, a short description, and a reflective statement about the outcome or process.

Submit optional creative work (maximum of 4 pages) to SlideRoom.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is one determinant in learning who you are as a person, understanding your point-of-view, and recognizing how you might fit within DEA. DEA faculty review and evaluate the DEA Design Challenge. Faculty feedback is included in the full review of the application. The DEA Design Challenge is required of all DEA applicants.

No. Digital files of student work will not be accepted. All DEA applicants must complete the DEA Design Challenge and submit their work via SlideRoom.

Not necessarily. Your creative thought processes and written rationale are as important as aesthetic aptitude. DEA accommodates students with a wide range of creative talents and experiences.

  • For your 2D Challenge, you may use any type of media to express your message sequence.
  • For the 3D Challenge, you must use your hands to craft an object that is your gift.

No. Adhere to the number of images designated in each category.

No. There is no one type of correct or successful submission. Consider your submissions as exercises in experimental thinking and risk-taking more than final presentations or examples of technical proficiency.

We are not scheduling faculty appointments at this time. You can email DEA’s Academic Programs Coordinator with questions about the program and/or Design Challenge.