This multidisciplinary, highly structured program focuses on state-of-the-art methods to prepare students to enter the interior design profession. The program has been accredited by CIDA (the Council for Interior Design Accreditation) since 1992, along with 150 others nationwide and in Canada. The curriculum emphasizes the relationship between artistic, behavorial, and technical factors in the design of responsive physical environments through collaboration and the creative application of technology.
The program follows the definition of interior design established by the Council for Interior Design Qualification. Sometimes confused with the occupation of interior decorating, the profession of interior design requires specialized education and training that extends far beyond aesthetic concerns to matters of public health, safety, and welfare.
Students develop their knowledge in a range of subject areas including building systems and technologies, regulatory codes, history, materials, and environmental psychology. They learn to investigate the unique characteristics of specific clients, sites, and projects. They become agile in their critical and design thinking to tackle challenging spatial problems and realize novel solutions.
The interior design curriculum expands on the foundation of the liberal arts education, encouraging students to engage in research, critical thinking, and skilled communication. Coursework requires them to make connections between contemporary and interdisciplinary issues to help see themselves as designers within an evolving global environment.
In this program, you work with faculty who come from diverse design experience in the fields of interior design, architecture, fine arts, graphic design, lighting design, and information design.
You gain broad understanding of three-dimensional design principles, space planning, and the history of interior, architectural, and furniture design. Coursework also covers construction methods and materials, building systems, professional ethics and practices, and construction documentation. You acquire skills with the latest digital drafting software to illustrate your concepts and solutions for projects examining the whole spectrum of human activity. Example projects include business and commercial establishments (offices and stores), places for recreation and hospitality (hotels, restaurants, resorts), health and cultural institutions (hospitals, schools, libraries, theaters, museums, places of worship), and residential interiors.
Your starting point in the Interior Design major is SOAD-A 100 Pathways: Introduction to Art, Design and Merchandising and SOAD-D 168 Beginning Interior Architectural Design Studio.
Your first two years in the major establish a foundation in the field and give you exposure to design methods, art history, specialized materials, and the digital software, such as AutoCAD, Revit, and Rhino. You study the principles of color and take a cross-disciplinary art and design workshop of your choice. Beginning and intermediate interior design studio courses build on each other in complexity and must be taken in order as they are prerequisites for upper-level coursework.
The final two years consist of advanced vertical design studios that allow you to work on projects that have a global context or address contemporary issues in society and in interior design.
Tracks and concentrations
While there are no official tracks or concentrations in the major, students can choose elective coursework to develop their particular interests. Topics for these electives focus on sustainability, freehand and professional drawing techniques, the relationship between form and function, advanced digital architectural drawing, or 3D printing.
Upper level coursework
At the upper level, students participate in non-sequential, vertical studios that mix students across the third and fourth years in the program. This model enhances collaboration with peers and provides access to a wider range of studio projects and instructors.
Topics for the vertical studios change each semester to enable students to apply their knowledge to different residential, institutional, or commercial projects, often located in the communities of Bloomington and southern Indiana. Students evaluate sites such as local businesses, cultural centers, and historic buildings to propose changes to function and organization of the space to enhance its use or to transform the existing space for a new purpose.
As you advance in the program, you work with faculty to further develop specialized interests and shape your own design portfolio towards particular professional goals. You also complete additional required coursework in architectural documentation and lighting design.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
The major in Interior Design represents about one half of your degree requirements. 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 Interior Design majors include:
- Art History
- Business, Small Business Entrepreneurship, or Marketing
- Environmental and Sustainability Studies
- Various minors in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
You may also consider a SoAAD minor in Apparel Merchandising, Illustration, Creative Technologies, Fashion Design, or Studio Art.
Check your bulletin for more information about these and other minors.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Interior Design, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and varied experience in interior design and architecture. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, delve deeper into the content of assignments, and get individualized feedback to help identify your future goals.
Students also have opportunities to work as Undergraduate Teaching Assistants in the program, assisting faculty members in courses that they have completed. Talk with your academic advisor and faculty to discuss possible options for independent study work or research projects.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Students in the School of Art, Architecture + Design can compete for annual scholarships and awards based on high-achievement in their major courses. SoAAD awarded over $100,000 in scholarships to students at the 2018 Scholarship Awards Ceremony. The deadline to apply for these awards is in November each year.
The College of Arts & 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 opportunities as early as after their first year in the program, though many employers prefer students who have completed three years of design education.
Faculty provide opportunities for networking with industry professionals through field trips and guest speakers in the classroom. They are also available, by appointment, to assist in resume and portfolio preparation for internship opportunities.
Previous Interior Design students have found internship opportunities with the following organizations:
- 22 Interiors
- Brandy Ketterer Design
- Brenner Design
- Brynn Olson Design Group
- D2P Designed to Perform
- Details Commercial Group
- Directions in Design
- Four Point Design Partners
- Gail Ressler Interior Design
- Haworth, Inc.
- HKS Architects
- Hunter Kaiser
- IIG Design
- Indiana University- Capital Projects
- Indiana University- Residential Programs and Services, Interior Design Department
- Interior Management, Inc.
