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The 4 Most Important Course Subjects for Interior Design

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The best part about getting an interior design education is the broad range of subject matter. I loved almost everything about learning interior design 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.

In this article I’m going to be sharing with you the benefits of an interior design education, what a typical curriculum covers 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

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Design Education is Great for Creative People

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

Interior design education is a rewarding and challenging field of study that keeps your hands, eyes, and intellect engaged in a variety of ways. As a practicing interior designer, you’ll have the opportunity to use your creativity to solve complex design problems and come up with innovative solutions that meet the needs and preferences of your clients.

You’ll also have the chance to work with a wide range of materials and technologies, from traditional drafting tools and software to 3D modeling and virtual reality tools.

This hands-on approach to learning keeps you engaged and excited about the work, and it helps you develop a wide range of skills that are applicable to a variety of career paths.

An interior design education requires close attention to detail and a strong visual sense, which keeps your eyes and intellect engaged as you learn to analyze and interpret design elements and principles. Overall, an interior design education is an excellent choice for creative individuals who are looking for a dynamic and challenging field of study that allows them to express their ideas and make a meaningful impact in the world around them.

Interior design is a very tactile education: there are physical materials and products to work with, sample boards and model making activities. You will also learn to measure, draw and render by hand!


Growing up as an ‘ADD’ type I always had a great memory for certain things; endless general curiosity and a ton of ideas. But 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. In retrospect I realize that I, like many people in this position, got easily bored.

How Design was Different for Me

My brother, who is an excellent musician, went to university for a year and then dropped out after he felt like he had absorbed all he could from the program. I can’t blame him; he was probably right.

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 completed a project. I was able to finally finish things by following good design process.

At the end of the day I wanted to be a designer so I could keep on doing design work. I loved it, and I was hooked.

Design is Creative Problem Solving

I am by no means an A-Type personality. But I am a very visual person. You might be able to relate; solving design problems is pretty satisfying for people like me.

I also like untangling knots (yes, really), and figuring out visual puzzles like mazes or figuring out the mechanics of toys.

interior design course subjects important

Once I delved into the 3D aspects of my studies this actually started to make a lot of sense: every design project is simply a creative problem to be solved.

I’ve got to say, one of the best parts about working in design is that you’ll never do exactly the same thing twice!

Did your ADD heart just flutter a little?

I know mine did.

Interior Design: Art Meets Science

In my opinion, what makes interior design such a great subject of study is that 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, but 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

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Ten Units, Three years

My course offered ten distinct units over three years. The first year units included materials, history of interior design 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 practice.

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.

Study Course Essentials

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

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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 

How 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 both feel pretty natural after becoming a designer. 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.

How Design is a Whole Brain Education

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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.

Because interior design can involve a wide range of activities and skills it ends up making for a great form of “whole brain” education. It is a process and involves a lot of technicalities, but it can involve artistic and creative elements too, such as choosing colors, selecting furniture and decor, and planning space in an aesthetically pleasing and holistic way.

Interior design also requires problem-solving skills and the ability to think spatially and visualize how a space will look once it is finished. Additionally, interior design often involves working with budgets, schedules, and other practical considerations, which can require organizational and project management skills.

All of these elements can help to engage different areas of the brain and can be beneficial for overall cognitive development. It’s the meeting of the technical and the creative sides that make interior design (and architecture!) such an incredible subject.

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

New to the topic of interior design study? I encourage you to read:

7 Amazing Things to Love About Interior Design

9 Awesome Reasons to Learn Interior 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 next article on that here on Design Baddie.

We are on a mission at Design Baddie to make basic interior design information accessible and free to all! Get our introductory interior design e-book absolutely free when you sign up for our newsletter.

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