About the Program

Environmental design from the inside out. From the first moment of encounter, to the last moment of interaction, human-centered design enhances our ability to make meaningful connections in all that we design.

With a strong industry focus, Art Center College of Design is at the forefront of spatial design development.

Environmental Design at Art Center is an experience-centered program. The human experience is our foundation—what people do, and how and why they do it—as distinct from architecture, that is more concerned with the built environment. Our faculty, students and alumni have a multi-sensory understanding of human experience and the interplay of brand, behavior and action. We are not afraid of looking at the big picture but also take a keen interest in small moves that can make a big difference. We look at spatial experience as scenography, “the staging of spaces,” and create environments rich in content and context. We look beyond the single object, moment or place to see how they collectively make an impact.

A pioneer in the field, Art Center’s Environmental Design program was formally established in 1969, though as far back as the 1930s students took classes in what is now considered Environmental Design. Today, through Transdisciplinary Studios, often sponsored by corporate clients, and Designmatters projects on behalf of humanitarian organizations, our students are able to apply their skills for commercial and nonprofit causes.

Our students develop a rich foundation in materials and manufacturing standards, balanced with an articulate, conceptually rigorous ability to research, form conclusion and build story. Working from a strong narrative content and brand focus, we shape total environmental experiences in multiple scales. In the course of the program students explore several full-build projects—not just model-making, but full-size working prototypes, producing a high level of build awareness. They are exposed to a strong background in sustainability, material, colors and trends and responsible building and manufacturing processes.

We aim to address the needs of a design-driven future, rich in meaning, use and function. Our emphasis on spatial experiences has made our graduates leaders in the design of furniture, lighting, and interior and exterior living components.

MS Environmental Design
Two-track Master’s Program:
Spatial Experience Design
Furniture and Fixtures Design

BS Environmental Design
Brand-driven Spatial Design
Hospitality Design
Retail Design
Dining Design
Exhibition Design
Furniture and Fixtures Design


Cloud Nine, Begur, Spain: Pavilion Design/Build
Students collaborated with Enric Ruiz-Geli and his award-winning design studio Cloud 9 to design and produce a full-scale, multipurpose work/play pavilion in the Costa Brava region of Spain. Seeking to develop a symbiotic relationship between nature and technology, the project used contemporary design processes and technologies, and sustainable design practices.

Light & Shadow: The Art of Illumination: Tokyo, Japan
Light impacts the way we perceive our world, influences our mood, and colors every aspect of our lives. In the ninth annual Pacific Rim international collaboration between Art Center College of Design and Tama Art University in Tokyo, students and faculty from both schools collaborated to envision new opportunities for lighting design. Last year’s theme, “Light & Shadow: The Art of Illumination” explored the history and beauty of Japanese illumination.

From traditional lanterns to contemporary design, students investigated sensorial qualities of light and shadow. Cross-cultural teams worked together to design and create a collection of lights for the global market. The studio began with a two-week research field trip to experience the history of Japan’s rich arts and craft heritage, as well as to visit leading contemporary design studios. This research trip, along with guest lectures, demonstrations and hands-on workshops, laid the foundation for deep exploration and innovation in illumination. Read more.

Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015
Design/Build: Designing the Olympic Experience
In this transdisciplinary studio sponsored project, students worked with the Special Olympics Committee for the 2015 games, which will be hosted in Los Angeles. Students created branding, way-finding, and also designed spaces that will be used by athletes and spectators, including Olympic Villages and viewing areas for various events.

Grammy Lobby
Design/Build: Grammy Museum, Los Angeles
The Grammy Museum is an educational and interactive music space in downtown Los Angeles committed to engaging children and adults in the power of music through permanent and temporary exhibits, interactive experiences, workshops and performances regarding all musical genres. Its mission is to explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music; the creative process; the art and technology of the recording process; and the history of the Grammy Awards, the premier recognition of recorded music accomplishment. In this sponsored transdisciplinary studio, students created design options for the Grammy Museum Lobby to redefine the arrival experience for visitors at this outstanding music venue.

Boeing/ Teague
Inspiring the Magic of Flight
Through a sponsored project, Boeing and Teague worked collaboratively with our students to inspire the future of the passenger experience, with a focus on redefining airplane interiors.

ATU International Sponsored Studio: Ecuador
The Future of Work: The Collaborative Office
Designing for the New Flex Office
This sponsored project with ATU, a leading producer of contract furniture in Latin America, investigated what defines a productive workspace. Students explored components of the new flex office, identifying and analyzing current market trends and needs. The studio included a one-week trip to the ATU factory in Ecuador.

Getty Museum Project
Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990 (2013)
Students designed the entire spatial experience of the exhibition Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990, which highlighted the developing history of Los Angeles, as part of a Pacific Standard Time exhibition at The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Future Craft
Merging Past and Future
TAMA Art University, Tokyo, Japan
Lighting, Furniture and Home Product
In this collaborative project developed between Art Center College of Design and Tama University in Japan, student teams were challenged to bring the value of traditional craft into people’s everyday life and create a global element to the notion of craft and design. Read more.

Goodwill Retail
Repurposing shopping, building community

Over a dozen Art Center students in Goodwill: Upcycle Lifestyle—a Designmatters transdisciplinary studio led by the Environmental Design department—redesigned the spatial experience for Goodwill of Orange County’s retail stores, with an eye towards social responsibility, environmental awareness and making a positive impact on the community. Read more.

Safe Agua
Ongoing since 2009, Safe Agua is an educational partnership between Socialab (the innovation center of South American NGO TECHO) and Designmatters at Art Center, and hosted by the College’s Environmental Design Department. Student teams co-created water poverty solutions with families in the slums of Santiago, Chile; Lima, Peru; and Bogota, Colombia. Two patent-pending products—the GiraDora human-powered washer and spin dryer and the Balde a Balde portable faucet—have received significant grants to develop prototypes for manufacturing, pilot-testing and commercialization.

Garnering more than 50 awards, including top Industrial Design Society of America IDEA awards, RedDot and Core77 awards, Safe Agua has also been exhibited and presented at international conferences; been written about in more than 40 publications, including Fast Company, The New York Times and Frame; and received grant funding from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and the Tech Museum’s Young Innovators Award. Read more.