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NOTED INTERIOR DESIGN PROGRAMS IN ARCHITECTURE, FINE ARTS, AND
HUMAN ECOLOGY: A COMPARISON OF CURRICULUM, FACULTY, AND
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF INTERIOR DESIGN
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This research is dedicated to my grandmother, Berta Voorhees, who constantly inspires
me through her love of design.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Margaret Portillo for her innovative
ideas, dedication, and inspiration as well as Dr. Mary Joyce Hasell for assisting me with
her valuable research skills. I would also like to express my gratitude to the program
heads from the six interior design programs for agreeing to participate in this study and
for their time. In addition, I want to thank Alexandra Miller for her guidance and
friendship. Last but not least, I thank my family for their constant encouragement. In
particular, I would like to thank my parents for their constant support and for helping me
achieve my dreams.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ......... ................................................................................... iv
LIST OF TABLES .............. .......... ... .. ........ ............ vii
LIST OF FIGURES .............. ......... ..... .................. viii
1 IN TR O D U C T IO N ............................................................. .. ......... ...... .....
P urp ose ............................................................. . 3
S ig n ifican ce ....................................................... 4
A ssum options ................................................................. 7
D elim stations ................................................................................................. ..... ... 9
S u m m a ry .......................................................................................................1 0
2 L IT E R A TU R E R E V IE W ...................................................................................... 11
Interior D esign E du cation ...................................................................................... 13
D epartm ent H om e H history ................................................................................. ......18
A rc h ite ctu re .................................................................................................... 1 8
F in e A rts .................................................................. 2 0
H u m an E co lo g y .............................................................................................. 2 1
Professionalism in Interior D esign ....................................................... 23
Directions for Interior Design ................................. ......................... ......26
S u m m a ry ................................................................................................................ 2 9
3 M E T H O D O L O G Y ................................................................................................ 30
C a se S election n C criteria .......................................................................................... 3 1
P ro c e d u re ........................................................................................3 3
C o n te n t A n aly sis .................................................................................................... 3 6
C u rricu lu m ...................................................................................................... 3 6
F a c u lty ............................................................................................................ 3 8
A lum ni ..................................................................................................... .......39
L im stations ....................................................................................................... ........ 4 1
S u m m a ry ......................................................................................................4 2
4 F IN D IN G S .................................................................................. 4 4
C curriculum ....................................................................................................... ........ 46
A rc h ite ctu re .................................................................................................... 4 8
F in e A rts ................................................................................ 5 1
H u m an E co lo g y .............................................................................................. 5 3
Sum m ary ............................................................................................. ......... 56
F a cu lty ................................................................5 8
A rc h ite ctu re .................................................................................................... 5 9
F in e A rts .................................................................. 62
H u m an E co lo g y .............................................................................................. 6 4
S u m m ary ............................................................................... 6 6
A lu m n i ................................................................6 6
A rc h ite ctu re .................................................................................................... 6 7
F in e A rts .................................................................. 69
H u m an E co lo g y .............................................................................................. 7 0
Sum m ary ............................................................................................. ......... 7 1
C conclusion ....................................................................................................... ........ 72
5 D ISC U S SIO N ............................................................................... 73
Program A nalysis.................................................. 73
C u rricu lu m ...................................................................................................... 7 4
F a c u lty ............................................................................................................ 7 8
A lum ni ............................................................................... ...... ..... ......................80
Alternative Interpretations of Findings ........................................ .....83
F utu re R research .................................................................85
R ecom m endations..... ..........................................86
S u m m a ry ................................................................................................................ 8 7
C conclusion ....................................................................................................... ........ 89
A LETTER REQUESTING PARTICIPATION ...................................................90
B C O N SE N T F O R M ................................................................................................. 9 1
C IN TER V IEW Q U E STIO N S .................................................................................. 93
D C U R R IC U L U M ................................................................. .................. 96
E A L U M N I ............................................................................................................. 1 0 0
R E F E R E N C E S ............................................................................103
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ...................................................................................... 106
LIST OF TABLES
4-1 Interior design program curriculum by credit hour............................. ...............47
4-2 Faculty inform action .............................................. .. ........ .. ........ .... 60
4-3 Alum ni place ent upon graduation ........................................ ...... ............... 68
LIST OF FIGURES
4-1 Program course distribution .......................................................................57
4-2 Alum ni em ployer type distribution ............................................... ............... 71
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Interior Design
NOTED INTERIOR DESIGN PROGRAMS IN ARCHITECTURE, FINE ARTS, AND
HUMAN ECOLOGY: A COMPARISON OF CURRICULUM, FACULTY, AND
Chair: Margaret Portillo
Major Department: Interior Design
Interior design educational programs accredited by the Foundation for Interior
Design Education Research (FIDER) are found in a variety of academic homes within
public land-grant universities. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare noted
interior design programs found in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. The
programs under study were identified through a national ranking of interior design
programs. This study explored relationships among the academic unit and the curriculum
content, faculty characteristics, and alumni placement. The three variables were
examined through a content analysis of each program's most recent accreditation report.
Following the content analysis, interviews with each program head were conducted to
gain additional information about the variables under study.
Both similarities and differences were found among the six programs. The interior
design programs appeared to share the same overall curriculum structure of design
studios, design support courses, and liberal arts requirements. The faculty educational
backgrounds also seemed quite similar across programs. Notable differences were also
detected, including the allocation of credit hours required for design studios, the point of
selective admissions, faculty NCIDQ certification and professional licensing status, and
alumni placement. However, differences on the variables researched did not appear to
support distinct identities by academic unit.
This study has created a beginning understanding of noted accredited programs
housed in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. The accreditation reports provided
extensive information on curriculum and faculty with some insights on alumni and this
data, coupled with information from program heads, resulted in profiles of the programs.
Further research is encouraged to offer a comprehensive understanding of interior design
educational programs and strategic directions for the profession. A challenge is to
continually assess and re-evaluate interior design education to be assured that the students
of today, who will lead the profession into the future, are receiving the best education
The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) defines interior design as "a
multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a
structure to achieve a built interior environment" (ASID website, 2003, I1). Since
interior design is both an art and a science, interior design educational programs can be
found in different academic homes within colleges and universities. Most commonly,
they are housed in academic units of architecture, fine arts, and human ecology.
Interior design programs can be found in Colleges of Architecture. Architecture
can be defined as "the art and science of designing and building structure, or large groups
of structures, in keeping with aesthetic and functional criteria" (Harris, 2000, p. 47). In
architecture, the art and science of a building focuses on defining a spatial volume.
Programs commonly found in Colleges of Architecture include landscape architecture,
urban and regional planning, and sometimes building construction.
Another common academic home for interior design is fine arts. Fine arts is "a
term used broadly to encompass processes and products in art which are judged primarily
in terms of their aesthetic value and theoretical significance, as opposed to those which
have a specific practical function, as in applied arts" (Martin, 1986, p. 80). While both
architecture and fine arts emphasize the aesthetic value of an object, architecture also
takes functionality into account. Other disciplines frequently categorized under fine arts
include drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture (Mayer, 1969).
A third academic unit that typically houses interior design is human ecology.
Human Ecology, which was formally known as home economics, centers on the physical
environment, specifically focusing on how it supports people. The field is divided into
four main subdivisions: food, clothing, shelter, and household and institutional
management (Nerad, 1999). In addition to interior design, contemporary human ecology
units usually house divisions of family and consumer sciences, nutrition and food
science, and human development and family studies.
Since interior design focuses on both the creative and technical aspects of a space
with an emphasis on human users, its educational programs are able to exist in
architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Interior design programs are professional
programs and are accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research
(FIDER). An accrediting body assures minimum competencies are being met for entry
into a profession. However, there is an additional need to examine the status of design
education more broadly to identify best practices and create recommendations for future
A notable example of this occurred in 1996 when the American Institutes of
Architectures (AIA) sponsored the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching to assess architecture education and provide a blueprint for the future. This
influential study resulted in the book Building Community: A New Future for
Architecture Education and Practice, commonly referred to as the Boyer report (Boyer &
Mitgang, 1996). While the Boyer report was conducted in the field of architecture,
findings and recommendations also could be applied to allied design disciplines.
Some proposed goals for architectural education focus on social impact where
design programs become less insular and make a difference to the greater community.
Other goals recommend maintaining quality standards while allowing for flexibility and
diversity. In a related way, another recommendation focuses on better connecting the
liberal arts and architecture curriculum and increasing opportunities to specialize.
Further, goals support creating a multi-modal and supportive climate for learning. Final
goals relate to developing a better connection between programs and practice as well as
The purpose of this study is to examine FIDER-accredited interior design programs
found in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Specifically, this study explores
relationships among the academic unit and the curriculum content, faculty characteristics,
and alumni placement in noted interior design programs through a content analysis of
program accreditation reports and interviews with program heads. This study posed the
* Do noted interior design programs reveal similarities and/or differences in
curriculum, faculty, and alumni by their distinct academic homes?
The variables under study are critical factors in interior design education and are
central to the FIDER accreditation standards. A key variable was curriculum since
FIDER places an emphasis on interior design curriculum in nine of the twelve standards.
These standards list skills that must be evident in student work; however, curriculum
content is not strictly prescribed for accredited programs and the courses taught may help
shape the identity of the program. Interior design programs have the freedom to offer
courses that best relate to the program focus. Another standard focuses solely on faculty
credentials. Faculty educational and professional background plays an important role in
helping students receive an education encompassing a variety of essential skills and
knowledge in interior design. Finally, a standard focusing on assessment requires input
from alumni placement for program development. Each programs' alumni are a
testament in part to the education they received and their placement in the profession
recognizes the program's success.
Discovering if select programs in three distinct academic homes have significant
similarities or differences has implications for interior design education and accreditation.
If the programs appear to be quite similar in terms of their curriculum, faculty, and
alumni this would suggest homogeneity across interior design programs. On the other
hand, if significant differences were found between programs within academic homes this
would support the flexibility of FIDER's standards to accommodate specialized
programs. Also, it may confirm that interior design programs are utilizing the flexibility
of the FIDER standards, resulting in diversity among programs.
