B.S. in GeoDesign

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Meet some of our GeoDesign majors

Cameron Levine
Sarah Ta
Yocelyn Pina
Erik Huisman
Victoria Dechamps
Alexa Weintraub
Andrew Leung
Valentine Fagan
Rachel Ablondi
Will Forker

Meet our alumni

Alex Chen
Izzy Mitchell
Ben Banet
Jacob Cohen
Natalie Millstein
Robin Franke
Rich Windisch
Leo Ngo
Courtney Fassett
Declan Sullivan
Monty Hasan
Grace Corsi
Eliza Gutierrez-Dewar
Joanna Wang
Julian Herren
Autumn Gupta
Harrison Knapp
Austin Chow
Samantha Levi
Benny Friedman
Alicia Adiwidjaja
A cutting-edge name for time-tested principles

GeoDesign brings together geographic information science (GIS), big data, science, architecture, landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, and algorithms to address challenges, issues, and opportunities presented by the built environment. By integrating analyses of place, space, and time, practitioners and researchers are equipped to approach environmental challenges and questions in multidisciplinary ways, and can view the world from multiple dimensions.

“Geodesign is a vision for using geographic knowledge to actively and thoughtfully design.”
– Jack Dangermond, President, Esri

Read Jack's blogpost on Forbes about "Geodesign: Elevating Planning and Design Decisions to Future Proof Outcomes."

Thanks to increasingly robust scientific and technological advances, the interdisciplinary world of geodesign continues to build upon the urban planning theories of Patrick Geddess, Ian McHarg, and Carl Steinitz as it rapidly evolves. See Professor and USC Spatial Director John P. Wilson's presentation on "Real World Solutions with Geodesign" at the 2018 Esri GeoDesign Summit.

The USC B.S. in GeoDesign degree is a joint interdisciplinary program among the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the USC School of Architecture, and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Because of this unique and innovative collaboration, students benefit from the globally-recognized strengths of each school’s diverse faculty and spectrum of disciplines. Many courses in the GeoDesign curriculum use a studio framework and iterative learning process, approaches fundamental to architecture and planning. From the spatial sciences, students gain the ability to assemble, organize, and visualize different kinds of data. Simply put, the sum of the GeoDesign major is greater than its parts.
The GeoDesign major trains students in design, planning, geographic information science and geospatial technologies. It provides students with valuable skills so they can pursue professional careers and/or graduate study in one or more of these three fields as well as a variety of environmental areas. With a B.S. in GeoDesign, students have the basis for careers as:

Civil Engineers
GIS Specialists
Heritage Conservationists
Historical Preservationists
Landscape Architects
Landscape Ecologists
Urban and Regional Planners

The GeoDesign major is structured to provide students with sufficient elective credits to explore minors or other programs at USC so they can broaden their education to better prepare themselves for the next stage of their lives.

General Skills and Breadth Develop the ability to manage one’s time, work independently, take initiative, and collaborate.

Develop the ability to think critically, analyze, synthesize, and use information to solve problems.

Acquire broad knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences, and understand the relevance of these disciplines to geodesign at the intersection of the spatial sciences, architecture, and urban planning.

Develop the ability to communicate ideas and articulate positions orally and in writing.

Develop facility in the use of computer applications and the Internet.

Scientific and Design Skills Develop an understanding of the myriad ways in which places can be constructed, interpreted, and experienced by different people (i.e., migrants, people of color, the elderly, the poor, teenagers, toddlers, working adults, and more).

Learn about the principles of design and how these can be used as a force for good in building healthy, livable and sustainable communities.

Learn how urban and regional planning provides a framework for promoting civic engagement and collective action.

Develop an understanding of how geographically referenced data can be gathered and organized to support a large number and variety of collaborative projects.

Learn how geospatial data can be analyzed, modeled and visualized to inform design and planning and by doing so, support public participation and urban development.

Learn how form and function co-exist and evolve in urban settings and how globalization connects near and far-away places and actions.

Ethics/Society Be able to place spatial and geographic knowledge into an ethical context, especially how spatial sciences and geodesign principles can contribute to the resolution of ethical, social, and environmental issues.

After Graduation Develop a sufficient depth of knowledge and abilities in preparation for entry-level employment in a wide variety of fields, or for graduate study in the spatial sciences or other related disciplines.

SSCI 301 Maps and Spatial Reasoning students capture aerial imagery for spatial analysis.
Nida Soe, B.S. GeoDesign ’17 (L), and Diana Kim, B.S. GeoDesign ’17 (R), present their research at the 2017 USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly and Creative Work.
Marty Borko, firmwide leader of Gensler’s Entertainment and Planning & Urban Design Practices and principal in Gensler’s LA office, advises Spatial Studies minor Sodam Dhesi.
ARCH 203 students sketch LA’s historic Bradbury Building.
Carl Steinitz works with 2016 SSCI 350 International GeoDesign team in Amsterdam.
Braulio Hoyos (Spatial Studies minor ’17) presents his team’s site analysis in SSCI 483.
ARCH 303 students translate a 3D object into a 2D drawing.



