Interior Design Schools

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Interior Design Schools

It is often said that interior design exists at the crossroads where art, science, planning, and creativity meet. Because of its interdisciplinary nature, prospects entering the interior design field must be well-versed in art history, interior architecture, materials of construction, legal aspects of contracting, the design process, and much more.

Interior design schools provide students with the knowledge, training, and skills needed to meet the multi-faceted demands of this profession. Interior design students can expect to learn about the technical and creative process while developing the critical thinking and problem-solving skills required to create beautiful, functional, and sustainable designs.

What Is an Interior Design School?

An interior design school is an educational institution that offers courses, professional studies, and interior design degrees for students at all levels of study. Prospective students can find interior design programs in many places, including traditional four-year universities, art institutes, and private design schools.

An interior design education typically begins with an introduction to the history of interior design, followed by studies in academic disciplines such as fine arts, visual arts, architecture, and industrial design. Students then move on to more specific coursework in interior design theory and practice, building a strong foundation in subject areas such as space planning, color theory, materials selection, computer-aided design, and basic rendering techniques.

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Interior Design Schools Online

The landscape of online learning has changed dramatically over the last decade as modern technology has allowed for more flexible modes of learning. Today, many students are opting to enroll in online interior design programs as a means of gaining access to high-quality education without relocating or limiting their educational options.

Online interior design schools give aspiring designers unprecedented access to quality education. Online courses provide interior design students with the same high-quality curriculum, course sequencing, rigorous academic standards, and expert interior design instructors as traditional on-campus programs, but with the convenience and accessibility of studying from home.

School Rankings

The 15 Best Interior Design Schools in the U.S.

Our ranking of the 15 best interior design schools in the U.S. is an objective assessment of each school’s overall academic excellence and reputation as measured by eight weighted categories: Post-Graduate Success, Faculty Resources, Graduation Rate Performance, Student Selectivity, Financial Aid, Early Career Success, Academic Experience, and Value.

To be considered for our rankings, an interior design program must hold institutional accreditation by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or be accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

Best Colleges
Pratt Institute

200 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Savannah College of Art and Design

516 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401

Rhode Island School of Design

20 Washington Place, Providence, RI 02903-2784

New York School of Interior Design

170 East 70th Street New York, NY 10021

Parsons School of Design

66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011

Fashion Institute of Technology

227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001

University of Cinncinati

2600 Clifton Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45220

Syracuse University

900 South Crouse Ave., Syracuse, NY 13244

New York Institute of Technology

1855 Broadway (at 61st Street), New York, NY 10023

Drexel University

3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Cornell University

616 Thurston Ave., Ithaca, NY 14853

School of Visual Arts

209 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

Rochester Institute of Technology

One Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623

Thomas Jefferson University

1020 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Auburn University

1161 W. Samford Avenue, Auburn, AL 36849


Contributing Data Sources

Interior Design Schools Near Me

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Interior Design School Admission Requirements

The college admissions process for interior design schools varies by program and level of study, but generally, students should expect a similar application process to other colleges of art and design. For undergraduate students, applicants will need to submit high school transcripts and standardized test scores, as well as a personal essay or portfolio of design work. The goal, for both applicants and admissions counselors, is to get a sense of the student’s strengths, interests, and potential for success in the interior design field.

For graduate students, the admissions process is generally more competitive and may require the submission of GRE scores in addition to a portfolio of design work, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.

Interior Design Portfolio Requirements

An interior design portfolio is a collection of an applicant’s best design work that demonstrates their creativity, technical skills, and understanding of design principles. For many programs, the portfolio is the most important part of the admissions process, as it allows the admissions office to get a sense of an applicant’s design style and approach to art. The following questions, gathered from interior design instructors at several of the most admired interior design schools in the country, will help you develop an art portfolio that will stand out to admissions committees.
  • How does your work reflect your artistic abilities and understanding of the principles of design?
  • How does your portfolio tell a story about who you are as a student and why your work deserves attention?
  • Is your work innovative, risky, or experimental?
  • What technical skills are evident in your portfolio?
  • Have you included a variety of projects that showcase your best work?

Areas of Interior Design Specialization

Students enrolled in an interior design program may choose to specialize in a particular area of the profession, such as residential design, commercial design, sustainable design, or hospitality design. An area of interior design specialization may be defined by a functional area, such as healthcare design or hospitality design, a client group, such as senior care or commercial real estate, a specific project type, such as residential conversion, or a style of interior architecture, such as classic or contemporary.

Some common areas of specialization are detailed below:

Commercial Design

Commercial design is the branch of interior design that focuses on designing commercial spaces, such as offices and retail stores. Commercial designers are responsible for the overall look and feel of these spaces, which includes designing furniture layouts, choosing appropriate materials, selecting color schemes that suit the type of business, and reviewing construction documents to ensure that local building codes and zoning regulations are met.

Exhibition Design

Exhibition design is a branch of commercial interior design focused on creating engaging exhibition spaces. Exhibition designers work with businesses (and sometimes private individuals) to design spaces for hosting events, launching products, and promoting brands. This may include designing everything from floor plans, lighting schemes, signage systems, wayfinding strategies, furniture layouts, and displays.

Healthcare Design

Healthcare design is a branch of commercial interior design focused on designing healthcare spaces. Healthcare designers are responsible for the overall look and feel of these environments, which includes selecting appropriate materials, choosing color schemes that suit the type of business or service being offered, and creating furniture layouts to support patient care.

Institutional Design

Institutional design is an area of specialization focused on designing environments for public use, such as schools, government buildings, and transportation facilities. This type of design requires an understanding of human behavior and the factors that influence it, including how space is used, how it is organized, and how the design can positively or negatively affect the way people feel in the space.

Residential Design

Residential design is an area of specialization focused on designing residential spaces, such as single-family homes and condominiums. Residential designers work with homeowners and architects to design rooms and furniture layouts that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and consistent with the homeowner’s personal style or preferences.