Furthermore, while FIDER has developed standards to ensure that entry-level
designers graduate with minimum competencies, determining significant differences
between programs may be the initial step at educating beyond standards to uncover a
specialization(s) within interior design programs. Specializations reflect a more mature
discipline and attract likeminded faculty and students. Further, design firms may recruit
graduates from particular programs based on a perceived specialization.
Formalized interior design professional education is relatively new compared to
many other fields of study. The Parsons School of Design, founded by Frank Alvah
Parsons in 1906, was the first interior design school in the United States (Parsons
website, 2004). Compared to early medical schools, such as Harvard, established in
1782, the interior design profession is comparatively young (Harvard website, 2005).
The professionalization of interior design began only 35 years ago, as did the
development of FIDER, to ensure excellence in interior design education through an
accreditation process (FIDER website, 2005). The goal of accreditation is often to
achieve uniformity among programs (Harvey, 2004). While FIDER requires interior
design programs to meet a set of standards that create a degree of uniformity among
programs, their standards focus on student outcomes and are not prescriptive of the
course content or how courses are to be taught. As a result, there is a need to understand
whether or not accredited programs are utilizing the flexibility of FIDER standards by
implementing diverse approaches to the program.
Although accreditation acts as a safeguard to ensure quality in education,
accreditation standards that are too restrictive may constrain the program's creativity,
which would ultimately lead to uniformity among programs. Therefore, FIDER
established universal learning outcomes to be taught in a variety of ways. For example,
codes from the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) can
be taught through design exercises, written exams, research, or any combination of the
above. FIDER's curriculum guidelines or "indicators" need to be evident in student work
described in the accreditation report and produced in displayed projects. As a result, the
courses types the programs are utilizing may demonstrate distinctive qualities of the
program. In turn, programs with significant differences may be on a path to cultivate
distinct program identities.
Differences between FIDER-accredited interior design programs by academic
home have been found in previous research. A study by White and Dickson (1996)
examined major themes in FIDER-accredited interior design program's mission
statements in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology and determined the value
administrators placed on program factors and faculty productivity. They found that
regardless of the university type, teaching, research, and service emerged as important
components of the mission. Most interior design program heads cited externally funded
research projects and peer reviewed journal publications as most valuable to university
administration. However, programs housed in architecture and art demonstrated greater
support for creative scholarship, which include juried exhibitions, invited exhibitions, and
published creative projects, suggesting research is defined and valued differently in these
programs compared to human ecology that may support a more empirical approach to
Contrary to White and Dickson's (1996) findings, a research study by Nutter
(2001) that also compared interior design programs by academic home found
overwhelming similarities among programs housed in units of architecture, fine arts, and
human ecology. Nutter's study first involved in-depth historical analysis of the three
academic homes followed by a multiple case study of eight interior design programs
found within these units. These case studies were carried out through a questionnaire
examining the programs' historical information, current program information,
curriculum, and faculty. Nutter found that while programs in architecture had the most
overall credits and internship requirements, there are no significant differences found
among the number or courses required in relation to technical skills, environmental
systems, special topics, and history/theory. A difference that was noted was that art
related programs require an initial portfolio review before admittance to the program.
White and Dickson's (1996) scope was limited to three elements: program factors,
faculty productivity, and programs' mission statements that explored topics such as
diversity, student retention, and coursework as well as faculty research projects,
published work, and conferences. There is a need to examine variables that contribute
directly to the education of the students such as the curriculum content, faculty training,
and alumni placement to compare programs of different academic homes. Although
Nutter examined the curriculum and faculty, the results concerning faculty were not
discussed. Also, Nutter did not study alumni, which greatly contribute to the identity of
interior design programs. Therefore, curriculum and faculty need to be explored in-depth
with the inclusion of alumni placement to ascertain how interior design educational goals
are changing and developing in six highly ranked programs.
It is important to note the assumptions underlying this study. First, the researcher
assumes that there are many effective ways to teach interior design. FIDER standards are
written to accommodate different pedagogic approaches to interior design education. The
intent of this study is not to discover the best form of interior design education, but rather
to identify any unique qualities of interior design programs defining architecture, fine
arts, or human ecology academic homes.
Secondly, it is assumed that the majority of FIDER-accredited interior design
programs are found within architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. As of May 2005,
there are 137 FIDER-accredited interior design programs in North America (FIDER
website, 2005). Specifically, of the 137 FIDER accredited programs, roughly 75% are
dispersed among the three academic homes of architecture, fine arts, or human ecology.
Therefore, this study focuses on examining programs from these academic homes to
uncover similarities and/or differences between interior design programs found within
Thirdly, the sample is assumed to represent high quality interior design programs
and will include six noted interior design programs that ranked top 15 nationally on the
Designlntelligence ranking at least once between 2000 and 2003 (Designlntelligence
website 1, 2002). This helped ensure strong interior design programs were selected for
participation and controlled perceived overall quality of the programs.
Designlntelligence ranks interior design educational programs on a survey sent out to
both interior design firms as well as to architectural firms with interior design
departments asking what recent hires are the most qualified for 'real-world' practice and
what programs they graduated from (Designlntelligence website 1, 2002). Being well
prepared for industry and practice ensures that the student obtained a comprehensive
education in interior design.
Finally, the researcher also assumes that the Program Analysis Report (PAR), a
self-study document developed for FIDER accreditation by members of each program,
accurately reflects the programs being examined. The authors of the PAR documents are
assumed to have represented the program accurately. Also, the researcher assumes that
each program head interviewed was knowledgeable and had provided accurate
information for the questions asked. As a note, at the time of the accreditation of each
program, this document was known as the Program Evaluation Report (PER), but the
name of this self-study was recently changed to PAR and the acronym will be used
throughout the duration of the thesis.
Programs in this study were limited to FIDER-accredited interior design programs
that have been accredited since the most recent major revision to the FIDER standards,
which occurred in 2000. The next delimitation was that this study only selected
programs that ranked in the top 15 on the Designlntelligence survey between 2000 and
2003. During this period, Designlntelligence evaluated programs solely on employers'
opinions of graduates and did not include other quality indications.
Another delimitation involved the location of the academic unit. Only programs
found in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology were considered for selection since
approximately 75% of FIDER-accredited programs are located in those units. Finally,
the only programs meeting the aforementioned selection criteria and opting to participate
in this study were found in public land-grant institutions. This ensured a common
university type with a tri-fold mission of research, teaching, and service.
A final delimitation related to overlaps in the academic structure between
architecture and fine arts. For example, colleges that have 'design' in their title could be
classified in either category. Therefore, a decision was made to categorize the program
by academic structure. If the interior design program was a department within the
college, the program was categorized based on the college organization. On the other
hand, if the program was housed within a multi-disciplinary department, it was
categorized by the department organization.
The field of interior design education is young compared to other disciplines. By
assuring quality in interior design educational programs, FIDER contributed to the
professionalization of the discipline. Its accreditation standards allow for flexibility to
meet the creative and technical aspects of this multi-faceted profession. Given the multi-
faceted nature of interior design, a majority of accredited programs exist across academic
units of architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Few research studies have compared
interior design programs within architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Therefore,
the purpose of this study is to identify possible similarities and differences among six
noted interior design programs' curriculum, faculty, and alumni found within these
Interior design can be traced to the first permanent settlements, Mesopotamia, and
Ancient Egypt, which date back to 3500 B.C.E (Pile, 2000). However, major
advancements in interior design education did not begin until approximately 100 years
ago with the establishment of the first interior design program in the United States by
Frank Alvah Parsons in 1906, at the Chase School in New York. The school was named
after William Merrit Chase, an American Impressionist painter. In 1939, nine years after
the death of Parsons, the school officially changed its name to the current name of
Parsons School of Design. As interior design education continued to take hold and
expand in North American, so too did the need to ensure the quality of this professional
The founding of the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) in
1970 represented a critical milestone in assuring excellence in interior design education.
A key role of the foundation is to develop educational standards to ensure students
graduating from accredited programs have minimum competencies for entry-level
designers. Typically, the rationale of accrediting bodies is to achieve unity across
programs (Harvey, 2004). FIDER requires uniformity in that all programs must
demonstrate they have met the competencies required for accreditation, but there is
flexibility in how the standards are achieved.
FIDER does not prescribe a single way to educate students. "Programmes may be
accredited for their academic standing or they may be accredited to produce graduates
with professional competence to practice, usually referred to as 'professional
accreditation"' (Harvey, 2004, p. 208). FIDER, as a professional accreditation body,
bases accreditation largely on student outcomes as opposed to program inputs. For that
reason and other historical drivers, interior design programs can be found in different
academic homes within a university system such as architecture, fine arts or human
The FIDER standards are overseen by the nine members of the Board of Directors.
Five different constituent groups each appoint a member to serve on the board, while the
remaining directors represent the public, industry, FIDER-accredited interior design
programs, and FIDER Accreditation Commission. One of the constituent groups
represented on the board is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification
(NCIDQ) (FIDER Accreditation Manual, 2005). The NCIDQ was founded in 1972, soon
after the establishment of FIDER, by the American Institute of Interior Designers (AID)
and the National Society of Interior Designers (NSID) (NCIDQ website, 2005). Since
then, the AID and NSID merged and are currently known as the American Society of
Interior Designers (ASID). The NCIDQ council "serves to identify to the public those
interior designers who have met the minimum standards for professional practice by
passing the NCIDQ examination" (NCIDQ website, 2005, 12). The NCIDQ exam is
required by select states to practice as an interior designer. Currently, there are sixteen
states, including the District of Columbia, which require their interior designers to take
the NCIDQ exam in order to practice as interior designers. Of the six programs
examined in this study, three are located in states that require NCIDQ certification.
The NCIDQ examination is based on a pass or fail grading. Since there are two
sections to the exam, it is possible that a designer can pass one section and not the other.
In that situation, they only have to retake the section that was not passed. Similarly,
FIDER accreditation is based on the same notion. Interior design programs either receive
accreditation through the fulfillment of meeting the 12 standards, or they do not.
Although there is no official ranking for FIDER-accredited interior design programs by
FIDER, for the past six years the Designlntelligence has ranked U.S. architecture and
interior design schools; the only national college ranking survey that focuses exclusively
on design (Designlntelligence website 2, 2004).
