Shapes incorporate geometry as well as semantics and can be defined in 2D, 3D or higher dimensions. Geometric models can be structured in such a way that they can provide a relevant framework to insert semantic information or view dependent information about a product to form features. Combining such features with an immersive environment allows the user to interact more efficiently with an object. This framework will be illustrated in the context of free-form surface modelling for aesthetic design and in the context of engineering and simulation, both among the research themes of the network of excellence AIM@SHAPE. Virtual environments can also contribute to the efficiency of the design process through appropriate models of interaction between the objects contributing to a given simulation environment (a maintenance task, a surface deformation process for aesthetic design for example). To this end, virtual humans bring new capabilities to enhance simulations though they require new models of interaction to incorporate the appropriate semantics during an object manipulation. This third aspect is also part of the ongoing research actions of AIM@SHAPE and will be addressed to show how it is complementary to the previous one. As a result, this set of contributions demonstrates how various categories of semantic can enhance the design process within virtual environments.