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Design is the creation of a plan for an object or system. In some contexts, such as engineering, practical concerns are most important in shaping the plan. But in many fields, aesthetic concerns are of equal or greater importance, meaning that the design has to look good and not just work well.

Although design is a creative act, it does not happen in a vacuum: Decisions about both practical and aesthetic matters can be influenced by design practices that have accumulated over centuries, and also by technologies and artistic trends of the present moment.

As a result, preparing for a career in design means learning not only how to solve technical and business problems, but also how to achieve aesthetic effects. The education and training in the design industry include instruction in design traditions as well as new technologies.

We encounter designs every hour of the day; even the beds we sleep on have been shaped by designers. Some of the most omnipresent types of designs that we live among are the graphics that communicate to us, the industrial products we use, the interiors we live within and visit, and the landscapes we experience outside.

Graphic Design

Graphic designs consist of lettering, images, and any other visible elements among them, such as frames, lines, and use of color or texture. A design must communicate the information or emotions that are intended but also be visually appealing. According to the Department of Labor, about 290,100 people worked as graphic designers in the United States as of May 2018, mainly in companies that offer graphic design services, manufacturing, and publishing.

Industrial Design

Industrial designs shape every product we use, from cars to toys. In product design, practical matters such as functionality and cost dominate, but they are offset somewhat by aesthetic concerns, such as the hard-to-quantify "coolness" factor. In 2018, of the 43,900 commercial and industrial designers who worked in the United States, most worked for manufacturers and for firms that specialize in industrial design services.

Interior Design

The interior of a dwelling or of a commercial building can be highly functional, safe, and attractive if it gets the right mix of wall colors, carpeting, lighting fixtures, furnishings, potted plants, and other materials. Interior designers focus on all of these aspects to create beautiful, functional, and safe interiors. About 75,400 people worked as interior designers in the United States in 2018, concentrated in firms that offer design services.

Landscape Design

Everywhere except in the most densely built urban settings, our structures are surrounded by open spaces, and all spaces except wildernesses, open waterways, and agricultural land are designed landscapes. A good landscape design incorporates and arranges plant materials, the contours of the land, and sometimes water in ways that harmonize with any structures and pathways within the landscape. Sometimes a design repurposes a landscape from a different use, perhaps remediating a damaged ecosystem.

This design work is done by landscape architects and landscape designers, both of whom are employed mostly by firms that specialize in this business. Approximately 23,500 people worked as landscape architects in the United States in 2018, mostly for architecture or engineering firms.