Designlntelligence ranks FIDER-accredited interior design programs based on a
survey distributed to both interior design firms as well as architecture firms with interiors
departments (Designlntelligence website 2, 2004). Leading firms of all sizes were
selected across the country. Specifically, the firms were leaders in a variety of market
sectors such as healthcare, commercial, and institutional. Those in the firm who are
involved in hiring are asked which graduates they have recruited/hired over the past five
years are the most qualified for 'real-world' practice and which schools they come from.
From the results of the survey, the top 10 interior design programs are ranked. The
Designlntelligence journal is published monthly "by Greenway Communications for the
Design Futures Council" (Designlntelligence website 2, 2004).
Interior Design Education
FIDER-accredited interior design programs are primarily located in academic units
of architecture, fine arts, and human ecology and these units often house different
academic programs. Therefore, is the college focus different in these academic homes to
reflect the diverse disciplines found within them? Although a fair amount of pedagogical
research has been conducted in interior design, only a small number of research studies
have sought to understand whether interior design academic homes have any influence on
the interior design programs.
However, one study that investigated interior design programs by academic home
was conducted by Nutter (2001) at the University of Cincinnati. Nutter's two-part thesis
first involved "an analysis of the historical development of the three departmental
locations of interior design programs in American Universities" (2001, p.15). To
examine issues in the historical development of these units, Nutter performed a case
study of eight FIDER-accredited interior design programs in architecture, fine arts, and
human ecology. Information for the case study was obtained through print material from
both the program and college in addition to a survey that was completed by eight
department heads or upper-level representatives of the interior design programs. Two
programs from each of the academic homes were represented in the case study along with
two programs within the same university.
Through the historical development, Nutter (2001) found that times of war seem to
directly relate to the important milestones in interior design because females generally
dominate the interior design profession. Also, Nutter found that in the early years of
interior design in the United States, there were many different educational methods and
frameworks that may have influenced the complex history of this discipline. However,
the increased professional movement in interior design has led the profession away from
residential design and housing. Nutter (2001) noted the trend of restructuring where:
In order to attain a higher level of training and respect for its practicing
professionals, has also inspired a trend to remove programs of interior design from
department of home economics in search of a more 'prestigious' location (such as
architecture) (p. 81).
However, in her case study, Nutter (2001) also found that faculty and students in
home economics units felt that their academic home was the stronger than architecture or
find arts. Similarly, programs in architecture and fine arts felt their academic home was
the strongest. Programs in architecture rated human ecology programs as the weakest
and fine arts programs fell somewhere in between. On the other hand, programs in home
economics felt that their programs represented a healthy balance between architecture
and fine art programs. Specifically, architecture programs were "very technical or
mechanical with less artistic creativity" and art programs focused on "practical,
professional, or technical skills" (Nutter, 2001, p. 86).
In addition, Nutter (2001) found evidence supporting "the ongoing narrowing effect
of professionalization the decrease in variety of educational options in interior design as
professionalization increases" (p. 89) creating homogeneity among interior design
programs. Programs were found to lack significant curriculum differences, providing
support of homogeneity across the interior design programs studied. While programs in
art seemed to be the most satisfied with their current state, programs in home economics
appeared to be in the greatest position of fluctuation with plans for significant
restructuring and curriculum changes. Architecture programs also supported growth,
particularly in the area of graduate education.
Based on a convenience sample, Nutter examined a small number of FIDER-
accredited interior design programs housed in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology.
Therefore, the findings could be attributed to the quality of the program and not solely on
the academic unit. Selecting programs with consistent quality would have added
creditability to the study. In addition, Nutter's case study relied solely on printed
program literature, such as program catalogs, as well as a survey sent to program heads.
The use of interviews with program heads would have allowed for more detailed answers
and a better understanding of the program.
Overall, Nutter (2001) did not find significant differences between interior design
programs in the variables she examined. However, a study by White and Dickson (1996)
examined different variables and found evidence for differences between interior design
programs in distinct academic units. They examined FIDER-accredited interior design
programs to "identify the elements critical to the mission statements of colleges and
universities... and to determine administrators' perceptions of program factors and
faculty products and activities that define value" (p. 25). The majority of programs
examined were located under the same department homes that were explored in this
study. One part of White and Dickson's study was an analysis of mission statements
from FIDER-accredited interior design programs to identify elements most critical to
their program. Critical elements of mission statements were found to be teaching,
research, and service.
Additionally, White and Dickson (1996) conducted two surveys to examine
program factors and faculty products and activities most valued by administrators. Their
initial survey was sent out to administrators at the department or program level who were
to brainstorm questions that could be asked of upper level administrators regarding
measures of program values in relation to their program's mission. Eighty-four
questionnaires were distributed and 36 responded resulting in a 43% response rate. From
the results of this initial survey, a second survey was developed. The second survey was
varied according to the different administrative levels. Presidents of schools with FIDER-
accredited programs were asked about mission statements, while deans and department
chairs were asked about program factors, faculty products, and activities of the program.
Out of the 81 different schools that were surveyed, 59 schools responded to create a
sample of 49 administrators (e.g., 35 deans and 24 department chairs). University types
that were represented in the sample include public land-grant, public non-land-grant
schools and universities, and private institutions. Program factors that were perceived to
be the most critical to administrators were faculty research and large numbers of
undergraduate majors. Further, administration most valued faculty productivity in terms
of refereed journal publications and externally funded research projects. Though,
programs within architecture and art academic appeared to define research differently in
that they showed greater support for creative aspects of the discipline.
White and Dickson (1996) utilized a national sample of interior design programs
and provided a broad overview on three variables: program mission statements, program
factors, and faculty products. In their results, they collapsed information concerning
architecture and fine art programs; however, it would be beneficial to examine these two
academic homes independently. Furthermore, their study did not evaluate variables that
directly relate to the educational factors associated with the program. For example, the
curriculum is important in determining if similarities or differences occur among
programs within different academic homes. Also, the faculty educational backgrounds
and alumni placement are also important components of a program. Therefore, an in
depth analysis is needed to explore other information that is essential to the program to
verify their findings.
Department Home History
Currently there are an estimated 350 four-year interior design educational programs
(Mattson, personal communication, April 2005), with 137 of these programs accredited
by FIDER (FIDER website, 2005). The accredited programs are found in various
institution types such as design industry schools, universities, and private colleges.
Those FIDER-accredited interior design programs found in public university systems are
most frequently found in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology units. Their histories
are explored below.
In 1814, President Thomas Jefferson proposed an architecture school at the
University of Virginia. However, plans for the school were postponed when the search
for an architect proved unsuccessful. According to the America Institute of Architects
(AIA), the first professional architecture program was offered by the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in 1868 (AIA website, 2005). Soon after, architecture programs
were established at Cornell University in 1871 and at the University of Illinois in 1873.
However, conflicting reports from the University of Illinois state that their program
actually began in 1870, with their first student graduating in 1873 (University of Illinois
These early programs emulated the pedagogy of the Ecole Beaux-Art, practiced in
Europe. At the time when architecture education was being incorporated into the
university systems in the United States, the Ecole des Beaux-Art method was a popular
teaching technique for architecture. The Association of Collegiate Schools of
Architecture (ACSA) describes how the Beaux-Arts education was implemented.
Students were assigned a 'design problem' at the beginning of the term. They "began as
an esquisse, or sketch problem, and ended en charrette.... [which] refers to the carts in
which the finished drawings were placed at the deadline hour for transport to the 'master'
for critique" (ACSA website, 1998-2005, 5). Ajury system was used to judge the
projects consisting of professors and guest architects without the presence of students,
unlike design juries today.
The Bauhaus movement found by Walter Gropius, that later resulted as the Modem
Movement, was another major influence in American architecture education (Nutter,
2001). In 1919, Gropius founded the Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar, more famously
known as simply the Bauhaus. He thought "design should ideally evolve from a
humanistic approach, and maintained that design's ability to respond in both form and
process to the social and economic necessities of society as a fundamental" (Carmel-
Arthur, 2000, p. 20). The Bauhaus "emphasized technology and the need for well-made,
practical designs for mass production" (Miller, 2003, p. 133). Furthermore, the designs
were uncomplicated, stylized, and lacked ornamentation. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a
famous Bauhaus architect, further emphasized the design rationale with a 'less is more'
philosophy evident in his designs.
Although the school was only open for 14 years, it "has been called the most
influential, as well as notorious, art school of the twentieth century" (Carmel-Arthur,
2000, p. 10). Gropius' influence came directly to the United States in 1937 when he
accepted a professorship at Harvard University. Although there have been many other
influences on architecture education over the years, elements of both the Bauhaus
movement as well as the Ecole des Beaux-Art method are still evident in architecture
Artists have trained themselves since the colonial times by studying works of other
artists and by repeated practice in drawing, composition, and painting (Bolger, 1976).
Early art institutions became a place where the self-trained artist could further pursue
their education (Bolger, 1976). The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the first art
academy in the United States, was established in 1805 (Pennsylvania Academy of Fine
Arts website, 2002). Founded by Charles Willson Peale, a painter and scientist, William
Rush, a sculptor, as well as other artists and business leaders, the academy houses the
oldest art museum in the country. Another early art institute, the National Academy of
Design in New York, was established in 1825 and is considered "one of the two most
prestigious and powerful American art institutions throughout the nineteenth century,"
(Bolger, 1976, p. 52).
During the first half of the nineteenth century, these early American art institutes
focused primarily on drawing antique casts so artists could learn proportions (Bolger,
1976). Soon after, human model courses were added, adapted from the European art
academies. To fully understand the human body, anatomy classes were supplemented
into the curriculum (Bolger, 1976). An important advancement in American art
education occurred during the third quarter of the nineteenth century when the student-
teacher relationship was established, which corresponded with developments in the
European academic system (Bolger, 1976). At this time, more full-time salary instructors
were hired, which allowed students to develop closer relationships with their professors
and programs were able to develop a formal curriculum and expand the existing
curriculum to include painting, sketching, and composition (Bolger, 1976). Many of the
instructors hired had training in Europe and introduced the techniques into the American
academies (Bolger, 1976).
