Anyone who plans to become an interior designer already has raw talent. They know which colors complement one another, which materials have the desired effect. And they certainly have a personal vision, a knack for creating things that no one else could imagine.
So why would someone with that potential want to spend time in a college? Wouldn’t it be better to go straight into their career?
Not really, for several reasons. First of all, raw talent is simply that – raw, unformed, messy. By studying under professionals with years of experience, students learn how to transform that talent into something greater than they imagined.
Second, college teaches you what you don’t know. At college, you get a better sense of what others have done, which gives you more ability to innovate and create something truly unique.
College also gives you a chance to participate in a vibrant community with other people who share your passions. You can learn from each other and challenge one another to do better.
Finally, college provides numerous networking opportunities, as you’ll get to know people who are or will go on to be respected figures in the field. With these connections, you’ll have a better chance of getting the attention your work deserves.
Now that we know college is important for interior designers, the next step is figuring out where to go. There are myriad programs across the United States. But we’ve taken the time to narrow it down to the top ten. With this list, you’ll be ready to find the best college to advance your skills and become an interior design professional.
Here are 10 of the best interior design colleges in the US.
Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
Established in 1935, the interior design program at Michigan State University prepares interior design students for a career in the field, or for advanced study of the subject. The program emphasizes specialized knowledge, with courses in everything from practical concerns, such as building codes and material quality, to design theory and visual communication.
The program prides itself on a global perspective, both by advocating for a diverse student body and by encouraging students to participate in study abroad opportunities. The study abroad program sends students to Europe, Singapore, or South Korea, allowing them to study under experts in different cultures, thus enhancing their own aesthetics.
MSU Interior Design also prioritizes technology as a way to innovate in the field. A professor in the program recently put that principle into practice, when she hosted a lecture inside an immersive virtuality environment. The lecture not only allowed the professor to connect with students who attend class online, but it served as a demonstration of virtual reality abilities, a key topic in her class.
Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX)
As part of the Department of Graphic Design, the Interior Design program at Texas Christian University allows students to learn by doing. Studying under industry professionals with proven success in the field, students understand the subject’s theoretical concepts, which they can immediately put into practice.
A key element of TCU’s practical approach is the school’s Center for Lighting Education. This unique 900-square-foot facility features amenities such as an operable height-adjustable ceiling system designed to demonstrate all aspects of architectural lighting. Using the Center, students can mockup design vignettes and better understand the impact of lighting on their work.
Resources such as the Center make students well-prepared for the internship placements offered through TCU. Thanks to the faculty’s industry connections, students have the opportunity to hone their skills in high-level companies, including Corgan, Gensler, Wilson & Associates, Mark Hampton LLC by Alexa Hampton, and more.
Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
There are many standards by which to judge a college program, but one of the most reliable is alumni job placements. With graduates who go on to work at design studios such as The Prestige Group in New York, Archiland in Singapore, and SmithGroup JJR in Chicago, the interior design program at Ohio State University has proven itself to be one of the best in the country.
OSU’s design program enjoys such success thanks to its balance between coursework and studio time. In their first and second years, students in OSU design take classes to gain the technical and theoretical knowledge to make their visions into reality. These courses emphasize collaboration, sustainable design strategies, and research-based design.
Taking advantage of the school’s ample studio space, students construct portfolios that will demonstrate their abilities. The OSU interior design program works to put students into their future careers, collaborating with the school’s Center for Career and Professional Success.
University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
At the University of Texas at Austin, students in the interior design program learn through the design studio model. By working in a hands-on environment with their fellow aspiring designers, students in the design studio model practice dialogue, collaboration, risk-taking, innovation, and learning-by-doing.
In this environment, students are encouraged to come together to ask questions and make proposals, which are then brainstormed among classmates, faculty, and visiting professionals. Combining intensive one-on-one instruction from faculty members with collaborative learning. The model allows students to practice soft skills involved in the profession, such as time management and receiving critiques.
The design studio model has produced award-winning material. Multiple students in the program have won prestigious awards, including Baxter Estes, who was awarded the $30,000 Angelo Donghia Senior Scholarship in Interior Design, the largest interior design scholarship in the United States.
University of Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, WI)
The interior design program at University of Wisconsin – Madison combines art, sustainability, and business. The program’s curriculum foregrounds the creative process, but also attends to the business aspects of the field, equipping students with everything they need to bring their creations to life.
