Changes in Interior Design Education

In a recent class, we undertook a quick charette to generate contemporary suggestions for interior design undergraduate curriculum. The student suggestions for courses were really intriguing. Rather than suggesting design studio after design studio like most of us undertook as undergrads. The students focused more on integrating design studios with other courses that focused upon skills needed to stay ahead in today’s job market.

Course requirements suggested included lecture courses on sustainability, international design perspectives and practices, business management, project management, and interpersonal / presentation communication. Hands-on workshop classes included web-design, integrative marketing, evolving technologies, daylighting, lighting, acoustics, and emerging materials. A broad spectrum of classes currently rarely offered in today’s BFA in Interior Design Programs.

There were other suggestions as well, such as developing sustainability-based schools where sustainability permeated everything from operations to assignments. Students suggested service-oriented learning where students engaged in design activities through pro-bono projects or applied course work to community service projects.

With really intriguing ideas such as these emerging from a short class charette, I will be curious to see what emerges in Interior Design Education in the future.
-Dr. C

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10 Responses to Changes in Interior Design Education

  1. Camilla Waston says:

    As a grad student who is interested in teaching later in my career, this assignment was a great exercise in how to structure curriculum and courses that offer an educational experience for the students rather than just trying to reach the required technical skills for the courses. The team I worked with to create an educational plan had educational backgrounds in communications, interior design, architecture and graphic design. We found that millennial learners are interested in diversity, technology and collaboration, so it was important to create courses that used teaching methods that integrated these concepts. We tried to offer courses that encouraged interaction with other design disciplines, awareness of global and social issues as well as build graphic and oral communication. It was important for us to create a well rounded curriculum that equipped the student with the proper tools to be forward thinking designers as well as forward thinking adults which we believe to be a vital asset in the industry today.

  2. LeslieHo says:

    In terms of education, I believe Interior Design students needs to have a more diverse knowledge base than any other design related education. Similar to architecture, it is essential for interior design students to have some knowledge on the technical areas, such as structural (architecture), mechanical (electronic & services), and construction work. This will equip the student the basic knowledge needed to understand how different components join and connect together to create a space or building; hence, from my own experience, this knowledge would be beneficial during collaborative stages with architects and different engineers.

    In relation to the current digital age, integration of computer technology is also essential. For example, I believe both the interior design profession and education would benefit from having courses dedicated to offer student hands on experience to computer programs such as daylight and heat simulation. For years, those simulation programs have been an integrated part within evidence based design processes to assist decision-making in architecture and many other fields. As designers, I feel that our work would gain additional recognition from using such methodology of design.

  3. Frankie says:

    With so much technology in the profession these days, I was glad to see that most of the plans included hands-on classes. When speaking with a friend of mine who works at HOK, she commented that when interviewing SCAD Graduates, they noticed a lack of hand drawing and sense of scale. I was surprised at that when I think about the number of hand-drawn assignments I’ve been given while going here. Perhaps SCAD needs to do a better job at helping these graduates with their portfolios. It may seem “old school” but hand-drawing is still considered an asset in the profession.

  4. Camilla Waston says:

    Speaking as a person who relies heavily on computers during my design process, I believe that sketching and working out concept by hand first is a strong way to bond with your project and understand the fundamentals of design like scale and proportion. Having a hands on approach to design is very essential before jumping into computer aided drafting. You definitely have to learn to walk before you can run.

    Chris Reply:

    I completely agree Camilla! Having a working knowledge of hand drafting AND sketching skills is huge! I have personally generated impromptu hand sketches of floor plans, elevations, and perspectives to clients. In the real world you may not have the luxury of going to the computer to generate a concept. You have to be able to show the client something immediately. Not being able to generate a physical concept to a client can be a make or break situation.

    Brody Shores Reply:

    Exercise #2 was a rather interesting exercise for myself seeing as my undergraduate degree was completed in the field of engineering, and my only experience with a design curriculum has been my past year here at SCAD Atlanta. One of my group members has an undergraduate degree and professional experience in interior design, while my other group member has an undergraduate degree in architecture. So the collaboration of ideas for an improved interior design curriculum was an enlightening experience. Surprisingly, we shared many of the same ideas when it came to structuring the program.
    The only change to our program I would have wanted to see is the addition of more technical classes, assuming that art foundation courses were completed before beginning this particular program. As an engineer, the idea of the integration of such a strongly analytical based undergraduate degree combined with a master’s in the fine arts greatly excites me. This exercise proved to me that there is a place for the existence of such programs, where students are neither strongly left brain nor right brain. I only wish I would have discovered a program like this 8 years ago.

    Brody Shores Reply:

    Please disregard the post above. That was suppose to be my comment to the main post.

    What I wanted to say in regards to Chris and Camilla’s post is that I agree with the art of concepting by hand, but I think there should be instances in design education that the construction of the project is done by hand as well. Having hands on experience in construction is such an eye opener to how buildings go together and how they function.

  5. Chris says:

    As a current MFA Interior Design candidate at SCAD, as well as a fairly recent undergraduate in the field of interior design, I have personally seen drastic changes in the educational structure of Interior Design. Whether or not this shift is positive or negative isn’t really for me to say, however the results will soon be evident as undergraduate interior designers soon enter the workplace and/or graduate studies.
    The most obvious difference to me is the shift in didactic learning methods to more interactive approaches. This basic shift in the hermeneutical understanding of interior design education is huge! For instance as an undergraduate, the emphasis was on understaffing the principles of design and designing itself through multiple studios. Programs now are moving away from these outdated ‘trade school’ practices, to more of an academic approach to design. For instance the concept of evidence based design and a social conscious and global perspective are now taking center stage as the most important subjects in an undergraduate curriculum. Obviously as a graduate student these principles are crucial to an advanced understanding of design, however I personally wonder if undergraduates should be focused on such matters? I personally feel that my ‘old school’ undergraduate approach served me very well in my professional work experience.

  6. Brody Shores says:

    Exercise #2 was a rather interesting exercise for myself seeing as my undergraduate degree was completed in the field of engineering, and my only experience with a design curriculum has been my past year here at SCAD Atlanta. One of my group members has an undergraduate degree and professional experience in interior design, while my other group member has an undergraduate degree in architecture. So the collaboration of ideas for an improved interior design curriculum was an enlightening experience. Surprisingly, we shared many of the same ideas when it came to structuring the program.
    The only change to our program I would have wanted to see is the addition of more technical classes, assuming that art foundation courses were completed before beginning this particular program. As an engineer, the idea of the integration of such a strongly analytical based undergraduate degree combined with a master’s in the fine arts greatly excites me. This exercise proved to me that there is a place for the existence of such programs, where students are neither strongly left brain nor right brain. I only wish I would have discovered a program like this 8 years ago.

  7. AliWest says:

    I am just beginning my studies in Interior Design, so it was interesting to put together an education plan for a field I knew little about. I have my undergraduate degree in Communications and Marketing, and I was fortunate to have two interior design graduates in my group. After collaborating with my group members it was interesting to compile a list of classes and projects we thought were important in our own education. We supplemented the design and studio courses with technology, marketing and business classes. Every class in our curriculum was significant to the student’s development as a business professional and socially responsible designer. The curriculum encouraged global interaction and hands-on projects. I was shocked by the number of courses we thought were indispensable to the curriculum. This assignment clarified why so many educators are pushing for Interior Design to be a 5-year undergraduate curriculum.