At the end of the nineteenth century, art schools were challenged to train their
students to be practicing artists (Bolger, 1976). The Cooper Union for the Advancements
of Art and Science opened in 1857 and its curriculum included typical art courses along
with "mechanical, architectural, and ornamental scroll drawings, wood-engraving, and
the design of stained glass, tessellated flowers, ceilings, tiles, and wall paper" (Bolger,
1976). Many other trade schools opened to offer artists' practical training, but the art
academies felt that students should still learn the theoretical training of painters and
sculptors before they learned a specific craft (Bolger, 1976).
Despite the developments of these early art institutions, Smith notes in his book,
The History ofAmerican Art Education (1996), that the Massachusetts Free Instruction in
Drawing Act of 1870 is frequently cited as the official start of American art education.
Walter Smith, a drawing master, was brought from England in 1871 to implement the act.
His students were "required to master skills of representation, that is, to be schooled
under the mimetic theory of art" (Smith, 1996, p. 38). The teaming system Walter Smith
used focused on educating students to become future educators of art, as opposed to
becoming practicing artists (Smith, 1996). His teachings were highly controversial and
even in his time seen as inadequate preparation for artists (Smith, 1996). The researcher
found no documentation on how interior design was incorporated into art schools
throughout the United States.
The passing of the Land-Grant Act, also known as the Morrill Act, in 1862, caused
an important revolution in higher education. The act "made possible a new system of
colleges and universities, democratic in character for all people capable of pursuing an
education beyond high school" (North, 1962, p. 187). Furthermore, North notes "by
tradition, purpose and structure, the Land-grant colleges and universities provided a
natural climate for exploration of family problems and the development of means to help
solve them" (p. 187). Therefore, Colleges of Home Economics were originally part of
Nutter (2001) notes that early home economics education, currently known as
human ecology, stressed nutrition, food service, child development, parent education,
family relations, art and design of clothing, and home design, with the curriculum geared
toward young women. The goal of the early home economics education was to promote
household roles for young women (Stage, 1997). However the development of these
early home economics departments was in themselves creating employment opportunities
for women outside the home in the academic system. Therefore, the curriculum of early
land-grant home economics programs "prepared students more for careers in teaching
and institutional management than for housekeeping" (Stage, 1997, p. 8)
One of the oldest programs offering courses in home economics began in 1900 at
Cornell University. A recent exhibit presented by Cornell University on their website
entitled What was Home Economics: From Domesticity to Modernity, provided a history
of the school through the twentieth century. The Department of Home Economics was
officially established in 1907, with the completion of the first four-year curriculum in
home economics (Cornell website 1, 2001). The Department of Home Economics
became a school in 1919 and finally separated from the College of Agriculture when it
was established as a college in 1925. At this time, the interior design program was
developed within the College of Human Ecology under the Department of Household
Art. It was not until 1984-1985 that the interior design department was formed.
Currently, Cornell University's interior design program is not only FIDER-accredited,
but ranks consistently in the top five in the Designlntelligence survey.
Many Colleges of Home Economics have adopted the new name 'College of
Human Ecology,' with other similar names also being used such as human environmental
sciences, family and consumer sciences, health and human sciences, or applied human
sciences. Cornell's history explains the reason for the change in this way; "by the
1960's, the name 'home economics' often suggested gender stereotypes that many
women were struggling to overcome" (Cornell website 2, 2001, 1). The name was
officially changed in 1969 when faculty were convinced that the name "Human Ecology
which, while somewhat ambiguous, accurately reflected the academic and theoretical
orientation of the College and its diverse concerns with problems of human welfare"
(Cornell website 2, 2001, 13). Currently there are approximately 75% of FIDER-
accredited interior design programs found in colleges of human ecology, or colleges of a
Professionalism in Interior Design
FIDER was founded by two interior design organizations: the Interior Design
Educators Council (IDEC) and the American Institute of Interior Designers (AID). Their
objective was to create excellence through standards implemented in the educational
system in order to meet increasing demands being placed on the profession. There are 12
standards that FIDER requires programs to meet and major revisions to the standards
usually occur every 8-10 years (FIDER Manuel, 2005).
In 1980, soon after the standards were developed, Schrock, Sondhi, and Rogers
(1980) reviewed the FIDER accreditation process to determine if it was accomplishing its
objectives successfully. In order to do so, a two-part questionnaire was utilized. The first
part extracted information from the early FIDER Form referred to as 204, Standards and
Guidelines for Interior Design Accreditation, and FIDER objectives. The second part
focused on the accreditation process and general background of the participants.
The sample was divided into four groups. The first group, containing 25
participants, consisted of members from the FIDER Board of Trustees, the Accreditation
Committee, and the Standards and Guidelines committee. Members of the Guidance
committee and the Board of visitors formed the second group, which had 63 participants.
Groups three and four included 88 department heads/design coordinators from both
FIDER-accredited and non FIDER-accredited programs, which were grouped together for
the analysis. One hundred and seventy-six questionnaires were sent out: however, only
107 were used. Group one had a 68% response rate, group two had a 74.6% response
rate, and groups three and four had a 46.43% response rate.
It was found that 90% of the respondents were satisfied with the accreditation
process, although they agreed that improvement was possible. The fact that a large
portion of the participants included members who were affiliated with the accreditation
process could be seen as a limitation. Although this study is dated, it shows the general
satisfaction with the accreditation process and helps validate the confidence that
educators place on the process. Yet, understanding the expectations employers have for
designers entering the workforce is important as well. What do professionals in interior
design firms look for in entry-level designers upon graduation? What are the trends and
goals in practice and education? The following studies have explored skills that are
important to firms hiring graduates from interior design programs as well as trends
impacting the direction of interior design.
Interior design education programs prepare their students for the professional
workforce. To determine what firms expect in terms of entry-level designers education,
Viard (1996) surveyed 131 firms for their opinions. It was found that 83% of the firms
considered a four-year bachelor's degree a minimum, which 90% consider to be the ideal
level of interior design education. The type of program that they studied in was also
important with 78% responding that it was moderately to extremely important to hire
graduates from a FIDER-accredited program.
Birdsong and Lawlor (2001) also surveyed the opinions of firms on the importance
of graduating from an accredited interior design program. They also examined
perceptions of firms on state licensing, NCIDQ examination, research, and graduate
education with a three-part questionnaire. The first section evaluated opinions related to
the issues listed above. The second section gathered demographic and design firm
information, while the third section gathered open-ended responses.
Participants were selected from the top 100 firms ranked on the Interior Design
magazine's "100 Giants" from January 1996. From the sample, only the firms that had
75 % or more of their staff employed as interior designers and firms that had 50 % or
more of their fees acquired from interior design services were selected, qualifying 43
firms. Approximately five questionnaires were mailed to each firm, totaling 213
questionnaires. The findings were based on 94 surveys.
Similar to Viard's study (1996), Birdsong and Lawlor's (2001) results indicated
that 86.2 % rated accreditation of undergraduate programs as the most important
consideration. This was followed by state licensing with 70.2 %, research with 64.9 %,
NCIDQ exam with 63.9 %, and graduate education at 34.1 %. The low perceived
importance of graduate education could indicate that practitioners are not informed about
graduate education or the role research plays in the profession.
Directions for Interior Design
Also important to determine are the future trends of the profession and interior
design education. Hasell and Scott (1996) conducted a FIDER-sponsored study to
ascertain future trends in interior design. Their comprehensive methods included a
literature scan for emerging trends, focus groups conducted with multiple design
constituencies, as well as surveys distributed to designers in top 200 firms, practitioners,
industry representatives, and educators on trends impacting the interior design profession.
The groups rated environmental conservation, accountability, professional respect, and
teams of specialists as most important to the profession. In terms of education, it is seen
that environmental conservation has become significantly more important since the
publication of this study.
Other recommendations for the future relating to design education have been posed
in the report entitled Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and
Practice (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996), commonly referred to as the Boyer report. Although
intended for architectural education, the recommendations in the study may be applied to
other allied disciplines. The Boyer report attempted to 'renew' architectural education
through an intensive nationwide study that culminated in a framework of seven goals.
Three of the recommendations relate most directly to the focus of this study and are to
achieve diversity i ll/h dignity, standards i iihlitt standardization, and a connected
To achieve diversity in i/i dignity, the Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996) places
importance on the diversity of both architecture programs and faculty members and "the
diversity of the types of philosophies or architectural programs and the richly varied
backgrounds and talents among the nation's architecture faculty are strengths that must
be preserved" (p. 49). The recommendations note that diversity can be achieved when
architecture programs are located in an assortment of academic settings. Since interior
design programs are found in a variety of academic units, this might suggest diversity
i i/i/ dignity may already exist in interior design education. Furthermore, the Boyer
report found that "many architecture programs have developed their own distinctive
personas and specialties" (p. 50). FIDER has made the initial step in interior design
education by identifying programs that meet minimum competencies. A next step may
be to offer design specializations in accredited programs. This would reinforce the trend
in interior design towards increasing teams of specialists (Hasell & Scott, 1996).
The Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996) also recommends that programs have
standards i, iiln,,tt standardization, where there are clear expectations for every student
that also allow for diversity within the various programs. To achieve standards it 1,fit
standardization, the Boyer report proposes that student work and performance should be
based not on blocks of knowledge, but modes of thinking. The National Architectural
Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB) is similar to FIDER in that they both do not mandate
teaching strategies or curriculum content. FIDER is based on notion of standards itihitt
standardization in that they have a set of standards that need to be met, but they way of
achieving them is not prescribed.
Furthermore, a connected curriculum is recommended. In order to achieve this, the
Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996) suggests that the curriculum should have liberal
content to provide students with a comprehensive education beyond their specific
discipline. To become accredited, interior design programs must have a minimum of 30
credit hours in liberal arts and science courses (FIDER Manuel, 2005). Therefore, it can
be assumed that accredited programs are already meeting part of the requirements to
achieve a connected curriculum. However, to attain this goal, the programs' curriculum
should have flexibility that supports students seeking specific specialties. Currently,
there are no known specialization options in interior design education; however interior
design programs may benefit from incorporating the possibility of specialization in their
The remaining recommendations focus on achieving an enriched mission, which
encourages programs to understand their social obligations to the community and
creating a climatefor learning that allows for many forms of communication such as
"written, oral, and three-dimensional representations" (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996, p. 91).
