This paper reports on an action research project involving the redesign, implementation and evaluation of a peer tutor program in a first year design studio in higher education. The effectiveness of the revised program, particularly its capacity to support learning for commencing students in the environment of a creative studio, is examined through focus groups with first year students and third year peer tutors. The study suggests that peer tutors play a pivotal role in the studio that is different from, but complementary to, the role of the studio tutor. When employed purposefully, peer tutors can make a significant contribution to the development of a positive studio culture and the enhancement of a collaborative community of practice, and amplify students’ engagement with iterative processes of design learning. Results are discussed in relation to current theories about what constitutes a successful peer tutor program, growing evidence of the unique role played by peer tutors in design and other practice-based disciplines, and the potential contribution of peer tutors to the development of creative skills valued in 21st century design practice.