Preparation for the MUP

You need to arrive at Harvard with working knowledge of the basics of several software programs. These include ArcGIS, SketchUp, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Excel, and Rhino. If you already have experience in these applications, it is still recommended that you practice your software skills before arriving for your Preterm Workshop. Incoming students are required to submit a portfolio that demonstrates competency in the software used by the Urban Planning program. We will teach you more about the programs once you are at Harvard, but you need to come understanding the basics.

Harvard has a relationship with the tutorials website, giving you as students free access to all of's resources through Lynda Campus. To sign up for access, please go to: (select the “Sign Up” tab).
Below is a list of tutorials required of all incoming students, particularly those without prior experience. The required tutorials are available through

Downloading Software

Some of the software you will use at the GSD is available with a Harvard site license that is available to you once you arrive on campus. To access the software before arriving to campus, and in order to work on the tutorials, please download and install the software trials:

  • ArcGIS is available from Harvard's Center for Geographic Analysis; you will need to request a single-use license to download (21-day access), but your HarvardKey should be enough to grant you access.
  • Rhino has a free 90-day trial period, so you can download now and then switch to using Harvard's license once you are on campus.
  • SketchUp is available for free through its web interface. Once on campus students will be able to upgrade their software to SketchUp Pro with the Harvard’s license.
  • Other software, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Suite, must be purchased. You can access student discounts on these products through once you have claimed your HarvardKey.


Software Portfolio–Required

As you complete your required software tutorials, we request that you use InDesign to compile a short portfolio of work that showcases the exercises, drawings, models, and datasets you produced while completing your tutorials. The exact contents should reflect your own choices, but it is recommended that you include examples of work produced by each of these software tutorials to demonstrate fluency.

Each portfolio should be compiled using the following conventions:

  • Using InDesign, create a single PDF document. Part of the aim of compiling this portfolio is to enable you to think about graphic layout of the portfolio — it is useful to have a Master Page template, with consistent margins and layout that you can re-use on all content pages.
  •  PDF file 8.5 x 11 (letter size), landscape orientation
  • Include a title page with your name.
  • Please include small captions next to the images to very briefly explain what software the images were produced in and what the images contain.
  • When finished, export the InDesign file out as PDF file.
  • Portfolios will be due on August 1st.
  • Submit portfolios by clicking the on the MUP Software Assignment checklist item located on on your GSD Status Portal.


Software Workshops

Below is a list of software workshops that are recommended. Those that are very, very strongly recommended are marked with two hashes ##. They add up to a bit over 40 hours. The next step would be to undertake those with one hash #

##                   =     Very Strongly Recommended

#                      =     Recommended

No Hashes     =     If time permits


Software at a glance:

List of ## courses

List of # courses


Adobe Creative Suite



## Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals:

This installment covers subjects such as working with shapes and closed paths, including painting, grouping, and coloring, and placing and adjusting type. Learn how to select fonts, create hanging indents, and tweak the kerning and leading of your text. Additional chapters cover drawing and editing paths (and their points) and moving and transforming objects in your artwork.


## InDesign CS6: Essential Training:

This course presents the core features and techniques that make this powerful page layout application fun and easy to use. The course shows how to navigate and customize the workspace, manage documents and pages, work with text frames and graphics, export and print finished documents, explore creating interactive documents, and much more. It also covers popular topics such as EPUBs and long documents and includes advice on working with overset text, unnamed colors, and other troublesome issues that may arise for first-time designers.


## Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals:

This course covers the image editing process from the very beginning and progresses through the concepts and techniques that every photographer or graphic designer should know. It explains digital imaging fundamentals, such as resolution vs. size and the effects of down sampling. The course covers how to use layers to edit an image nondestructively and organize those edits in an easy-to-read way, and introduces techniques such as cropping, adjusting brightness and contrast, correcting and changing color, and retouching and healing images. These lessons distill the vast assortment of tools and options to a refined set of skills that will get you working inside Photoshop with confidence.




Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate:

This installment of the Illustrator CS6 One-on-One series starts by showing you how to effectively manage layers, clipping groups, and swatches, so that you can easily swap out colors and content. You will learn how to create customized strokes and patterns and build complex gradients with transparency and dynamic effects, and then apply these features to paths, groups, and editable text to create professional-quality artwork. The course also highlights some of the most popular features in Illustrator: Live Paint and all ten of its Pathfinder operations. The final chapters show how to prepare your projects for print and save them for distribution on the web.


Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced:

This course takes a project-based learning approach to the key features in Illustrator, including Recolor Artwork, transparency, masks, blend modes, strokes and fills, and dynamic effects. It also covers techniques for creating custom gradients, designing logos, generating photorealistic neon text, and wrapping type around objects. Plus, the course shows how to call up the most essential features by organizing your workspace and employing time-saving keyboard shortcuts, how to manage the color settings, and how to adjust a few settings to make the program work even better.


# InDesign: Typography Part 1:

Using practical, real-world examples, the course dissects the anatomy of a typeface and defines the vocabulary of typography. It moves from the micro to the macro level, addressing issues such as choosing page size, determining the size of margins, adjusting number columns, and achieving a clean look with baseline grids. This course takes you from laying out a page to delving into the hows and whys of typography.


# InDesign: Designing with Grids:

This course takes you through a brief history of grids—why you should use them and when you should break them. It’ll show you how to establish margins and columns, set up a layout grid, and how to fit text to a baseline grid. Plus, learn how to break the grid for graphic effect and experiment with different types of grids like 5- or 7-column layouts and radial grids.


