In the 1980s, Laurel worked as a designer and researcher at CyberVision, Atari and Activision. In 1990, with Scott Fisher, she founded Telepresence Research, a research and development company specializing in virtual reality and remote presence.
In 1992 Laurel began a four year gender and technology project with Interval Research Corporation. This led to the 1996 spin-off company Purple Moon, dedicated to producing software and other media targeted at pre-teen girls. Purple Moon was acquired by Mattel in 1999. Laurel wrote a book about that experience entitled Utopian Entrepreneur.
Between 1999 and 2006, Laurel was chair of the Media Design Program at the Art Center College of Design, and from 2005 to 2006, a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems. Laurel was appointed chair of the MFA Program in Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in September 2006.
In addition to public speaking and consulting, she is a member of the boards of advisors of several companies and organizations, including Cheskin, the Communication Research Institute (Australia), and the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT.
She is active in the digital storytelling movement, the game design community (IGDA), AIGA, and the ACM.