- Julie Bova Interior Design
- Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
- Kimball Office
- Lohr Design
- MJ Interiors
- Mitch Design
- Nate Berkus Associates
- RATIO Architects
- Senger Design Group
- Soucie Horner Ltd.
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you will find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
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 60 languages.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Summer Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Turkish Flagship Program
Study abroad can be an enriching part of your undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Interior Design majors often pursue summer or semester-long coursework through the following overseas study programs:
- Accademia Italiana - Florence, Italy
- Copenhagen DIS - Denmark
- Santa Reparata International School of Art (SRISA) - Florence, Italy
- University of Adelaide - Australia
- Wells College - Florence, Italy
SoAAD faculty also lead summer overseas study programs in locations such as Florence, Venice, and Kyoto.
Scholarships for study abroad are available from the following sources:
- Cindy Simon Skjodt Study Abroad Scholarship
- Hutton International Experiences Program
- Office of Overseas Study Scholarships
Interior Design students frequently engage in extracurricular activities through the Design Studies Student Organization (DSSO). They also participate in designing the annual Fashion Show with the Retail Studies Organization.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities to volunteer, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Endwright Center
- Habitat for Humanity
- IU Corps
- IU Eskenazi Museum of Art
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and 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. Interior Design majors might be particularly interested in these associations.
- American Society of Interior Designers
- The Center for Health Design
- Interaction Design Association
- International Interior Design Association
- International Facility Management Association
- Living Building Challenge
- National Council for Interior Design Qualification
- U.S. Green Building Council
- Well Building Institute
- Build your skills
Through the major
The major in Interior Design provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Problem solving and design thinking: identify problems, such as client and community needs, and develop means to address the problems
- 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 group's 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 abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:
- Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
- Learn to think critically and creatively
- Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
- Discover ethical perspectives
- Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
- Practice and apply scientific methods
- Learn to reason quantitatively
- Develop historical consciousness
- Investigate and study the international community
- Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
- Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:
- Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
- Work in a team structure
- Make decisions and solve problems
- Plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Obtain and process relevant information
- Analyze quantitative data
- Create and/or edit written reports
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 your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach. Interior Design majors have a dedicated career coach in art and design who assists 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.
You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. SoAAD students should consider taking ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. This course provides the opportunity for students to explore the relationship between their chosen field of study and life after graduation while developing a career and academic development plan for post-collegiate success.
Interior Design majors take a Professional Practices class, SOAD-D 469, in their fourth year to prepare for their post-college careers.
The job market
The employment outlook is positive and growing at an average rate for students with a degree in Interior Design. Part of their success has to do with their abilities to apply their skill set to different job sectors and the continued public concern for creating more environmentally-friendly working and living spaces.
Interior Design majors take their education in many directions. Most graduates will work two to three years to qualify to take the National Council for Interior Design Qualification examination for NCIDQ Certification, the industry's standard for expertise in interior design and commitment to the profession. Other graduates may choose to attend graduate school.
Long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors including: interior design, architecture, furniture design, construction, residential design services, facilities management, real estate, product sales, marketing, or education. Interior Design majors can become commercial designers, civic designers, residential designers, in-store designers, and design specialists. The practice of interior design is regulated by individual states through title and practice laws.
The Innovators Guide provides job outlooks for a variety of creative and design professionals. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Talk with Interior Design faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduating from a CIDA-accredited program like the one at IU, you will want to focus on gaining a range of full-time work experience (minimum of 3,520 hours) with a NCIDQ-certified interior designer. After that time, you will be eligible to apply to take the NCIDQ certification exam which tests applicants on facts related to public health, safety and welfare. The exam is practice-based so the best preparation is experience in a variety of design areas.Use the NCIDQ database to locate active NCIDQ-certified interior designers.
Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that fit with your goals:
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. Students are encouraged to talk to faculty about their interests and post-graduation plans.
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 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.
An Interior Design undergraduate degree can prepare you for graduate study in fields such as Interior Design, Product Design, Exhibition Design, Design Studies, Architecture, Urban Design, Service Design, and Design Management or entry into other fields like Business Administration, Entrepreneurship, or Marketing. An advanced degree can further enhance your skills in analysis and critical thinking, and expose you to more complex design projects requiring team management and business aptitude.
Use these and other resources to research graduate programs (M.S., M.F.A., M.Arch., or Ph.D.):
You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:
- J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program
- College + Kelley
- Master of Business Administration
- A variety of programs in the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Visit the Indiana University Interior Design Alumni Group Facebook page and the Indiana University Interior Design Alumni LinkedIn page.
The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
Interior Design is a major for people who are interested in combining technical knowledge with aesthetic vision to create compelling environments where people live and work. If you are interested in color and form, appreciate visual problem-solving, and have an aptitude for project management, the Interior Design major may be a good fit for you.
Students typically have some of the following qualities:
- Fascination with residential and commercial spaces and how spaces are used
- Artistic creativity in areas like drawing, graphic design, sculpture, photography, textiles, or furniture design
- Interest in sustainability and ecological living
- Highly organized with strong interpersonal communication skills
Contact the Interior 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