# InDesign: Layout and Composition:

Many designers overlook the importance of composition—it’s one of the tasks they do every day. But there are many techniques that you can use to help improve your designs at this fundamental level. The course takes you through a series of real-world projects (business cards, magazines, posters, ads, and book covers) to help you improve your layout and composition skills with InDesign.


# InDesign: Color:

This course is your inside scoop on choosing, applying, and managing color, for print and for screen, with Adobe InDesign. It provides everything designers need to know about using color in InDesign, from understanding the basic terminology to converting colors to creating and mixing your own swatches. Plus, learn how to explore more creative color possibilities using Adobe Color and InDesign’s own builtin tools.


# InDesign: Creating Long Documents:

Creating Long Documents with InDesign shows designers how to plan, create, and output book-length documents using InDesign CC features and third-party plugins. This course focuses on long-document elements such as page and chapter numbering, tables of contents, cross-references, and indexes. It also provides strategies and best practices for document construction, from creating master pages and applying consistent formatting with styles, to placing text and images and outputting to both print and interactive PDF.


Photoshop CS6: Selections and Layer Masking:

This course takes an in-depth look at working with selections and layer masks to create targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop’s selection tools, the course delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do. This workshop places a special emphasis on mixing and matching different tools and techniques to unleash the full power of what Photoshop can do for you.


Photoshop CS6: Image Cleanup:

This course shares techniques for cleaning up your images with Adobe Photoshop. After getting an overview of image-cleanup concepts and tools, learn how to remove spots, correct color problems, eliminate noise, fix red eye, and much more. It also shares advanced techniques like making gradient adjustments, extending the frame, and using multiple exposures to remove people from an image. This course covers all you need to know to remove distractions in an image that keep your genius from shining through.


Photoshop: Creating Composites:

After introducing the basic concepts and looking at some automated methods of creating a composite, the course covers a wide variety of useful techniques, from creating composites based on a gradient, to painting on a mask, to using a selection as the basis of a mask. Plus, learn how to clean up and improve the overall quality of your layer masks, apply adjustments to specific elements of a composite, add creative effects, work with layer groups, and much more.




## ArcGIS Essential Training:

Learn to create and manage data, maps, and analytical models with ArcGIS. Learn how to get around maps and start adding your own data and importing data from existing databases. The tutorial demonstrates how to select and edit individual map elements and connect to advanced geospatial data sources. It explains the finer points of working with vector vs. raster data, and then shows how to style your map so it's easy for others to interpret, including finishing touches such as a legend, scale bar, and annotations.


Microsoft Office



Word 2013: Essential Training: (you may do a later version e.g. Word 2019)

Discover how to leverage templates and building blocks to create a stylish document with instant purpose; collaborate with other writers and editors; create numbered and bulleted lists; and work with tables. Plus, learn to automate these tasks with macros, and use the proofing tools in Word to check spelling and grammar and more.


## Excel 2013: Essential Training: (you may do a later version e.g. Word 2019)

Whether you’re a novice or an expert wanting to refresh your skillset with Microsoft Excel, this course covers all the basics you need to start entering your data and building organized workbooks. You will learn how to enter and organize data, perform calculations with simple functions, work with multiple worksheets, format the appearance of your data, and build charts and PivotTables. Other lessons cover the powerful IF, VLOOKUP, and COUNTIF family of functions; the Goal Seek, Solver, and other data analysis tools; and how to automate many of these tasks with macros.



# Word 2016: Creating Long Documents

Discover how to use Microsoft Word 2016 features to give business proposals, technical reports, white papers, and other long documents a compelling format. Instructor Gini von Courter begins the course by going over how to create a master document and set up a logical, effective structure with outlines. She then discusses how to add reference items such as cross-references, footnotes, and indexes to guide readers through your work, and demonstrates smart ways to use captions and citations. Plus, she shares how to number chapters, sections, and pages; insert headers and footers; and add the finishing touches to your final document.


Excel 2013: Pivot Tables: (you may do a later version e.g. Word 2019)

This course shows how to build PivotTables from single or multiple data sources, add calculated fields, filter your results, and format your layout to make it more readable. Plus, learn how to enhance PivotTable with macros, DAX expressions, and the PowerPivot add-in for analyzing millions of rows of data.


Excel Learning Public Data Sets: (you may do a later version e.g. Word 2019)

Learning Public Data Sets shows how to find free, public sources of data on a variety of business, education, and health issues and download the data for your own analysis. The course introduces resources from the US government (from census to trademark data), international agencies such as the World Bank and United Nations, search engines, web services, and even language resources like the Ngram Viewer for Google Books. It will also show how to import the data into an Excel spreadsheet for visualization and analysis.




## Rhino 5 Essential Training:

Rhino is a 3D-modeling powerhouse, used to design and engineer products ranging from jewelry and furniture to architecture and automobiles. Learn how to build your own 3D models, characters, and prototypes with the NURBS-based modeling tools in Rhino 5.0 for Windows. The tutorial introduces Rhino's three primary entities (the curve, the surface, and the solid) and shows the best ways to draw curves and model 3D objects, edit their geometry efficiently, and render and export your designs.





SketchUp 2017: Essential Training:

This course covers navigating around the interface, manipulating objects, drawing in 2D and 3D space, working with materials, and applying textures. Plus, learn how to work with reusable components (including third-party objects from the 3D Warehouse) and apply simple styles and animation to make your 3D projects more polished and presentable.