New Designs Charter School opened its doors on September 7, 2004, with an enrollment of 120 students in grades six through eight. Eight years later, New Designs' two schools enrolled about 1000 students in grades six through twelve. New Designs was founded by Dr. Yaw O. Adutwum, a teacher, formerly of Los Angeles Unified School District, where he served as the lead math teacher at Manual Arts High School, and at USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative.
The school derives its name from New Designs for Learning, a national organization based at Oregon State University. That organization, headed by Dr. George Copa, has developed a model for the integration of academic and technical education curricula.