Behavior of firms and consumers, functions of the price system, competition and monopoly, labor markets, poverty, government regulation, international trade, and the environment. Syllabus.
An introduction to the basic tools of statistics. Descriptive statistics; probability; expected value; normal approximation sampling; chance models; tests of significance.

Conceptual foundations and techniques of statistics and how they can be used with geographic data to produce actionable information across spatial science domains. Syllabus.
Foundations of geodesign combining place-making, design, collective action, and the science of location-based information to improve human interaction with the functioning of the Earth. Syllabus.

Methods for direct observation and recording of the directly experienced built environment through drawing, diagramming, photographing, and writing. The course includes exercises and field experience. Syllabus.
Introduction to design principles and processes; sequence of exercises emphasizing the development of basic skills, ideas, and techniques used in the creation of simplified urban space design projects. Syllabus. Prerequisite: ARCH 203.
Emphasis on developing advanced urban spatial design solutions set within contemporary urban conditions, with a particular emphasis on ecology, public space, neighborhoods and districts. Syllabus. Prerequisite: ARCH 303.

Gateway to B.S., Public Policy, Management and Planning and minor in Planning and Development. City building and development process; who plans; politics of planning and development; major topics include land use, fiscal policy, transportation, sustainability, and economic development. Syllabus.
Historical evolution of planning and development. How changing modes of planning and development have shaped the built landscape throughout the century. Syllabus.
Theories and concepts of livable communities and good city form; case studies of historical and current best practices; field visits; collaborative design project. Syllabus.

Role of maps and spatial reasoning in the production and use of geographic information for representing and analyzing human and environmental activities and events. Syllabus.
The various ways in which geography can be used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze, model and visualize information. Laboratories are organized around ArcGIS software suite. Prerequisite: SSCI 301L. Syllabus.
Fundamentals of spatial modeling and remote sensing and how to use GIS customization and programming to streamline complex spatial analysis and modeling workflows. Syllabus. Prerequisites: SSCI 301  and SSCI 382. Syllabus.


The major electives provide students with opportunities to explore one or more facets of the built environment and a series of complementary analytical and visualization tools in more detail. A suite of courses that further the development of practical, theoretical, and field knowledge and skills, including computer graphics, drawing, policy analysis, public finance, and statistics. Choose additional electives from the two lists equal to six courses (24 units) in all. No more than two courses may be lower division (100 or 200 level). At least two courses must come from Group A and two courses from Group B.


Investigation of issues, processes, and roles of individuals, groups and communities in relation to present and future shelter needs and aspirations.
Lectures, laboratory exercises and field trips introduce basic knowledge of incorporating ecological factors in urban design and interaction of landscape science with the human environment.
Examines the politics of managing the global environment. The nature of ecosystems, commons problems, population and resource utilization problems along with biodiversity and global governance are emphasized.
Interaction between resource conservation and people based on recent advances, current developments, and future resource utilization. Special attention to the western United States. Field trips.
Exploration, colonization, and development of Hispanic California; coming of the Americans; political, economic, and cultural development of California since its acquisition by the United States.
Cities and the rise of states; globalization and localization; federalism and decentralization; comparative politics of urban regions in developed and developing countries.
Current transportation planning and policy critiques. Transportation planning: the relationship to urban structure; conventional and para-transit modes; analysis of local plans.
Policy and planning as shaped by sustainability indicators; topics include water resources, air quality, land use regulations, environmental design, carrying capacity, ecological footprint analysis. Syllabus.
Urbanization and urban development and growth through an international scope; globalizing cities.
World population trends and their consequences: determinants of fertility, mortality, and migration; development of elementary models of population change.
The influence of sustainability science on public policy and vice versa in the context of social/ethical theories, analytical methods and solutions. Syllabus.
Introduction to the complex relationship between human development and natural hazards, which are increasingly causing damage and displacement to human populations throughout the world. Syllabus.
An exploration of earth's water, ranging from water properties, chemistry, and pollution, to groundwater dynamics, watershed processes, and oceanic-atmospheric circulation. Implications for past and future societies. Lecture and laboratory. Syllabus.
Intensive living-learning research and field experience in Los Angeles and abroad; application of GeoDesign strategies to local societal challenges. Syllabus.

