Featured Course

Introduction to Surface Design

Can you imagine a world filled with nothing but solid colors and smooth surfaces?

If not, then thank a surface designer, those daring individuals who transform our vanilla products—everything from iPad cases and coffee mugs to tote bags and pillowcases—into personalized vehicles for individual expression.

In ArtCenter at Night’s Introduction to Surface Design course, taught by artist and designer Debra Valencia, students learn about the styles and techniques used in creating surface designs by exploring case studies, product categories, themes and other business basics of earning a living as a surface designer.

What exactly is surface design? Surface design has been around for centuries but mostly limited to textile design or wall decoration,” says Valencia. “Now it’s its own design field, with artists and designers coming from many backgrounds.”

Why the sudden boom in surface design? Valencia says it can be chalked up to a combination of technological advances in digital printing and high consumer interest. Fashion trends have made our culture pattern crazy,” she laughs. “Also, technology has both changed the ability and made it more affordable to apply repeat prints and textural treatments to nearly anything and everything.”

And it is. Smartphone cases, handbags, wallets, eyeglasses, dinnerware, placemats, tablecloths, rugs, wallpaper, curtains, bedding and shower curtains are just a few of the products showcasing the handiwork of surface designers.

“In my class, each student will develop several coordinated collections based on themes like everyday floral, geometric and their choice of a novelty theme, like baby, ocean, forest, food, holiday or animals,” says Valencia. “All of which are marketable collections in demand by manufacturers.”


Debra Valencia

Debra Valencia founded award-winning greeting card company Vida Valencia in 2006. Her design work has appeared in Time, Interiors, How, ID, Communication Arts, and many more.