The skills students gain in the program lead them to success, as indicated by statistics supplied by the school. Among the class of 2020, 85.7% are currently employed in the field, while 10.7% went on to graduate school. Likewise, the class of 2019 boasts 90% of graduates in the field and 10% in graduate school.
Even those still in the program enjoy acclaim for their work. Two interior design students recently became Wisconsin Idea Fellows, winning $7,000 awards to bring their ideas to fruition. As these rewards show, the UW interior design program gives students the skills they need to succeed.
Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY)
We here at College Gazette aren’t alone in putting Syracuse University among the top ten best interior design programs. In fact, publications such as prepscholar.com, Ivy.co, housely.com, and housebeautiful.com all put the school in the top ten.
The school enjoys this success thanks to its emphasis on liberal arts education, which makes well-rounded students no matter what major they’re studying. With this liberal arts background, students develop the ability to think critically and to approach their field within its historical, cultural, contextual, psychological, and behavioral impacts of design.
With these abilities, students have gone on to secure employment at companies such as Dawson Design Associate (Seattle, WA), Array Architects (Washington, DC), EDG Interior Architecture and Design (San Francisco, CA), and the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY).
Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
As part of one of the world’s most prestigious design schools, the interior design program at the Rhode Island School of Design has cultivated a reputation for excellence. That reputation stems in part from the school’s commitment to sustainability and its conviction that interior design can better the lives of people from all economic backgrounds. For example, Professor Liliane Wong incorporates her interest in affordable housing into studios on sustainable modular solutions and on designing and building site-specific furnishings for transitional shelters throughout Boston.
In addition to learning from teachers such as Professor Wong, students at RISD also have access to cutting-edge technology, thanks to the program’s associations with other departments. These resources include a large-format printer/plotter, a fully equipped woodshop, a 3D model-making facility, and computers with state-of-the-art programs including VectorWorks, Autocad, Cinema-4D, and Photoshop.
With such support at their disposal, it’s no wonder that RISD students make a splash in the world of interior design.
Purdue University (Purdue, IN)
At Purdue University, interior design students learn to put people first. With a comprehensive curriculum that teaches the design of code-compliant, accessible, and inclusive interior environments, students gain the specialized knowledge and interdisciplinary skills they need to formulate, communicate, and execute designs that meet the demands of a globally diverse society.
Following this practical, people-friendly approach, PU’s interior design students have won national acclaim. In 2019, several PU students won awards in the Interior Design Educators Council Student Design Competition, taking 1st and 2nd place.
It’s no wonder that PU students find great success going into their careers. According to student surveys, 81% of the class of 2019 is currently employed in interior design or a related profession, with several others going on to graduate school. Those currently in the profession work for companies such as HOK (San Francisco, CA), Perkins + Will (Chicago, IL), Gensler (Hong Kong), and Rowland Design (Indianapolis, IN).
The New School Parsons School of Design (New York, NY)
As part of New York’s New School, the Parsons School of Fashion Design was established in 1896 by artists looking for a place that fosters free, dramatic, and personal expression of art. Today, the school still pursues those goals in innovative, rigorous programs and initiatives that have trained generations of the world’s best interior designers.
Studying under a faculty composed of industry professionals, students in the program go on to careers in interior design, lighting design, sustainable design, set design, exhibition and event design, historic preservation, architecture, and consulting. They learn from experts such as Professor Yu Nong Khew, who has worked with Zaha Hadid Architecture and served as Project Director at Asymptote Architecture.
The school’s innovative approach has trained successful designers such as Victoria Hagan, who has appeared on Architectural Digest’s AD100 list of top architects and designers since 1995 and was inducted into Interior Design’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Savannah College of Art & Design (Savannah, GA)
The interior design program at the Savannah College of Art & Design not only tops our list but that of nearly every other outlet. In fact, SCAD has enjoyed the number one spot in lists from highly respected observers Designintelligence seven times since 2008.
What is the secret to SCAD’s success? A program that uses the latest technology to create energetic and inspiring spaces, which maximize health, wellness, style, and sustainability. Whether working in corporate, residential, retail, or hospitality systems, students understand that people occupy the center of any space.
At the center of the program are the premium tools that SCAD provides, giving designers everything they need to realize their creations. These tools include an Onsrud CNC router 8’x4′, Two laser cutters, a Kyocera color multifunction laser printer, multiple Epson Expression 11000XL flatbed scanners, four HP Designjet 44″ wide-format color plotters, and more. Under the watchful eye of experienced faculty, students can work in a fully-appointed model shop and a hybrid graphics lab, testing the limits of their creativity.