Training of archaeology students in the use of GIS through the understanding of basic principles and theoretical restrictions of geospatial sciences.
Exploration of digital tools with an emphasis on building information modeling (BIM), parametric modeling, and interoperability including special topics in Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) and sustainable design.Recommended preparation: basic computer skills.
Introduction to the basic elements and processes of visual communication and design. Instruction includes studio projects, lectures and readings. Various media used. Duplicates credit in the former FA 102.
An introduction to the economic tools and issues that affect natural resource use and environmental management.
Reading and doing quantitative research with historical data. Covers research designs, appropriate statistical analysis, and software packages for the use of historians.
Examines the politics of managing the global environment. The nature of ecosystems, common problems, population and resource utilization problems along with biodiversity and global governance are emphasized.
Examination of the challenges of environmental problem-solving at the personal, local, national and global scales, focused on the issue of climate change.
Cities and the rise of states; globalization and localization; federalism and decentralization; comparative politics of urban regions in developed and developing countries.
The political realities of selected environmental issues; resolving and implementing social priorities; interests, attitudes, strategies, and tactics of pressure groups; institutional biases and opportunities.
Introduction to graphic design, photo documentation, and geographic information systems as employed in planning, policy, and development. Visual explanations. Computer and by-hand applications. (Duplicates credit in former PLDV 410.)
Basic GIS concepts, ArcView and other GIS software, planning applications and databases, basic cartography; students select, research and prepare a planning GIS analysis project.
Integration of the production of visual representation into the disciplined study of social relations by using the camera as data gathering technology. Syllabus.
The role of formal reasoning, abstract representation and empirical analysis in building maps for sharing knowledge across the physical, life and social sciences and humanities. Syllabus.


Application of design concepts, planning protocols and spatial analysis skills to a complex planning or design problem sponsored by a local public, private or not-for-profit client in a studio setting. Syllabus.
Talk with Dr. Laura Loyola, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Spatial Sciences Institute about the advantages of being a GeoDesign major or adding GeoDesign as a double-major. E-mail her or call her at (213) 740-5612.
Candidates for the B.S. in GeoDesign can qualify for graduation with departmental honors:

  • Eligibility requirements:

GeoDesign majors with cumulative GPA ≥ 3.7 in department courses in their second to last semester and an overall GPA ≥ 3.5.

In addition, to qualify for the honors designation, GeoDesign majors must complete one or both of the criteria listed below:

  1. Students present a poster or make a presentation of their research at a venue such as the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Los Angeles Geospatial Summit, or another professional conference; and/or
  2. Students exhibit leadership within a club or organization (e.g., SC Mappers), serve as a speaker for an academic event (e.g., GeoDesign Speaker Series), or represent the B.S. in GeoDesign program in some effective way.

Enrollment Process:

Eligible and eligible students apply for the GeoDesign Honors Program and are enrolled in the GeoDesign Honors Program by their academic advisor preceding their final semester.

Honors Application:

Students are required to submit to the GeoDesign academic advisor an application package that includes the following items: name, student ID, major, GPA (overall and in the department), current and dated resume, STARS report, and proof of participation for distinction of honors. GeoDesign majors meeting the GPA and other criteria in their final semester also will be invited to apply in their final semester at the discretion of the GeoDesign Honor Program evaluation committee.

Evaluation and Designation of Honors Distinction:

A small GeoDesign Honors Program evaluation committee – comprised of at least one faculty representative from the School of Architecture, Price School of Public Policy, and the Spatial Sciences Institute – will be formed each year by the Spatial Sciences Institute Director of Undergraduate Studies to identify and assess which GeoDesign majors will receive the honors designation.

Honors Designation:

There is not a fixed number of honors designations that can be awarded each year.

B.S. in GeoDesign students who earn the honors designation will see the designation on their USC transcripts. This honors designation is not printed on diplomas.

The USC Progressive Degree Program enables superior USC undergraduates to begin work on a master's degree while completing requirements for their bachelor's degree. Students who are admitted to a master's program with a progressive degree option can complete both their bachelor's and master's degrees in five years.

With a progressive degree path,

a B.S. in GeoDesign could lead to a:
~ M.A. in Environmental Studies;
~ Master of Planning;
~ M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology (online);
~ M.S. in Spatial Data Science; or
~ M.S. in Spatial Economics and Data Analysis.

A B.S. in Policy, Planning, and Development or a B.S. in Architectural Studies could lead to a:
~ M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology.

Consult the USC Progressive Degree Program information and discuss specific details about your interests and goals with Ken Watson, SSI academic advisor.

Interested in attending USC because of the GeoDesign major? Learn more about this major from Ken Watson, academic advisor, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, 3616 Trousdale Parkway, AHF B55, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0374, |(213) 740-8298, or Dr. Laura Loyola, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Spatial Sciences Institute, University of Southern California, 3616 Trousdale Parkway, AHF B55, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0374, | (213) 740-5612. On campus for a tour? Stop by the Spatial Sciences Institute. For general USC undergraduate admissions information, please contact the Admission and Financial Aid Contact Center at (213) 740-1111.