Guide to Design Majors & Programs

Guide to Design Majors & Programs

Design encompasses a wide variety of activities and disciplines, but all are about making products, messages, or systems that are at once pleasing and useful. Design majors and degree programs may focus on any of the areas listed below. Visit the external links for additional information about that field.

Jump to the specific major or program you're looking for:
3-D Design     |     Advertising     |     Apparel Design     |     Architecture     |     Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)     |     Computer Art/Design     |     Design     |     Environmental Design     |     Exhibit Design     |     Fashion Design     |     Floral Design     |     Footwear Design     |     Furniture Design     |     Game Design     |     Graphic Design     |     Illustration     |     Industrial Design     |     Interior Design     |     Landscape Design     |     Product Design     |     Toy Design     |     Transportation Design     |     Web Design

3-D Design

3-D designers use computer-aided design (CAD) tools and software to create animations and special effects for video games, demos, models, or any other product requiring dynamic graphics.


Graphic designers and layout managers work in tandem to develop an advertisment's visual impact through illustrations, photographs, and print type. They may also design logos, symbols, and packages.

Apparel Design

Apparel designers create clothing and accessories of all kinds. They should have a strong understanding of fabrics, trims, and jewelry, and be able to make precise measurements.


Architects guide clients through the entire design and construction process of a public or private space. They must consider materials, technology, cost, structural stability, as well as aesthetic, artistic, and practical qualities

Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)

CAD designers are experts in using the lastest computer technologies and software to create designs of real or virtual objects. CAD designers can produce such things as models for architects or technical drawings for engineers. CAD is used by many industrial designers as they work on everything from cars to airplanes to beverage bottles.

Computer Art/Design

Computer artists use computers to construct and/or display their artwork. This artwork may be an image, sound, animation, or algorithm, performace or gallery installation. As a growing number of artists digitize their work, or combine digital and traditional arts in their pieces, it is increasingly difficult to define computer art or design as a separate entity.


Designers are distinguished from other artists by why they create. Designers design practical objects or systems to be functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Environmental Design

The growing emphasis on clean energy, green construction, and sustainable building makes a degree in environmental design increasingly attractive to design firms and employers. But environmental design means more than just addressing current environmental issues. Classically, it has referred to designing systems, programs, policies, and buildings and even some products with reference to the physical (exterior and interior) environment.

Exhibit Design

Exhibit designers design and create exhibits for tradeshows, museums, or corporate events. These exhibits are usually temporary, and are built to attract customers, sell products, inform visitors, or showcase objects or ideas. Exhibit design involves branding, marketing, architecture, engineering, graphics, and interactive media, among other disciplines.

Fashion Design

Fashion designers combine a knowledge of materials and styles with an artistic sensibility to design clothing and accessories. Lead fashion designers create individual clothing pieces or entire lines, footwear, and accessories. This typically involves several generations of sketches or computer-aided drafts; consideration of color, texture, material, and shape when worn; and supervision of final patterning and construction.

Floral Design

Floral designers cut live, dried, or silk flowers and other greenery and arrange them for display in various shapes and sizes. They work not only with the flowers or plants, but also with containers, ribbons, and other accessories. Floral designers work with clients for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, holidays or other events. About a third of floral designers are self-employed.

Footwear Design

Footwear designers focus solely on designing shoes and boots for a variety of purposes -- from casual wear to high fashion. These designers design mocassins, oxfords, sandals, athletic shoes, outdoor shoes, boots of all types, pumps, platform shoes, and more. Like other fashion designers, they may work for another designer or design firm, for a mass manufacturer, or for themselves.

Furniture Design

Furniture designers work with a variety of materials, including wood, bamboo, rattan, wicker, fabrics, leather, metal, and plastics, to create studio, residential or commerical furniture. The art of furniture design includes hands-on crafstmanship and skills in carpentry. These designers also respond to interior design trends, create pieces that can fit into a number of different locations, and build custom items. Furniture designers may be self-employed, work for a small furniture manufacturing company, or work for a larger furniture manufacturing company.

Game Design

Game design can include everything from computer programming, graphic art and illustration, to user interface, marketing and packaging design. Game designers may handle it all, or specialize in different pieces of the final product.

Graphic Design

Graphic designers use images, typography, animation, and layout to visually communicate an idea or message. Graphic design plays an integral part in advertising, marketing, publishing, and web design.


Illustrators create images to visually communicate an idea, concept or emotion.

Industrial Design

Industrial designers use the disciplines of art, business, and engineering to design everyday products, from teapots to telephones, as well as systems, services, and interactions.

Interior Design

Interior designers create comfortable, attractive, and functional spaces for offices, homes, schools, hospitals, and a variety of commercial spaces. They understand materials, products, textures, colors, lighting, electric codes, and health and safety requirements.

Landscape Design

Landscape architects, or designers, plan and design parks, airports, highways, and commmercial and residental sites.

Product Design

Product designers bring new physical products from concept to market. They conceptualize a new product, test it, analyze it, and manufacture it.

Toy Design

Toy designers create new board games, activities, and toys for children, adults, and collectors. These toys may be used solely for play, or for educational purposes.

Transportation Design

Transportation designers help design road, highway, marine, mass transit and rail systems that meet the transport needs of a community or nation. They also design the modes of transport, from cars to trains.

Web Design

Web designers combine expertise in graphic design (layout, typography, imaging), interface design, code, and usability to create sites that not only attract readers and users, but keep them coming back.

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