In addition, the Boyer report suggests obtaining a unified profession between the
educators and the practitioners to ensure "enriched learning during school, more
satisfying internships, and sustained learning throughout professional life" (p. 126).
Finally, the Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang, 1996) encourages schools to prepare their
students to provide a service to the nation through four proposed strategies: creating an
engaging atmosphere, educating the students in ways they can help the nation, educating
them with new knowledge, and emphasizing the importance of ethical behavior.
Interior design education, especially the professional movement of interior design,
is still young compared to other disciplines. FIDER was established about 35 years ago
to support interior design education by developing a set of standards interior design
programs must meet in order to become accredited. In response to the creativity and
diversity inherent to the discipline, the standards allow for flexibility in that FIDER does
not prescribe how they are met. For example, interior design programs have been
FIDER-accredited in a variety of settings including architecture, fine arts, and human
While research has been performed on perceptions of accreditation, practitioner
expectations, and trends in interior design, further investigation is needed on the impact
of academic homes on interiors programs. One such study by White and Dickson (1996)
identified differences in college mission statements and administrators' perceptions on
both program factors and faculty products and activities. Conversely, Nutter (2001)
performed a historical analysis and multiple case study, and through the case study found
more similarities than differences. Therefore, further research is needed to further
examine the impact of academic units on interior design programs found within them.
The six participating programs in this study include Cornell University, Iowa State
University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, the University of
Florida, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These accredited programs were
located in three different academic homes, which are architecture, fine arts, and human
ecology. The question driving this study was whether or not interior design programs in
distinct academic locations have significant similarities and/or differences in their
curriculum, faculty, and alumni?
For example, do programs found within architecture emphasize courses associated
with architecture education such as construction documents? Similarly, do programs
found in units of fine arts require more drawing and/or art courses in their curriculum and
programs in human ecology require more social sciences? If differences were found, this
would suggest that the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER)
standards are not prescriptive and therefore allow diversity in program focus. On the
other hand, are the programs so similar that the standards appear to be too restrictive?
These questions were explored through a two-part study. First, a content analysis of
FIDER Program Analysis Reports (PAR) for the six programs was conducted. A PAR is
a self-study written by interior design programs under review for accreditation to assess
how the programs meet the standards. Three areas of the PARs examined were
curriculum, faculty, and alumni. Following the content analysis, interviews were held
with the program heads from each program. The interview data further clarified the
focus of the programs and added additional as well as current information that was not
found in the PARs about the three variables examined.
Case Selection Criteria
The interior design programs in this study were selected using four criteria. First,
each program was required to be accredited by FIDER to assure that programs met
minimum competency standards. Also, the programs were chosen from the
Designlntelligence ranking. This provided a measure of confidence that the eligible
programs were comparable to one another. Approximately 29 programs met these
criterions. The interiors programs chosen to participate in this study were ranked top 15
at least once between 2000 and 2003.
In addition, a major revision to the FIDER standards occurred in 2000. In order to
obtain the most up-to-date information and assure consistency between the programs,
four programs that were last accredited before 2000 were eliminated from the sample,
resulting in 25 qualifying programs. Then eight design and technological institutes were
eliminated leaving 17 interior design programs found in university settings. Programs
that were found in academic homes of architecture, fine arts, and human ecology were
selected. There were approximately six interior programs found within architecture, five
in fine arts, and five in human ecology. The other program was in a College of
Humanities and Social Sciences. The small selection of programs that met the criteria
restricted the sample size.
Nine programs, three from each category, were asked for their participation in the
research study. Six agreed to participate, two from each category. A commonality
among the six programs was that they were all located in public land-grand universities.
The participating programs included Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas
State University, Louisiana State University, the University of Florida, and the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln. Not every program was clearly defined in one category. Two
programs with the term 'design' in their college title could be placed either in the
architecture or fine arts and they were categorized based on the next highest academic
unit they were found within. For example, if the program were located within a
department, then the category would be based on the department organization. On the
other hand, if the program was an independent department within the college, the
category was based on the college. The six programs in the study and the category they
were placed in are stated below.
The programs in Colleges of Architecture chosen for the study are the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Florida. The interior design program at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln is found in the Department of Architecture within the
College of Architecture. At the University of Florida, the Department of Interior Design
is found within a College of Design, Construction, and Planning. This program was
placed into the architecture category because it is a department of interior design within
the college. Furthermore, there are no art programs found within this college.
On the other hand, Iowa State University's interior design program is also located
within a College of Design and houses Departments of Architecture, Art and Design,
Community and Regional Planning, and Landscape Architecture. The interior design
program is found within the Department of Art and Design. In addition to the interior
design program, the department contains programs of graphic design as well as integrated
studio arts and integrated visual arts. Therefore, this program was categorized within the
fine arts division. The other program in the fine arts category is Louisiana State
University. The interiors program at Louisiana State is located within a College of Art
and Design and is an independent Department of Interior Design.
Finally, the human ecology category consisted of Cornell University and Kansas
State University. Cornell University's interior design program is found within the
Department of Design and Environmental Analysis in the College of Human Ecology. At
Kansas State there are two interiors programs recognized by both FIDER and
Designlntelligence. There is the interior design program located within the Department
of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design in the College of Human Ecology and the
Department of Interior Architecture and Product Design is located in the College of
Architecture, Planning, and Design. The researcher chose to have only one program per
institute participate in the study. Due to the small number of programs found within a
College of Human Ecology in the Designlntelligence survey, the interiors program within
the College of Human Ecology was selected to participate.
FIDER lists each accredited interior design program on their website with program
information such as the degree received from attending the program, the academic home
the program is found in, and the head of the program with their corresponding title.
Three of the interior design programs in this study are departments, while three programs
are found within departments along with other disciplines. These three are headed by
interior design Program Coordinators or Directors. Typically, the program head is a
faculty member that teaches within the interior design program. However, in one case,
the program head was also the head of the department, which houses two other
disciplines in addition to interior design. This program head did not teach interior design
The program heads listed on the FIDER website as of January 1, 2005 for the six
programs, were sent a letter requesting the participation of their program in the study.
Approximately a week later, the researcher contacted the program heads to answer any
questions about the study and again to ask for their participation. With each program
head's approval for the participation of their program, the most recent PAR was
requested. Each PAR adhered to the most recent set of guidelines established in 2000.
FIDER provides a format for the information that is incorporated into the four
sections of the PAR. The first section, the introduction, includes basic history and
information about the program including the academic home of the program and any
allied disciplines located in the department. The second section is the largest portion of
the document and describes how the program meets FIDER's twelve accreditation
standards. These standards are in the following order, 1) curriculum structure, 2) design
fundamentals, 3) interior design, 4) communication, 5) building systems and interior
materials, 6) regulations, 7) business and professional practice, 8) professional values, 9)
faculty, 10) facilities, 11) administration, and 12) assessment. Section three is the self-
reporting by the programs of their perceived strengths and weaknesses and section four
includes plans for future development and significant changes.
Since many of the standards focus on program curriculum, faculty, and alumni,
these variables were analyzed by the academic home through a content analysis. The
content analysis involved frequency counts from each category, which allowed for
comparisons to examine the programs curriculum, faculty, and alumni. Curriculum areas
that were explored include whether the program has a selective admissions program,
admission qualifications, and the percentage of studio courses in relation to interior
design support courses and general electives. Faculty background focused on the highest
degree received, degree areas of study, NCIDQ certification, professional experience, and
teaching experience. Employers of alumni were categorized based on their location and
the type of work the company does.
After the content analysis was underway, follow-up interviews were conducted
with the heads from each participating design program to clarify the focus and intent of
their programs. Program heads were contacted in advance to schedule an appointment
for the interview. A consent form approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) was
faxed to each program head to be returned before the interview, which was conducted
over the telephone and was audio-recorded with prior permission.
The goal of the open-ended interview questions was to gather supplement
information presented in the PAR and to update information on curriculum, faculty, and
alumni. On average, each interview took approximately; however, they ranged from 20
to 60 minutes. At the end of each interview, the program head was asked if they would
allow their program's name to be used in the research study. After all six interviews
were completed they were transcribed. In some cases, additional questions or
clarification of interviews were needed. The program head was contacted by email to
resolve these issues. The responses from the interviews were used as supplemental
information to the content analysis.
In total, the data collection occurred over sixteen weeks. The first stage began after
obtaining each program's PAR and required approximately fourteen weeks to complete
the content analysis. Conducting the interviews in stage two required two weeks to
complete. After the information was gathered for the participating programs, it was
examined to compare the different academic units. First, the data for each program was
analyzed individually, then collectively by each academic home. The data was analyzed
through percentages, charts, and graphs. The values of individual programs became
evident, providing a strong sense of goals and objectives.
The main source of data was each program's PAR. In each PAR, FIDER requires
particular information to be provided for each section of the document. Standards one
through eight focus on curriculum and include indicators of compliance. Standard nine,
which addresses faculty, has eight 'indicators' that the programs must address. Also,
faculty data sheets ask for specific information about each faculty member. However, the
final standard, which has a section pertaining to alumni, requires no specific information
about the alumni that needs to be addressed. Therefore, the section on alumni showed the
greatest variability among the programs.
As a result, external resources, such as firm websites, were used to obtain
additional information about alumni from the participatory programs. In addition,
interviews were conducted with each program head to obtain additional information
about the programs' curriculum, faculty, and alumni. It was important to the validity of
the study to triangulate the data from the three sources.
The curriculum provides a foundation for each program. The courses students take
provide them with the knowledge they need to become interior designers. Do the courses
that students take differ by the academic home of the program? Determining possible
similarities and differences has many implications for interior design education.
Significant similarities could suggest FIDER's standards as too restrictive while
differences found would support the diverse application of FIDER's standards.
Each program's curriculum was transferred into a spreadsheet document and
categorized by semester. Each course name, class code, and credit hours were recorded,
along with the total credit hours required to graduate along with the degree received upon
graduation. In addition, information about the selective admissions process as well as
whether or not the program had a required internship were included. Finally, many
universities have required general education courses that every student must take in order
to graduate. Information about these required courses was provided.
