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2D Environment Design Program

Build your world-design expertise from the ground up with this program for environment-focused entertainment design roles

Courses start on Jan 25, 2020

Estimated tuition

$4K to $8K

Prices may vary on elective courses taken


12 months


Foundation & Design Program or a suitable portfolio submission

Estimated Salary

$53K to $114K

Based on US job data

Foundations & Design Program overview

Program Overview

Learn the roles of an Environment Designer

There are few roles quite as liberating as that of the environment designer. This is a discipline where artists have the freedom to conjure up their own visions for entire worlds. Drawing on an understanding and appreciation of nature, architecture, illustration, photography, cinema, and more, environment designers weave together the images that breathe life into a story and set the visual tone for all subsequent art development. In the world of film, visual development artists are tasked with mapping out the locations that--regardless of whether they’re ultimately built physically or digitally--will work hand-in-hand with performance and script to draw the audience in, enhance the drama, and incite specific emotional responses as each scene requires. Additionally, video game environment design involves the unique opportunities and challenges afforded by an interactive medium--one where the player’s actions, perspectives, and gameplay journey must all find a home within the artist’s worldview. Our Environment Design Program has been designed to give artists the skills and know-how necessary to tackle this discipline in any medium, featuring classes that cover all key aspects of natural and solid-surface environment design, matte painting and sketching, narrative illustration, and composition. Upon completion, certified students will be well placed to pursue a career as a concept artist, environment designer or visual development artist.

Prerequisites Foundation & Design Program or a suitable portfolio submission



Kickstarting pre-production, the story development phase is where ideas are born, developed, and (at one point or another) green lit. Whether this involves storyboards, initial concept documentation, or a full script will vary depending on the project and the chosen entertainment medium, but the goal is essentially the same: to map out the people, places, actions, interactions, and story beats that will drive the narrative and maximize its potential. Technical and budgetary limitations may come into play (especially with video game projects, where producers, programmers, and artists might all be involved in story development), but artistic decisions regarding the visual attributes of each character will largely be made in service of the story, while location and environment choices will be made to complement and enhance the mood, intent, and action within each scene.


This is where environment designers (or visual development artists, in the case of film work) have the chance to shine. The story may determine what is shown and why, but it’s the artist’s job to determine HOW. A script may use just three words to describe a jungle, for example, but the artist will then draw upon countless references, make a myriad of artistic choices, and utilize a multitude of techniques and tools in order to turn that short description into a bold vision. And they’ll do it again and again, until every location is thoroughly explored and visualized using a multitude of concept images and reference libraries.


The term "modelling" is something of a catch-all for the next stage in the pipeline--since the way in which all that carefully crafted artwork is then utilized will vary from one medium to another, as well as from project to project. In film, it might feed directly into digital matte painting and physical prop/location building work, while in a games studio it will act as the lead-in to the level design, blocking and modeling phase--with those static pieces of artwork expanded into a set of complex 3D environments rich in texture, shading, and lighting detail. In all cases, the final designs will need to reflect the practical needs of the story, its inhabitants, and the viewers’ window on the action, while with gaming the interactive nature of the levels will also be a key design consideration.

Foundations & Design CURRICULUM


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of our curriculum.

In order to qualify for a program certificate of completion, students must enroll in and complete at least 8 courses in this program. This will be a combination of the program’s standard block courses and at least one elective and/or studio course.
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