If you’re considering a career in interior design, or are already practicing but want to take a masters in order to deepen your skills and experience, here are six design schools in the USA and UK with global reputations that are considered the crème de la crème by the trade.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
With undergraduate and graduate interior design programs decorated with more Number 1 rankings than any other university, and named the best architecture and design school on DesignIntelligence’s list eight times since 2008, Savannah College of Art and Design – or SCAD – is a place of legend within the industry. Its story even begins with interior design, which was one of the eight original degree-programme offerings and today the discipline is one of the university’s most highly enrolled programmes across its global locations of Savannah, Atlanta, Lacoste and France.
Led by founder and president Paula Wallace, students explore a wide range of career paths during their time at the university, learning to maximise health, wellness, style and sustainable practices across corporate, residential, retail and hospitality design. Producing some of the most in-demand interior designers in the business, its students have been known to win prestigious international awards even before graduation, such as the Red Dot Design Awards, the Donghia Foundation, Contract Magazine, American Society of Interior Designers and many more.
Notable alumni: Bradley Odom, Jessica Ma, Rodrigo Buelvas.
Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London
Widely recognised as the best interior design school in the British capital, University of the Arts London offers budding designers two interior design courses: BA Interior Design and Graduate Diploma Interior Design.
Theory, research and practical knowledge, combined with a passion for iteration and making, are top characteristics of both programmes. A three-year undergraduate course that is professionally recognised by the Chartered Society of Designers, the college works in partnership with organisations, practices and key individuals from the industry, with students able to work on a range of life projects from small-scale furniture and product design through to large-scale proposals for public and private interiors. The Graduate Diploma Interior Design, however, is equivalent to the third year of an interior design undergraduate course, helping to progress onto postgraduate level study while aiding transition into the professional world of interior design. While students on this course come from many different backgrounds, most have already gained a first degree.
And all of this in a beautiful Grade II listed building alongside the River Thames and Tate Britain in Central London. What’s not to love?
Notable alumni: Jobe Burns, Bo Fentum, Marion Friedmann
Parsons School of Design
Consistently named the best art and design school in the US and ranked third in the world, Parsons School of Design has been churning out game-changing interior designers ever since it launched the States’ first interior design curriculum in 1906. Located on Fifth Avenue in New York, students develop high-calibre projects on campus with a research-based intensive curriculum, and they are also expected to participate in international competitions such as the Venice Biennale.
Offering a four-year BFA and a two-year Associate of Applied Science interior design degree, as well as graduate programmes for concentrated fields, studies bring together everything from interior, lighting and set to exhibition design, meaning all bases are covered. Thanks to its stellar reputation and connections, students can also expect a foot in the door at some of the industry’s biggest design firms – its current employment rate for graduates at large firms within the first year of graduation stands at around 87% – as well as showrooms, museums and galleries.
Notable alumni: Jamie Drake, Victoria Hagan, Betty Stevens Sherrill, Sheila Bridges
New York School of Interior Design
The New York School of Interior Design has upheld a stellar reputation for years, and for good reason. Founded in 1916, today it offers a wide selection of degrees including a Basic Interior Design certificate (on-site and online), and both a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design.
Classes have an average of 13 students, meaning a much more personable approach, and it’s also at the top of its game when it comes to sustainability, too. Headed by Seema Lisa Pandaya – a sustainability consultant, professor, LEED reviewer and fine artist – its Sustainable Interior Environments graduate programme offers focused classes in sustainable lighting, history, implementing and managing green projects, and more. The school’s vision statement says: “The most beautiful, inspiring, and human-centred spaces that enable all people to flourish are designed by those who have studied at the New York School of Interior Design.”
Notable alumni: Penny Drue Baird, Rose Tarlow, Becky Button, Kiki Dennis
Pratt Institute, New York
Based in Brooklyn, the Pratt Institute is renowned for its ability to encourage students to develop both local and global perspectives, merging interior design with larger issues of habitation, cities and society. Offering both undergraduate and masters degrees, the former addresses emerging and innovative technologies, sustainable practices and interdisciplinary collaboration, with students offered a spring semester study at the Danish International School, too.
Ethics are taken seriously, with the department well-prepped to prepare blossoming interior designers entry into the workforce, connections with many professional associations, and the National Council for Interior Design qualification.
Throughout its history, Pratt Institute alumni and faculty have produced works of art, architecture and design that have changed the world, including New York’s Chrysler Building (William Van Alen) and Scrabble (Alfred Mosher Butts), so you’ll be in good hands.
Notable alumni: Peter Zumthor, Annabelle Selldorf
The Glasgow School of Art
The best-known building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most famous architect, the Glasgow School of Art nurtures talent as creative as the legend that built it. Currently offering a four-year BA interior design and a one-year masters in interior design, the school is regarded as one of the strongest suites of programmes of its kind in the UK. Its interior design BA course welcomes only 30 students per year to its interiors studio housed within the art school – a cohort small enough to allow students to really get into the nitty gritty of the trade while deeply developing their individual interests with help from faculty.
Many of its alumni are currently or recently-employed in major practices globally including Arcadia, Ab Rogers Design, ArKa Design, Studio Mills and Ben Kelly Design, whose namesake was the designer behind one of the UK’s most legendary nightclubs, The Haçienda.
Notable alumni: Anna Campbell-Jones, Paul and Ali aka Timorous Beasties.
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