Comprehensive Design B.S.

The major in Comprehensive Design is offered as a B.S. degree in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In this unique interdisciplinary program, students explore the links between many different areas of art and design, including objects, furniture, interiors, architecture, public art, and the urban environment. The curriculum focuses on the concept of design thinking—a fundamental process of problem-solving that addresses social challenges and the tangible needs of users.

Students cultivate their ability to define a design problem, study precedents from history, ideate many solutions to the problem, devise and construct a variety of prototypes, and refine and implement the most effective design solution. They develop their curiosity, empathy, and observational skills as they engage in research and employ creative applications of technology. They learn how to thoroughly test a design solution and draw conclusions from their findings. There is emphasis on process over product.

In the Comprehensive Design program, you work with faculty with diverse experience in the fields of sculpture, furniture design, industrial design, interior design, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. They bring their expertise and professional background into the classroom to promote conceptual inquiry as well as hands-on, practical learning experiences.

Studio work is experiential and client-focused. Studio projects often have real-world clients and tackle real-world problems. Client partners may include for-profit and non-profit organizations and companies at the local, regional, national, or even international level.

You investigate both analog and digital applications of drawing, 2D composition, and 3D construction to realize your ideas and design solutions. You create prototypes and models using traditional techniques as well as the latest 3D modeling and 3D printing technology.

The Comprehensive Design curriculum builds on the essential liberal arts foundation, encouraging deep examination, critical thinking, and effective communication in students. While other majors emphasize specialization, the Comprehensive Design major fosters a multifaceted understanding of the design process and equips students with valuable skills to reach across disciplines and collaborate with individuals from varied backgrounds.



Getting started

Your starting point in the Comprehensive Design major is SOAD-A 100 Pathways: Introduction to Art, Design and Merchandising.

Your first two years in the major establish a fundamental understanding of human-centered design and developing a set of hard and soft skills necessary for conceptualization and communication of design ideas. You engage in design thinking through a sequence of beginning and intermediate studio courses that build on each other in complexity and participate in collaborative approaches for generating innovative solutions.

You study 3D design, sketching, physical and digital fabrication, the principles of color, and take a cross-disciplinary workshop. You take two Art History courses covering time periods such as Ancient, Renaissance, and Contemporary, or the cultures of Africa or East Asia. You participate in forums of exchange to compare art and design disciplines and how to manage projects.

You learn how to visualize your design ideas with a range of media, from sketching to virtual reality to digital software like Rhino and Revit.  You also learn how to prototype and fabricate: how to weld, operate table saws, print using a 3D printer, and laser cut.


Tracks and concentrations

While there are no official tracks or concentrations in the major, students begin to identify individual interests while taking special topics courses. Topics may include interior spaces, architectural site analysis, and urban planning as well as the development and creation of a variety of design objects—clothing, household items, furniture, automobiles, buildings, and more.

Upper level coursework

At the upper level, students engage in advanced studio work to design, prototype and test solutions to real problems faced by communities, businesses, individuals, and organizations.

One upper-level course, SOAD-C 481, is an intensive seminar that allows for hands-on fabrication experiences that may range from public art to installations to furniture design. Additionally, there are opportunities for design/build projects through partnerships with the Center for Rural Engagement and the ServeDesign Center.

The degree culminates in an independent capstone experience in which you devise, research and execute your own project to develop an integrated design solution that addresses issues of design on multiple scale levels and across systems.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

The major in Comprehensive Design requires 53 credit hours and represents about one half the credits needed for the degree. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates.

Common examples of minors pursued by Comprehensive Design majors include:

They may also consider a minor in the Eskenazi School in Apparel Merchandising, Illustration, Creative Technologies, Interior Design Studies, Fashion Design or Studio Art.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in Comprehensive Design, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and varied experience in art, design, architecture. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, probe further into the content of assignments, and get individualized feedback to help identify your future goals.

You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 


High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Current students can compete for Eskenazi School scholarships and awards based on high-achievement in their major courses. The deadline to apply for these awards is in October each year.

The College of Arts and Sciences offers additional scholarships and awards.


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship and job shadow opportunities as early as their first year, though many employers prefer students who have completed two to three years of design education.

Through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, Comprehensive Design majors can take advantage of career coaching to assist with internship research and preparing cover letters and resumes. Comprehensive Design faculty provide additional opportunities for networking with industry professionals through field trips and guest speakers in the classroom. It's also possible to participate in overseas study programs with internships.