First, from the spreadsheet it was determined whether or not the program has a
selective admission process. Such a process ensures students of high quality are accepted
into the program. As a result, graduates are likely to reflect highly on the program when
working in the industry. If the program has a selective admission process, when the
selective admission occurs, requirements to be accepted into the program, the number of
students who typically apply, and the approximate number of students accepted each year
The focus was then directed to the student coursework. The courses students take
provide them with the knowledge needed for the professional world. Having an
education that encompasses the diverse knowledge that an interior designer requires is
imperative. Students are generally required to take university general education courses
as well as courses in the interior design program. Often university coursework overlaps
with courses that are required by the interior design program to graduate. For example,
the interior design program may require a three-credit history course that would also meet
the university humanities requirements. Because this overlap occurs frequently in some
programs, courses were divided into interior design courses and general requirements and
electives. Interior design courses included classes such as design studio, lighting
materials, construction documents, and interior design history. General education
courses and electives include classes such as math, science, composition, and non-interior
Finally, the interior design courses were broken down into categories according to
the course types. Interior design curriculum was divided into three sections: studio
courses, support interior design courses such as materials, history, and graphics, and
general requirements/electives. These categories were examined first collectively and
then divided into coursework required before and after selective admissions.
Faculty is also an essential part to every program in that they provide the
information necessary to students. The PAR faculty data sheets provide background
information on program faculty members, which may include both core and support
faculty members. For this study, only the core interior design faculty was examined for
each program. Core faculty members were defined in this study as full-time or tenured
faculty members that are both part-time and full-time. The support faculty members that
were excluded include non-tenured part-time, adjunct, lecturers, and graduate teaching
assistants. These positions often are not permanent like full-time or tenured faculty
members and do not have consistent influence on the interior design program. Although,
the excluded members were listed in the PAR, their faculty data sheets, required for the
content analysis, were generally not provided.
For each program, all core faculty member information was placed on a
spreadsheet. First, the faculty education background was recorded. The institutions
where they received their degrees, their area of concentration, as well as the year were
documented. From that information, the highest degree for each faculty member was
recorded along with the discipline that faculty members received their degrees in.
Faculty degree areas were arranged into four categories: interior design, architecture,
other design, and other discipline. Those members that have received degrees in interior
architecture were included in the interior design category. Faculty academic work
experience was recorded as well. They were categorized based on whether they have
taught solely at their current institution or if they have taught at other universities as well.
This was noted because faculty members with experience at multiple universities are
exposed to a larger range of design instruction, teaching techniques, and curriculum
approaches providing them with a more diverse knowledge base.
In addition, faculty members were categorized by whether or not they have had
professional design experience. Having design experience offers a connection to
professional design practices. Whether or not the faculty member has NCIDQ
certification was also recorded. Because FIDER does not count NCIDQ certification that
is pending, faculty members with pending results were considered as not NCIDQ
certified at the time of the PAR. FIDER also does not account for members who are
registered architects. However, this information was included to see if registered
architects were evident in certain academic homes.
Graduates from interior design programs reflect the education they receive. A
section of the PAR includes information about where alumni are working or studying
upon graduation from the program. Unlike the curriculum and faculty, there is no
specific format for recording alumni placement. The six programs collected and
presented different information concerning their alumni. Three programs recorded the
alumni's name, employer, position, and firm type. One listed the alumni's name,
employer, position, and firm location. The other two programs listed the alumni's name,
employer, and location.
Alumni information had the most variability in recording the depth of information
between the six programs. Therefore, firm information that was not included in the PARs
vital to the study was found through firm websites and by contacting the firm's by
telephone. This information included either firm location or the disciplines that were
practiced at the firms. All 239 alumni from the programs in the study required additional
information. For three of the programs, the firm location had to be found. In addition,
the firm types that the program provided was verified with how the firms were
categorized for this study. The other three programs needed the firm type to be
determined. Furthermore, not every program listed all graduates from the years they
listed in the PAR. Therefore, percentages were used to compare alumni from different
academic homes to assure accuracy across all programs.
First, alumni who attended graduate school upon graduation were recorded on a
spreadsheet. The program discipline and location was recorded. In a separate document,
information about employed alumni was recorded. The firm that they were working for,
the location of the firm, and what type of work the firm did was documented. From the
spreadsheet, first, whether or not students are working at a firm that is in the same state as
the university in which they received their degree was determined. Then the firms were
categorized based on the type of work that they do. Categorizing the firms where alumni
from each program work helped establish trends for the programs. In addition, it aided in
determining whether graduates from programs in a particular academic homes were more
likely to work in a certain firm type.
The alumni were placed into six categories: interior design, architecture/interior
design, architecture/interior design plus allied disciplines, other design, and other non-
design. Firms labeled interior design, practice interior design exclusively.
Architecture/interior design firms include architecture practice as well as interior design
and planning. Architecture/interior design plus allied discipline firms include
architecture, interior design, planning, and various other disciplines such as graphic
design, landscape architecture, and engineering. Other design areas included design
fields such as lighting design, brand design, and freelance design.
There are currently 137 FIDER-accredited interior design educational programs in
North America (FIDER website, 2005). Because this study involves an in-depth analysis
of curriculum, faculty, and alumni, only six accredited programs are represented in the
sample. Specifically, this study includes programs found in public land-grant institutions,
which have the tri-fold mission of research, teaching, and service. As a result, programs
found in technical, private, and non land-grant colleges were not included in this study.
Also excluded were the few interior design programs found within a university setting in
colleges or schools that are not in the three academic homes examined. For example,
some of these programs are found in schools of Education or Technology.
This study focused on three prominent dimensions of interior design programs:
curriculum, faculty, and alumni. However, the researcher recognizes that interior design
programs may be impacted by a confluence of factors such as budget and resources,
facilities, and administration. Therefore, results of this study may not be solely attributed
to the academic home or to the three variables researched.
The PAR provides a comprehensive background of the interior design program.
The accreditation reports in this study were often around 100 pages and were prepared
and submitted for accreditation between 2000 and 2004. Because interior design
programs are constantly evolving, this document may not be the most up-to-date
information about the program. Given this limitation, interviews with program heads
gathered current program information on the three variables under study to supplement
information found in the PAR.
Furthermore, while the reporting of program curriculum and faculty was mostly
consistent, the information on alumni had the most variability. Because FIDER does not
specify the information to be included about alumni, there was inconsistent and missing
information. For example, some programs listed only the alumni firm name and location
whereas other programs included firm name, location, firm type, and position. Because
the firm type was important to the results of this study, this information was critical to
obtain. Therefore, further information about the firms was acquired through websites and
by contacting them over the telephone.
This study examined six accredited interior design programs found in academic
homes of architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. The programs were selected based
on the following criteria. Most importantly, they had to be accredited by FIDER,
specifically since the last major revision of the standards, which occurred in 2000. In
addition, the programs had to be ranked on the Designlntelligence survey to assure
consistent high quality among programs. Finally, the programs needed to be located
within one of the three academic homes explored in this study. Programs that met the
criteria were given the opportunity to participate.
The programs that agreed to participate were explored through an in-depth content
analysis of their accreditation reports to determine similarities and differences among
them. The three variables that were examined include program curriculum, faculty, and
alumni. These variables were chosen based on their representation in the PAR. In
addition to the content analysis, interviews with program heads were conducted to
provide current information on the three variables.
The Foundation of Interior Design Educators Council (FIDER) accreditation
process provides standards for interior design educational programs. Because they do not
prescribe how the standards are met, programs are able to exist in different academic
homes within colleges. Little research has been conducted to explore the differences
between programs that are located within distinct units. Therefore, this study developed
profiles for six accredited programs found in academic units of architecture, fine arts, and
human ecology through a content analysis and interviews with program heads.
A content analysis of Program Analysis Reports (PAR) explored curriculum
content, faculty characteristics, and alumni placement across six noted interior design
programs. Interviews were conducted with each program's head to collect additional
information about the three variables as well as to obtain the most recent program
information. The findings are discussed in relation to the three variables: curriculum,
faculty, and alumni, and programs are grouped by academic home.
Programs in the architecture category include the University of Florida (UF) and
the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (UNL). UF is located in Gainesville, Florida and
was founded in 1853. The interior design program is an independent department located
within the College of Design, Construction, and Planning, previously the College of
Architecture, until May of 2000. Other programs within the college include architecture,
building construction, landscape architecture, and urban and regional planning. Founded
in 1869, the University of Nebraska is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. The interior design
program is located in the Department of Architecture within the College of Architecture,
which also houses a Department of Community and Regional Planning.
The programs in the fine arts category are the Iowa State University (ISU) and
Louisiana State University (LSU). ISU was founded in 1862 in Ames, Iowa. The interior
design program at ISU is housed in the College of Design within the Department of Art
and Design. The college also houses Departments of Architecture, Community and
Regional Planning, and Landscape Architecture. Other programs within the Department
of Art and Design include graphic design, integrated studio arts, and integrated visual
arts. LSU was founded in 1860 and is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The interior
design department at LSU is found within the College of Art and Design, which also
houses Departments of Architecture, Art, and Landscape Architecture.
Programs in the human ecology category include Cornell University and Kansas
State University (KSU). Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York and was founded in
1865. Cornell is the only land-grant university that is also a member of the Ivy League
(Cornell website, 2005). The interior design program at Cornell is located in the College
of Human Ecology within the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis. Other
departments housed within the College include the Department of Division of Nutritional
Sciences, Human Development, Policy Analysis and Management, and Textiles and
Apparels. Also in the Human Ecology category, KSU was founded in 1863 in
Manhattan, Kansas. The interior design program at KSU is located in the Department of
Apparel Textiles and Interior Design within the College of Human Ecology, which
houses Departments of Human Nutrition, Family Studies and Human Services, as well as
Hotel, Restaurant, Institution Management and Dietetics.
