What Can I Do With My Design Major?

Two students look at notebooks and paper in a crowded classroom at UC Davis.
Bria Sanchez and Irene Amuyunzu, both design majors, work together on an inspiration map during their wayfinding design class. The students were trying to find branding and a wayfinding method for California Hall. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

When people think of design majors, they often picture artists scribbling away in their notebooks or graphic designers glued to their laptops. Design is so much more than that. 

Design majors gain an array of skills with practical applications in a variety of fields. After all, design is more than visual creation. 

“The design major is a combination of thinking and making and working with other people,” said James Housefield, associate professor of design at UC Davis. “Because of that, it's very well suited to the 21st century workplace. It demands a lot of creativity. It encourages students to think beyond what they already believe and understand about design and about the world. To ask questions in new ways, to identify needs and opportunities and solve problems.” 

The design major leads to many careers

A student leans over a large white model and adjusts a room at UC Davis.
Jahaani Bradley and Janel Ramirez, both design majors, work with their team's model during their design exhibition class. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The design major at UC Davis prepares you for a variety of career paths. The course offerings allows you to pursue your passion. Classes range from exhibition design to fashion. Regardless of your chosen track, you can gain the tools necessary to succeed in a design career. 

Every college student faces the big question at some point: What job opportunities will I have? Here are key areas of the design industry and their related job opportunities: 

  • Communication/graphic design - Art director, graphic designer, illustrator, UI/UX designer, multimedia artist
  • Fashion and textile design - Apparel designer, dressmaker, production coordinator, materials coordinator, stylist
  • Interior/architecture design - Interior architect, Interior design consultant, residential designer
  • Exhibition design - Set and exhibit designer, display coordinator, show design supervisor, stage set designer
  • Product design - Product development engineer, systems designer, industrial designer, transportation designer 

Luckily, advisors and on-campus resources help design majors navigate their many career options. 

“There are resources such as the peer advisor and the design major advisor that can provide you with answers to design major related questions like what classes to take,” said design major peer advisor Bianca Law. “There are clubs such as design career clubs that give you career advice. There are also UI/UX clubs on campus that take you through projects that you can put on your portfolio, which is also very good for your resume.” 

UC Davis design graduates make an impact

A student wearing goggles laughs beside the scaffolding of her furniture at UC Davis.
Jennifer Place, an art history and design major, works on a table-top shelf during a furniture design class. (UC Davis)

Students who have majored in design at UC Davis use their learnings to make a positive impact. Here are some examples of UC Davis design graduates who excelled in their chosen fields:

Victoria Lo developed the Chinatown Runners group to take a stand against Asian American hate, according to professor Housefield. During the pandemic, she created a global network of groups of people who run together. Lo has not only succeeded in her field, working with big name clients such as Disney. She also goes above and beyond with a passion project to impact her community and the world.

Mia Adorante, a 2011 design graduate, is a writer based in New York and Los Angeles, according to the UC Davis design website. Her stories have appeared in several media outlets such as New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Her stories discuss style and culture. 

Joseph Adorante, a 2018 design graduate, is a graphic designer working with an agency that creates campaigns for the outdoor industry, restaurants and other small businesses. Adorante said he assists with creating ad campaigns, retail space design and signage. 

Advice for design majors

A professor stands in front of a class who are also standing up at UC Davis.
Professor Tim McNeil offers advice to Irene Amuyunzu and Bria Sanchez, both design majors, on their design direction during a wayfinding design class. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

All of these graduates were design majors, and they chose to pursue dramatically different paths within the realm of design. The options and opportunities are endless. But with choice comes confusion. Faculty, peer advisors and alumni share their advice to help design majors find their own path. 

Joseph Adorante, 2018 design graduate: 

“Have some sense of what you want to pursue. Have a good portfolio to show later on. And if you kind of take advantage of the opportunities you have when you have them taking those classes, make sure to go talk to those professors and kind of do all the extra work that you need to do.” 

James Housefield, associate professor in design:

“If a student seeks to be a design major, they have to go through a sequence of classes and it's essential that they get into the introduction to design in the fall quarter. And concurrently with that, or immediately after that, begin to take a series of three classes designed 14, 15, and 16. Those are really important foundations. And as you move beyond those, we have very few prerequisites in our major, but that gives you a set of tools with which to work collaboratively with your fellow students and our faculty that are really essential. So think about planning to be there and get into those as early as possible.” 

Bianca Law, peer advisor for design:

“The advice I would give them is actually quite simple, is to try everything. Cause at least for me, in my personal experience I thought that I would like X. But it turns out, after I try ABC, I like something else a lot more. And I thought that was a lot more interesting. And instead of focusing on, Oh, maybe this is just something I'm good at and stick to that, maybe try something else. Or even — so let's say right now UI/UX is the one that earns the most money. Try also exploring different options and see which one you're best at. Because you never know.” 

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