This article explores the question of theoretical principles of environmental design. The writings of the Russian and Chinese authors became the key historiographical and literary materials for this research. To address the question at hand, the author takes the following steps: examines information on classification of the specialty “environmental design” in education systems of various countries, primarily in Russia and China; correlates the concepts of “art” and “environmental design”, dedicating particular attention to similarities of these two areas of knowledge; systematizes the levels of environmental design; formulates the goal, method and content of the indicated academic and scientific scope of activity. The method of historiographical analysis for studying the original sources on education systems of Russia and China was applied in the course of this research. The comparative analysis was used for identification of similarities and differences with regards to classification of the specialty “environmental design” in various countries. The author determined that the concept of “artistic” environmental design exists only in Russia and China. The conclusion is made that environmental design, as a separate category of scientific and academic knowledge, is similar to visual arts from the perspective of purpose and object, in other words, “coordination of the relations” (for environmental design it is the interaction between human and environment) and “Image”. The method of environmental design incorporated the theoretical results of adjacent areas - the design of architectural environment and landscape architecture. The scientific novelty is defined by comparison of the sources and literature of Russia and China.