Traditionally, a Department Chair overlooks programs that are independent
departments within a college while a Program Coordinator or Director overlooks
programs within a department. The program head interviewed was determined from the
FIDER website as of January 1, 2005. Program Directors or Coordinators from UNL,
ISU, KSU and Department Chairs from UF, LSU, and Cornell were interviewed. It
should be noted that the institutions of all six programs in this research study are
classified as land-grant institutions. Additionally, UF, UN, ISU, and Cornell are
members of the American Association of Universities (AAU), which recognizes
prestigious research institutions.
Universities commonly have general education requirements that each student must
fulfill in order to graduate. There are usually a number of credit hours that are required in
a variety of subject areas. For example, many universities require students to take credit
hours in compositional or humanities courses. Often, the programs within the college
offer courses that fulfill both the general education course, as well as courses required for
the major. An interior design history course may meet the humanities requirement and
will therefore fulfill requirements by both the college and the program. Because it was
difficult to distinguish where courses overlap in the interior design programs at hand, the
curriculum was divided into two groups. First, classes that directly relate to interior
design were placed in the 'interior design' course category. These include classes such as
design studios, lighting, materials, and graphics. The other category included general
requirements and electives. For example, if an interior design program requires students
to take an algebra course, this would not be placed in the interior design courses, but in
the general requirement/elective category because it does not relate directly to design.
The only electives that were included in the interior design group were professional
course electives that were required to be an interiors course. Table 4.1 lists all interior
design classes and the credit hours for general requirements and electives.
Table 4-1. Interior design program curriculum by credit hour
Independent Study Project
120 129 127.5 131-135 122-125 125-127
Note. UF = University of Florida, UNL = University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ISU = Iowa
State University, LSU = Louisiana State University, CU = Cornell University, KSU=
Kansas State University.
Materials, textiles, and furniture were collapsed into one category in the content analysis
because two of the programs offered courses that integrated furniture with materials,
while another program had a separate class devoted to furniture. The range or credit
hours for LSU, Comell, and KSU is a result of variable credit hours applied to a course
requirement. For example, at LSU, students are required to take eight to nine credit hours
in natural sciences. Also, important to note that this study focused on the credit hours
and did not include contact hours.
The University of Florida (UF) interior design program was founded in 1948 and
was first accredited by FIDER in 1973. To graduate, students are required to complete
120 credit hours of coursework with 36 of those credit hours slated for university general
requirements. This program requires students to go through a selective admissions
process that occurs at the end of the second year. Students are admitted to upper-division
based on a minimum overall GPA of 2.8, a design studio GPA of at least 2.85, a blind
portfolio review (pin-up), and a statement of intent. Typically, 50-60 students apply each
year for entry into upper-division and 28-32 students are accepted. The UF interiors
program does not require an internship, however the interview with the Department Chair
revealed that this was a future goal of the program. Students who complete an internship
are able to receive credit hours as part of their professional electives. Graduates from the
program receive a Bachelor of Design (BD) degree with a major in Interior Design.
According to the Department Chair, the two defining features of the program are its
strong research foundation for the studio projects and the 'real world' emphasis that
capitalizes on existing projects. The Chair maintains the program "adhere[s] to an
evidence-based research approach to design" and has a strong architectural core. Other
areas of the program that could be enhanced include computer courses, introducing color
theory into the curriculum, and requiring an internship. There have been incremental
curriculum revisions in the program. Many students take business courses as electives.
Being part of the College of Design, Construction, and Planning appears to have
impacted the curriculum. The program is able to offer a sequence of three architectural
foundation classes for pre-majors in interior design. In addition, as part of the college,
interior design students are able to gain certification in historic preservation by
participating in the Nantucket preservation program, and go on college study abroad
programs such as the one in Vicenza, Italy. The Chair perceives a college sponsored
move to a College of Human Ecology as having a negative impact to "the creative culture
that is inherent to being part of the College of Design." Another perceived disadvantage
is that the program would not be surrounded by allied disciplines in a human ecology
unit. Similarly, if the program were moved to a College of Fine Arts the impact was
perceived as detrimental. The Department Chair notes "Colleges of Fine Arts
traditionally don't have the same kind of strong funding so there would not be additional
resources in that way." Although there would be some other allied fields such as graphic
design or possibly industrial design, other core disciplines that interior designers work so
closely with would not be represented.
The interior design program at the University of Nebraska (UNL) interiors program
was developed over 35 years ago and it is unknown when the program was first
accredited by FIDER. A minimum of 129 credit hours is required for graduation. Nine
general education courses fulfill UNL's 'essential studies' requirement and 10 courses
are required in 'integrative studies' courses. Similar to UF, the interiors program also has
a selective admissions process after the second year. Students need to complete all
necessary coursework and have a minimum of a 2.6 GPA in order to apply. They must
also provide a portfolio of their work for review. Fifty students are generally accepted
into lower division and approximately 30 of those are accepted into upper-division. The
program requires an internship. Upon graduation, students receive a Bachelor of Science
in Design (BSD Interior Design).
The main focus of UNL's curriculum is to educate strong professionals who are
creative thinkers with an understanding of the spatial envelope. One of the strengths of
the program is their shared curriculum with architecture, which provides a greater
understanding of both professions. The Program Director feels that this helps "establish
better working relationships" as their graduates enter the profession. In addition she
reflects, "the faculty as a whole are pretty creative thinkers and they are willing to push
the envelope and reflect the profession and go beyond." A major curriculum revision has
not occurred in over five years; however, their program is moving to a five-year program
possibly next year, which will require significant curriculum revisions and a semester
long internship experience. Professional electives are typically taken in the College of
Fine and Performing Arts curriculum such as photography and graphic design or in
business courses like marketing and management. Also, within the college there is a
wide range of courses offerings available to interior design student such as African
architecture, historic restoration and preservation, or product/furniture design.
The Program Director feels that existing in a College of Architecture impacts the
curriculum in a positive way because of shared available courses. Until 1993, the interior
design program at UNL was located in a College of Human Ecology. A return to that
college, from the director's perspective, would have a negative impact as would a move
to a College of Fine Arts; "in the sense that a College of Fine Arts doesn't have the
professional focus that architecture and interior design do, so there would probably be a
lack of understanding of what that might be." However, the Program Director recognizes
the success of such a relocation depends very much on individual administrative
Although interior design courses at Iowa State University (ISU) date back to 1901,
it was not until 1962 that interior design was recognized as a major. The interior design
program was fully accredited by FIDER in 1986. This program requires a minimum of
127.5 credit hours for graduation with 36.5 of those credit hours meeting general
university requirements. There is a selective admissions process that occurs after the
completion of the first year. Thus, interior students are in the upper-division portion of
the program for three years. Each student must submit a portfolio, sketchbook, and essay
to apply for upper-division and GPA is considered as well. As of 2002, there were 80
students in lower-division and 104 in upper-division. Approximately 35 students are
admitted into upper-division each year. An internship is required for graduation. Upon
graduation, students receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA).
The main focus of ISU's curriculum is on creative problem solving and human
factors. While a perceived strength of the program is on technology and creative design,
the Program Director feels that their computer courses need to be updated. The Program
Director advocates continuous assessment and improvement of the program, as they are
currently in the process of a curriculum revision to develop their own core freshman year
curriculum. Although students do not have many electives, they often take other design
courses in architecture, universal design, and sustainable/solar design or business courses.
ISU is located within a College of Design and a Department of Art and Design.
When asked whether architecture or art had more influence on the program, the program
head responded that each of them contribute equally. If the program were to move to a
College of Architecture or College of Human Ecology, the impact on the program would
be in the words of the Program Director "Devastating... [and the] creative design focus
would be short changed."
The Louisiana State University (LSU) interior design program was founded in 1969
and has been accredited since 1977. Currently, students are required to take 131-135
credit hours for graduation with 38-39 of those credit hours fulfilling university general
requirements. Like ISU, the interiors program utilizes a selective admissions process that
occurs at the end of the first year, and approximately 40 students are accepted into the
upper-division. At the time of the PAR, the applicant pool for upper-division was
anywhere from 100 200 students, however as of fall 2005, the Department Chair notes a
selective admission process into lower division will be implemented to limit the
applicants to around 60 students. To apply, students must submit an application and a
portfolio of their work to be reviewed for acceptance into the program. The program has
a required internship. Upon graduation, students received their Bachelor of Interior
The Department Chair stated that the curriculum at LSU is focused on obtaining "a
broad range of basic skills but encouraging creative inquiry." The Boyer report, Building
Community: A New Future For Architecture Education and Practice, is used as a guide
for their program and the Chair believes the department has most of the Boyer
recommendations in place. The Department Chair feels a strength of the program is that
they provide "a broad foundation in a broad scope of what will be expected of an interior
designer, and with that, [afford] opportunities for the undergraduate to pursue specific
areas of interest." One perceived weakness "was at the foundation level in that we never
had enough faculty or facilities to be able to have complete control over that first year"
therefore students previously had foundation courses in the art or landscape departments.
Over the past year and a half, the faculty designed and implemented a fairly significant
curriculum change and added more specific focus courses and foundation level courses
within the interior design department. In addition, the studio courses have been changed
from three credit hours to four credit hours. Students in the interiors program often
receive Minors in Construction Management, Art, Theatre and Performance Art, and
Business or Finance.
Residing within a College of Art and Design impacts the curriculum because "it
allows for students to take courses in other areas where they can increase their skills in all
different areas of concentration" such as architecture, graphic design, or painting.
Currently, the program is an independent unit within the college. Although the
Department Chair feels that interior programs in Colleges of Human Ecology are
important, she feels that they have a different focus. The Department Chair feels that if a
move was necessary, a College of Architecture would be the best place for the program,
however she states the program is stronger in its current state as an independent unit.
In 1925, Cornell University developed their interior design program. FIDER first
accredited the program in 1986. Students are required to complete 122-125 credit hours
for graduation. The College requires each student to take 37-42 credit hours in general
requirements, which includes the university mandated freshman writing seminar. In
addition, all students at Cornell must pass a swim test before beginning classes and
during their first year students must complete two terms of physical education courses.
The interior design program utilizes a selective admissions process that occurs before
students are accepted into the program. All students should fill out the 'interior design
index,' a questionnaire designed to inform the admissions committee of their experience
or preparation in the field. Transfer students are required to submit a portfolio and
freshman applicants are strongly urged to submit a portfolio. Upon graduation, students
receive their Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Ecology with a major in Design and
Environmental Analysis and an option in Interior Design.
