First-Year Curriculum

Design Studies: KDS-style learning to cultivate the student’s designer core

The study of design is one component of KDS-style learning—it is a compulsory area of study that must be undertaken for all three years regardless of student specialization. These classes examine just what it is that a designer does. Even though visual, product, spatial and fashion design fields have their differences, any type of designer must have at their core a desire to understand the world. The formation of our current society, culture, resource-related and environmental problems, economy and politics are factors that cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. Students must acquire necessary perspectives and knowledge before engaging in actual design work, and “Design Studies” provides these. Design can be observed throughout society—this type of thinking remains unchanged since KDS’s founding as Japan’s first school to focus on this field. When society changes, design changes as well. The goal of these studies is to refine and strengthen the way students look at the world.


Student-Selected Subjects: a wide array of subjects provide in response to students’ desires to expand and diversify their studies

General design studies entail learning about compulsory subjects that are not directly related to design but are still required for future designers. Student-selected subjects, on the other hand, give students the opportunity to learn more deeply, explore related fields further, and strengthen their weak areas.


Basic Design: acquisition of fundamental skills that strongly support the designer’s thinking abilities

All students at KDS spend an entire year studying shared subjects in “Basic Design”: this group of classes focuses on cultivating strong foundations as well as flexibility through a learning style centered heavily on use of the five senses. For example, students study materials not only in terms of what types of materials are available, but how heavy each material is, its temperature, how it feels and smells, its relationship to human beings, how the material is generally encountered, and other such factors through hands-on learning using the senses. During the design process, one cannot rely on sensibilities alone to generate a rich variety of ideas. By having an accurate grasp of form, learning about various color and shape systems, and understanding the potential of different colors—in other words, learning about design functions and roles in advance—designers will be able to expand the scope of their expressive abilities and ideas. Many of our graduates tell us later on that they found our “Basic Design” classes to be very interesting, and that this education has enabled them to come up with a variety of different approaches in response to client requests. By temporarily “resetting” students’ perceptions to zero and doing away with current ways of thinking, we can cultivate the ability to look deeper and reconstruct their ideas. Basic Design can be conceived of as the acquisition of a strong, supportive base for the designer’s critical thinking abilities.


Fundamental Design: experiencing various types of design to learn about their strengths and approaches

“Fundamental Design” classes enables students to experience different types of design at half-term intervals. Students study four general fields of design: visual communication, daily commodities, spatial presentation and clothing. Regardless of whether each student is good or bad at each subject or whether they like or dislike it, they are asked to set these preconceptions aside and devote themselves to learning and making an effort in each design field. In many cases, these experiences have a strong influence on students’ choices of academic specialization and even their future careers. In addition, many of our instructors are KDS graduates who are also active in society as designers.