The field of design is expanding, and that includes design for environments — what we define as the experiences people have in physical spaces and the increasing role technology plays in those spaces, from smart devices and sensors to immersive projection, augmented reality, and more.

We are the only design school in the U.S. to offer an undergraduate program dedicated to the design of digital and physical (sometimes called phygital or hybrid) environments. Our faculty are always looking at the horizon, considering what role design and designers have in the development of human interactions and emerging technologies.

As a student in the Environment track in the School of Design, you’ll work on projects that range from real-world to speculative, from right now to 10 years into the future, and from the scale of an artifact to systems and services that impact entire communities.

The foundation of your study in this program will be on the design of place-based experiences and interactions that result in meaningful human experiences. Course and studio work places particular emphasis on developing delightful experiences that involve the seamless integration of digital and physical systems.

A small scale model of a retail space

How We Work

As a student in the program, you’ll explore a diverse range of environments in the School of Design including retail experiences, interactive exhibits, “smart” device interactions, new mixed reality experiences, intelligent environments, social systems, and experimental speculative projects.

In every project you’ll consider who you are designing for, what interactions should take place (between people, objects, technology, and space), how the experience you are designing can be realized, and why the world needs what you’re making. When designing environments, you’ll often design both the physical characteristics (layout, lighting, furniture, color, interfaces, branding, artifacts) and digital interactions (sensors, AI, apps, computer vision, physical computing, augmented reality) to create particular experiences.

You’ll not only learn and experiment with domain-specific knowledge and approaches, but you’ll also explore how to synthesize multiple theoretical perspectives and apply them practically and critically through your work.

The practical skills you’ll develop include interaction and user experience design (UX), physical and digital prototyping and modeling, physical computing, storytelling and filmmaking, multi-sensory and brand design, mixed and augmented reality, creative use of machine learning, speculative design and design fiction.

Our History

Over a decade ago, the School of Design recognized that human environments are evolving into a hybrid of physical and digital experiences, and designing for those experiences is an ever-broadening field. The Environments track was launched in 2014 to expand the School’s work into areas that are not always addressed in the Communications and Products tracks.

Since that time, the physical and digital have continued to blend even further with smart spaces, internet applications, sensor networks, big data, artificial intelligence, smart cities, and mixed reality interfaces. The history of the Environments field is only now starting to be written.

Our Alumni

Environments track alumni are designing physical, digital, and hybrid experiences, new services, and exhibits, and exploring the boundaries of new technologies. They are entrepreneurial — both in launching their own businesses and seeking out opportunities — and embrace ambiguity. They are confident in their ability to adapt to change, take on daunting challenges, and learn new skills.

Graduates are designing interactions and experiences at companies such as Apple, Google, AJQA, Capital One, Adobe and Duolingo, among others. Students in the track have secured internships with companies and organizations that include Apple, Google, NASA, Microsoft, Samsung, LinkedIn, Facebook, Dubberly Design Office, Deeplocal, frog design, odopod design, and Blast Motion, to name only a few.


Faculty in the Environments studios offer electives that will allow you to experiment with new technology, experiential prototyping, and environmental typography. You’ll also be encouraged to take electives both within the School of Design and across campus, such as IDeATE, Architecture, Music, Drama, Art, Computer Science, HCI, and others, that may expand your personal interests in design.