Design Challenged

Dear Management Doctor:

I have been directed by my Planning Director to inquire as to if you have knowledge of planning design-related courses and where they might be held.

Thank you.

Dear Design Challenged,

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the design courses for planners are few and far between. I am hopeful that our readers can add a few. Try:

  • Rutgers University: Bloustein School,, They list Urban Design Analysis, Urban Design Studio, Long-Range Planning, Urban Design for Safety and Security.
  • Ohio State has a variety of courses, but on my recent search I didn’t find any design courses.
  • From time to time I see flyers from, I believe, either UCLA or USC about planning design.
  • Periodically check with APA’s Audio/Web Conference Training Series. Also, state APA chapters from time to time offer special courses.
  • Look at the course schedules in local universities. Then approach the professor on a personal basis to teach a similar course in your department.
  • If all else fails, contact a few local designers and ask them to do a few hours of training in the department. With the right approach, you may get them to do this training pro-bono.

Your question also gives me the opportunity to repeat my pet peeve. Today, many planning departments have a design review function. Yet these functions are often staffed by planners with planning masters degrees who have not had any design training. The customers and designers who we talk to say that the planners don’t know what they are doing in relation to design — and generally they are right. I started as an architect with five solid years of design education. Typical college programs for architects, landscape architects or urban designers last from four to seven years. My suggestion is that planning departments should supplement the work of the on staff planners by having one or more trained designers on a retainer to advise staff or even to perform the design review function.

Reader Responses

Paul Gorte, an alumnus of Michigan State, asked me to send you some information about the requirements of our program concerning design education. All our undergraduates take UP 324 - Visual Communication and the Design Process (4 credits) and our graduate students take UP 834 - Urban Design and Project Management (3 credits). Please check our website to see the course description at

Eric Strauss
Michigan State University

Well said.

Rick Cole
City of San Buenaventura, CA

UCLA Extension has a course entitled "Urban Design: Principles, Practices, and Tools." Go to for details. Also UC Davis Extension has many planning courses ( )

Marc P. Bierdzinski, AICP

As a response to the question about planning design-related courses, I just received the flyer put out by UCLA's Extension folks, who are holding a one-day seminar on Friday, March 10th, called "Urban Design: Principles, Practices and Tools." It might not be as intensive or full-bodied as the questioner's Planning Director might need, but it's out there nonetheless.

George Berger
City of Newport Beach, CA

Form-Based Codes: FBCI Certification Program

Virginia Tech's Academy for the New Urbanism, in partnership with the Form-Based Codes Institute (FBCI), is pleased to announce a series of courses on the subject of form-based codes (FBC). Participants who complete the three-course sequence will receive a Certificate in Form-Based Codes from the FBCI. The next course, Form-Based Codes 101: An Introductory Course, is scheduled for February 23-25 in Berkeley, California.

Faculty for the introductory course will be drawn from among these FBC leaders: Paul Crawford, Andres Duany, Victor Dover, Geoffrey Ferrell, Peter Katz, Joseph Kohl, Mary Madden, Dan Parolek, Karen Parolek, Stefanos Polyzoides, Sam Poole, Steve Price, Robert Sitkowski, Dan Slone, Bill Spikowski.

The Form-Based Codes Institute is a nonprofit corporation engaged in research, standards setting, outreach and education related to its mission of advancing the use and acceptance of form-based codes.

The Academy for the New Urbanism is a program of the Planning Academy at Virginia Tech. The academy provides ongoing training for mid-career planning, design and development professionals in a range of implementation-related practice areas. Look for a growing menu of related courses and complete information about the academy in the coming months.

The early registration fee is $725 for Form-Based Codes 101 on February 23-25. The fee will be $785 after February 9. Register online at:

For registration information contact:
Outreach Program Development

For course information contact:
Peter Katz

Not really "design training" - but related.

Paul Kron, PTCOG