The 4 Biggest Course Subjects for Interior Design

course subjects interior design learn study photo of woman looking on computer

The best part about getting an interior design education is the broad range of subject matter.

I loved almost everything about learning interior designOpens in a new tab. when I was in school!

Almost all of it was practical and easy to observe and apply to real-life design settings.  

Hello Future Designer!

Have you considered learning interior design, or even some other type of design?

If you’re thinking about getting a design education, you’re in the right place to explore this.

Here on Design Baddie we talk about the world of interior design learning and practice and try to simplify the subject so it is accessible to everyone.

Today I’m going to be sharing with you the benefits of an interior design education, what a typical curriculum coversOpens in a new tab. and which ones I consider to be the most important of the bunch.

Let’s kick if off with the basics.

The Benefits of an Interior Design Education

interior design course study subject in design we trust billboard

Design Education for Creative People

Do you want to study something that keeps your hands, eyes, and your intellect engaged?

In interior design there are physical materials and products, sample boardsOpens in a new tab. and model making.

Measure, draw and render by handOpens in a new tab.!


Growing up as a (self-declared) ADD type I always had a great memory, endless curiosity and tons of ideas.

I also found it incredibly hard to stick to any one thing for long.

I dabbled endlessly, falling for each new hobby or interest, only to abandon it a few months later.

I started tons of things I never finished.

I, like many people in this position, got easily bored.

Design is Different

My brother, who is an excellent musician, went to uni for a year and then dropped out after he felt like he had absorbed all he could from the program.

Interior Design subjects smiling male mechanic repairing details in garage

I, too, came very close to not finishing my studies about two-thirds of the way through.

One thing saved me.

You know what that was?

I genuinely liked doing the work.

It kept me engaged and I felt I was learning and compounding on my knowledge each time I did a project.

I wanted to be a designerOpens in a new tab. so I could keep doing design work.

Design is Creative Problem Solving

Solving design problems is pretty satisfying for people like me.

I also like untangling knots and figuring out visual puzzles like mazes.

interior design course subjects important

Which actually makes a lot of sense: Every design project is simply a creative problem to be solvedOpens in a new tab..

The best part of working in design all is that you’ll never do exactly the same thing twice!

Did your ADD heart just flutter a little?

I know mine did.

Art Meets Science

In my opinion, this is what makes interior design such a great subject of study: the technical and science-y parts of the curriculum are well balanced with the fun and creative parts.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Studying interior design was no bed of roses, for the most part I got my education and had a fair bit of fun doing it!

Yes, I even found a way to enjoy the “theory” stuff.

What I Learned in Design School

interior design subjects to focus on

Ten Units, Three years

My course offered ten distinct units over three years.

The first yearOpens in a new tab. units included materials, history of interior designOpens in a new tab. and drafting.

In our second year we learned color theory, design theory and did two monster units of furniture and fittings.

Our final year included the tough subject of construction, then professional practiceOpens in a new tab..

To sum up the course we had to produce our preliminary and final test projects.

No Regrets

I wouldn’t change any part of my education in interior design.

Some subjects were more enjoyable than others, sure.

Overall, however, it was amazing to see how all the subjects culminated in our final exam.

That’s when I really realized how important each of those earlier units had been.

It is the meeting between the technical and the creative sides that makes both architecture and interior design such incredible whole-brain educational subjects

you heard it on design baddie

Study Course Essentials

why study inteiror design subjects

Elemental Design Topics

I’m a teacher, so one day, simply as a thought experiment, I pondered: What if I could boil down my design education to the bare bones?  

What would I end up with?

In other words, what are the most important elements to a well-rounded education in interior design?  

What Should Designers Focus On?

I can just hear some people screaming, “Sacrilege!!!” 

Hear me out.

I’m not suggesting that college-level design courses throw their syllabuses out the window. 

I’m simply hoping to convey to a new or self-taught designer what the most important subjects to learn are.

These are the subjects that you need to be thoroughly well versed in if you want to be a great designer.

course subjects interior design learn study books on shelf in library

The “Big Four

So, keeping in mind that this is my personal opinion, here’s the list.

In order of importance, the four most important subjects for an interior designer to know are:

  1. 1. Materials science and functionality
  2. 2. The history of architecture, interior design and art
  3. 3. Design theory
  4. 4. Color and light theory 

Science and Art Meet in Architectural and Interior Design

interior design study course subject architecture art science

Are Architects Artists or Scientists?

Architecture (of which interior design is a specialization) enthusiasts like to muse over whether architects are scientists who practice art or artists who practice science.

If you believe that a good architectural education contains both art and science then it’s a matter of what type of individual you personally are.

There must be plenty of people for whom being both scientist and artist feel pretty natural.

It’s what we designers are taught to do!

Science and Humanities Study

I’m stoked how these four subjects fall equally into humanities and the sciences

On the humanities side we have history and then design theory.

Design theory teaches elements and principles but is not a strict science

There are too many variables and some things come down to personal preference.

On the science side we have materials and the theories of color and light.  These concepts are pretty well set in stone.

Design is a Whole Brain Education

whole brain education interior design course subject serious ethnic man thinking over tactic of playing chess

Technical + Creative = Win/Win

I think you’ll agree when you delve into it that this mix of subjects makes for a very interesting course of study.

The meeting of the technical and the creative sides that make interior design (and architecture!) such an incredible “whole brain” education.

You will be amazed at how differently you will think after getting an education in design.

Further Reading

I want to mention that I’ve dealt with design education subjects separate to skills

To read about the skills an interior designer needs in their toolkit in order to do the job of interior design, read my article on that here on Design Baddie.

Our mission at Design Baddie is to make basic interior design information accessible and free to all! We will be giving away our future introductory interior design e-books absolutely free.

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Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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