​​What are non-design degrees or courses that can benefit me as a designer?

Some of the most incredible designers I've worked with don't have a formal education in design. When selecting a program, the school, professors, and alumni network are often more valuable than the degree itself, since it's the people you meet and learn from who will shape your education and help you network afterward. No matter what program you select, focus on developing skills, experiences, and relationships that you can apply to your career. Finally, don't discount supplementing your education with informal learning and mentorships.

Here are some great majors to consider:

5 action items

  • 1. Computer Science

    Goes without saying, having a CS background can expand your job opportunities and help you succeed as a digital designer. Code is the medium we are designing with, even if pixels and vectors are how we convey it. Understanding the systems, foundations, and principles that guide how our designs are translated to the screen helps (and in my experience, doesn't hinder) your creativity

  • 2. Economics

    At its core, economics is the study of systems. My degree gave me foundation to understand incentive structures, institutional and cognitive bias, feedback loops, behavioral psychology, and to use qualitative and quantitative research to understand trends. It's basically a CS degree for liberal arts majors and a great primer for understanding how design impacts and can be impacted by the world.

  • 3. Film studies, architecture, industrial design

    As digital design leaves the screen behind through technologies like AR and VR, the traditional paradigm of print design becomes less useful. Many designers working in emerging tech point to film, architecture, and industrial as a closer model to understand how to make their designs immersive and understandable. Learning spacial thinking will give you transferable skills in these areas (these could be great minors as well!)

  • 4. Psychology/Sociology

    Human-centered design has been adopted by the mainstream. A degree in psychology can help you understand human behaviors, cognitive bias, incentive structures, and other skills to better understand your users and the needs of different groups who will use your designs. Some programs may even give you first-hand research experience if it interests you, which is great experience if you're interested in research or UX Design

  • 5. Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)

    Programs in this area exist under a number of different names (interaction design, design computing, information systems, etc). Look for schools with a strong graduate program in this area and see what undergraduate options they offer. HCI is a relatively new field but these tend to be great programs that give you a human-centered view of technology, a perfect background for a designer.

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