Program Philosophy

The research tradition within the Human Behavior and Design major is based on the social sciences, in particular environmental psychology and human factors and ergonomics. The underlying premise is that systematic, empirical research based in the social sciences, when combined with an understanding of design processes, can contribute to the planning, design, and management of environments that enhance individual and organizational effectiveness.

Program Focus

The Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Design at Cornell University is a multidisciplinary program integrating the social sciences and design. Research focuses on environmental settings across a range of scales (from products to buildings to cities), that support safe, healthy and productive behaviors and foster sustainable design and lifestyles.

The program brings together faculty and students with expertise in the fields of interior, industrial and graphic design, architecture, art, design history, historic preservation, design with digital media, building technology, environmental psychology, human factors and ergonomics, economics, and facility planning and management to work on problems related to the interior environment.

The Human Behavior and Design major rests on the following basic premises:

  • Development of the knowledge base guiding the planning, design, and management of physical settings requires systematic, empirical research.
  • The physical environment affects the realization of human and organizational potential including health, safety, comfort, productivity and satisfaction.
  • The users of environments are diverse and have different needs. Individual characteristics such as culture, gender, stage in the life course, family structure, role or task affect environmental needs.
  • Organizational culture, goals, and structure help shape building design and use.
  • The planning, design, and management of good environments require consideration of all users.
  • Understanding organizational and human needs is no less critical than understanding financial, technological and aesthetic factors influencing the planning, design, and management of our physical surroundings.
  • Multidimensional spatial experiences are heightened through an understanding of design elements, such as circulation, materials, lighting and acoustics.
  • Theory provides a foundation that both informs and is informed by research and practice.



The Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Design draws its strength from faculty knowledge and research in the following four areas:

  • Design
  • Environmental Psychology
  • Facility Planning and Management
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics


Ph.D. Requirements

Please click below to view the curriculum requirements.

Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Design

Who should apply?

People who embrace thinking across disciplinary boundaries and who have a passion for teaching and scholarship are encouraged to apply. The strength of this unique new program is the integration of scientific and creative expertise within the same department. Applicants' prior disciplines might include (but are not limited to): social science, design, or engineering.

Prospective students are encouraged to check out our frequently asked questions below. If you have a question that you can't find the answer to, please contact the Graduate Field Assistant at

FAQ's for Prospective Ph.D. Students


Application Deadline

Applications are due November 1st. Applications are accepted for Fall Admission only.

Application Requirements

In addition to the online application via the Graduate School website, the following required documents must be submitted online:

  • Academic Statement of Purpose (within 500 words)
  • Personal Statement (limit 500 words)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
  • Writing sample
  • Curriculum vitae
  • GRE general test (The desired combined score should be greater than or equal to 310—for the new scoring system effective November 2011—or, a combined score of 1200 for the old scoring system.)
  • English Language Proficiency Requirement, As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. (See exceptions)
  • TOEFL - test for International students (DEA overall minimum: 105, plus Graduate School minimums must be met for each section: writing: 20; listening: 15; reading: 20; speaking: 22)
  • OR IELTS - The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS


Funding Availability:

The intent of the Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Design program is that all admitted students will be fully funded with tuition, fees, and a stipend for a period of four academic (9 months) years contingent upon satisfactory progress toward the degree.

Any questions, please contact the Graduate Field Assistant:

For additional information on how to apply, please visit the Graduate School Admissions website.