Comprehensive Design students may earn credit for an internship by enrolling in SOAD-X 373 Internship in Professional Practice. They can pursue internships with architectural, interior designer, product design, or design strategist firms. A sample of possible firms and companies include:


Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.

Comprehensive Design majors are required to acquire third semester proficiency in a foreign language.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Comprehensive Design students often pursue summer or semester-long coursework through the following programs:

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Comprehensive Design faculty, your academic advisor, and through the IU Office of Overseas Study.

Scholarships for study abroad are available from the following sources:

Student groups

Comprehensive Design students collaborate with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and other Eskenazi student organizations to participate in extracurricular activities like internship panels, portfolio reviews, design-build weekends, and trips to Chicago.

They have collaborated with RSO, the Retail Studies Organization, to create architectural components for the runway for the senior fashion show in Fashion Design that takes place each April.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist on campus, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. Students studying Comprehensive Design can propose community service projects through the American Institute of Architecture Students’ Freedom by Design program or volunteer through local agencies such as those listed below.

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more. Comprehensive Design majors might be particularly interested in these associations.

Build your skills

Through the major

The major in Comprehensive Design provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Specific disciplinary skills: understand and communicate visually and in written formats, develop critical visual communication skills, and be able to connect these in relevant ways to knowledge from other fields
  • Persuasive writing skills: interact with and inform both experts and non-experts to communicate your own and your groups design concepts through oral and written presentations
  • Critical thinking and source analysis: utilize both primary and secondary sources, evaluating cultural artifacts and texts in their historical contexts
  • Independent research: develop evidence-based arguments, defend your own position, and make informed oral and written presentations
  • Communication and leadership: inform and interact, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:  

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.


Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after College.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach. Comprehensive Design majors have a dedicated career coach for art and design to assist with internship and career planning.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Eskenazi students can take the career course ASCS-Q 296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience for Art, Design, & Merchandising. This course provides the opportunity to explore the relationship between your chosen field of study and life after graduation while developing a career and academic development plan for post-collegiate success.

The job market

Skilled design professionals are desirable in many organizations to spearhead innovative solutions to common problems. Because the design fields encompass a broad variety of environments and applications, specialists are needed in small businesses, large corporations, education, non-profits, and government.

Comprehensive Design majors may take their education into many different job sectors. Entry-level positions may include roles as architect assistant, building technologist, commercial designer, product designer, civic designer, residential designer, in-store designer, exhibit designer, design specialist, or design strategist. They may also apply their skills in the area of user experience design. Other students may choose to pursue advanced study and specialize in one area of design at the graduate level.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information on hundreds of occupations, including those in design.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!

Talk with your faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insight into different career paths. 

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals.

Graduates in Comprehensive Design may choose to take advantage of short-term residencies or workshops to further develop their design work. Research different opportunities through these directories and websites:


Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.

Resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you will need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your creative work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

The Comprehensive Design B.S. degree will prepare you for advanced study in fields such as Architecture, Urban Design, Industrial Design, Production Design, Graphic Design, Exhibition Design, Interior Design, Interactive Design, Service Design, User Experience Design, and Design Management or entry into graduate programs in other fields like Business Administration, Entrepreneurship, or Marketing. A graduate degree can further enhance your skills in analysis and critical thinking, and give you exposure to more complex design projects requiring team management and business aptitude.

These websites and directories provide information on a variety of graduate programs (M.S., M.F.A., or Ph.D.):

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni and Friends events. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The Comprehensive Design B.S. degree attracts students with a variety of backgrounds and interests in art and design. If you have a fascination with three-dimensional form and an aptitude for visual problem-solving, the Comprehensive Design major may be a good fit for you.

Students typically possess some of the following qualities:

  • Artistic ability and interest in disciplines such as drawing, graphic design, photography, sculpture, ceramics, furniture design, interior design, or fashion design
  • Creative thinking necessary for envisioning new solutions
  • Interest in sustainability, ecological living, and social awareness
  • Technical ability for developing fabrication and computer skills, including computer-aided design (CAD) programs and graphic editing software
  • Affinity for both the arts and the liberal arts disciplines, including the history of art, design, and architecture
  • Organizational and decision-making skills as well as the ability to work well with others on a team

Learn more

Contact the Comprehensive Design academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.   

Department website
Advisor email address