The main focus of the interior design curriculum according to the Department
Chair is "integrating evidence-based design with imaginative invention to create solutions
that solve real social problems" and the Chair perceives the strength of their curriculum
"is its multi-disciplinary evidence-based focus." Although the Chair feels that the
curriculum is solid across the board, student interest in graphic design components may
be an area the design faculty team chooses to strengthen in the future. However, he does
not see this as a defined concentration or formal focus within the department. The overall
focus of the curriculum has remained constant since the college was created in 1969.
However, Cornell revises their curriculum "in part in response to FIDER program
reviews and our own assessments as well as external program reviews that the university
mandates." Outside the major, students take a wide variety of elective courses such as
architecture, landscape architecture, horticulture, planning, organizational behavior,
psychology, and human development.
The Department Chair believes that being within a College of Human Ecology
impacts the program because "evidenced-based design is fully within the mandate of the
focus of our college." If the program was moved to a College of Architecture or Fine
Arts, the Department Chair felt that the research base upon which the interior design
program is built would either positively influence the other programs, or the interiors
program would be weakened.
Like Cornell, Kansas State University (KSU) is a noted program in Human
Ecology. It began offering courses in interior design in 1917 with FIDER first
accrediting the program in 1982. The interiors program requires a completion of 125-127
credit hours for graduation. Eighteen credit hours are needed to meet the university's
general requirements. KSU utilizes a selective admissions process, based primarily on
GPA, at the entry level with around 52 students initially accepted into the program. Like
the University of Florida, there is no internship requirement at the KSU interiors
program, however students are able to receive credit hours for completing an internship
as part of their professional electives. Students receive their Bachelor of Science (BS) in
Interior Design upon graduation.
According to the Program Coordinator, the main focus of the curriculum at KSU is
"interior design within the human ecological framework." Students in the interior design
program at KSU share the first year of their program with design students in the College
of Architecture, Planning, and Design. Previously, faculty members from both programs
taught each other's students. Currently, faculty members teach students from their own
program, with a shared syllabus and projects.
A perceived strength of the curriculum is how it is "designed to take students from
what they know as a beginning designer to a high level of knowledge of
professionalism." The Program Coordinator feels that their lack of appropriate facilities
impedes student learning and would like more studio space and technology components.
The KSU interior design program has not had a major curriculum change in over 10
years; rather they prefer to implement small revisions to introduce current trends such as
sustainability. Outside the major, students typically take courses in architecture,
gerontology, and woman's studies.
The Program Coordinator feels that being within a College of Human Ecology has
a positive impact on their curriculum. Students are confronted with the human ecological
focus in their first semester in a design and behavior course. A human ecological
framework guides student learning, as the program head maintains, "[Students] will
understand human behavior, perception, cognition and [their] designs will respond to
that." If the program were moved to a college of architecture or fine arts, the program
head felt that the human ecological perspective would be diminished.
Figure 4-1 graphically depicts the total number of studio, support design courses,
and general requirements or elective for programs. As a note, for the purpose of the
figure, programs that provided a range of credit hours for courses, for example 38 42
credit hours of general requirements, the average, 40, was used.
Architecture programs had the most credits devoted to studio courses, with 68
credit hours required. The fine arts and human ecology had essentially the same credit
hours for studio courses with 53-54 credits. One hundred fifteen credit hours were
required for support design courses in the fine arts programs, followed by architecture
programs with 104 credits and human ecology programs with 91 credits. Finally, human
ecology programs had more credit hours in general requirements and electives than the
other programs. While human ecology program had 103.5 credit hours, the fine arts
programs had 91.5 credits and the architecture programs had only 77 credit hours.
Architecture (n=249) Fine Arts (n=260.5)
31% 27% 35% 21%
n=77 n=68 n=91.5 n=54
Human Ecology (n=249.5)
Figure 4-1. Program course distribution
Architecture programs had the most credits devoted to studio courses, with 68
credit hours required. The fine arts and human ecology had essentially the same credit
* Support Design Courses
O General Requirements/
hours for studio courses with 53-54 credits. One hundred fifteen credit hours were
required for support design courses in the fine arts programs, followed by architecture
programs with 104 credits and human ecology programs with 93 credits. Finally, human
ecology programs had more credit hours in general requirements and electives than the
other programs. While human ecology programs had 103.5 credit hours, the fine arts
programs had 91.5 credits and the architecture programs had only 77 credit hours.
Variations in the number or credit hours were found in that programs in
architecture units devoted 14-15 more credit hours to studio courses than fine art and
human ecology programs. However, the architecture programs generally had more credit
hours allocated to each individual studio course, with studios having up to six credits per
course. Therefore, the quantity of courses was similar among programs, which supports
Atkins (2001) findings of consistency in program curriculum. However, the present
thesis study identifies differences in the percentage of general requirements or electives
in relation to the interior design coursework. Human ecology interior programs allocated
11-22 fewer credit hours for support design courses and 12-26.5 more credit hours for
general requirements and electives. As most of these courses are three credit hours, this
results in about four to seven fewer support courses and four to eight more credit hours of
general requirements and electives courses.
The educational background, faculty position, practice experience, and certification
status of faculty members were examined. Generally, faculty educational backgrounds
were similar in that the majority of faculty members held degrees in either interior design
or architecture. Differences were found primarily in the number of faculty who are
NCIDQ certified and the secondary degrees faculty members have received. However,
because of the small sample size of 37 faculty members, the findings are purely
observations about faculty in the six noted interior design programs and cannot be
generalized to all programs within the corresponding academic home.
Faculty information from each program was taken from the faculty data sheets
provided in the program's FIDER accreditation document. Only core faculty members
were included in the analysis and these faculty members were defined as either full-time
or tenured faculty members, both part-time and full-time, who teach interior design
courses. As a note, those members that had pending results for the NCIDQ examination
were not counted as NCIDQ certified at the time of the PAR. Registered architects were
included in the analysis due to their design experience. Although FIDER does not
recognize this qualification, it is noteworthy to discover the programs where registered
architects are evident to see a distinction by academic setting. Table 4-2 illustrates
results by academic home.
The University of Florida (UF) lists eight full-time faculty members in the PAR
where two are professors, two are associate professors, three are assistant professors, and
the remaining member is a full-time lecturer. Three of the faculty members were hired
years ago in 1972, 1982, and 1988 and two were hired in 1993 and 1997. The other three
faculty members were hired recently, two in 2001 and one in 2003. Of the eight faculty
members, four have received a Ph.D., three have received their Master's degrees, and the
final member holds a Master's in Interior Design and highest degree is as a Doctor of
Dental Surgery (DDS). A majority of the faculty members have their degrees in interior
design. One member has a degree solely in interior design and four members have their
educational background in interior design with another discipline including dentistry,
architecture, and fine arts. In addition, two faculty members have architectural degrees,
one exclusively in architecture and the other with an additional degree in education.
Table 4-2. Faculty information
Faculty Overview UF UNL ISU LSU CU KSU
Core Faculty Members 8 5 6 6 6 6
Full-time 8 5 4 6 6 4
Part-time 0 0 2 0 0 2
NCIDQ certified 2 0 2 3 3 2
Registered Architect 2 2 0 1 0 0
Professor 2 0 2 0 0 2
Associate Professor 2 2 3 3 4 0
Assistant Professor 3 3 1 3 1 4
Lecturer 1 0 0 0 1 0
PhD 4 2 2 0 0 2
Masters 3 2 3 4 6 4
Bachelors 0 0 0 2 0 0
Other 1 1 1 0 0 0
Note 1. UF = University of Florida, UNL = University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ISU = Iowa
State University, LSU = Louisiana State University, CU = Cornell University, KSU=
Kansas State University.
Note 2. The numbers in parenthesis under faculty educational background, indicate
faculty members who have a degree in the corresponding discipline along with an
additional degree in a different discipline.
Finally, the last faculty member has his degree in fine arts. Five faculty members
have extensive design experience with two faculty members NCIDQ certified and two
registered architects on the faculty team. The majority of the faculty members have
taught at other institutions besides UF, with the remaining two faculty members teaching
solely at UF at the time of the PAR.
Being located within a College of Design, Construction, and Planning impacts
faculty hiring decisions. The Department Chair feels that the program attracts faculty
that have architecture as well as interior design training" because they may feel the
greatest affinity in this academic home. When hiring new faculty members, a Ph.D. is
very important due to the strong research emphasis at UF, but "faculty members with
masters degrees that have lots of field experience are also needed on staff." In addition,
NCIDQ certification is viewed as an important qualification in faculty hires.
The other program reviewed within a College of Architecture was the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) containing five full-time faculty members on staff. The faculty
team consisted of two associate professors and three assistant professors. All of the
faculty members were hired in the 1990's with three hired in 1993, one in 1996, and one
in 1998. Of these five, two have received their Ph.D.s and two hold Master's degrees.
The additional faculty member has a Doctorate in Education. The faculty members
received their educational backgrounds mostly in interior design and architecture with a
few secondary degrees. One member has a degree solely in interior design while another
member has degrees in both interior design and education. The three remaining faculty
members have their degrees in architecture. Of those that have architecture degrees, one
has an additional degree in sociology and another in art history.
Although three of the five faculty members have extensive design experience, at
the time of the PAR none of the faculty members had received NCIDQ certification. It is
important to remember that Nebraska is one of the states that do not require NCIDQ
certification to practice. However, the FIDER accreditation standards do not take this
into consideration. Similar to UF, UNL has two registered architects on their faculty.
Although FIDER does not recognize this level of certification, having faculty members
who have this credentialing in architecture may help with the interior design education of
a student. With the exception of one faculty, the remaining faculty members have taught
at other institutions at the time of the PAR.
The Program Director at UNL felt that being within a College of Architecture has,
to some extent, impacted faculty hiring decisions. For example, a strong background in
design is more important than having a Ph.D. degree. When hiring faculty members, the
Program Director cited their preference for backgrounds in interior design and/or
architecture and "depending on the position description, either strong professional
experience or strong research and creative activity experience [is desired]." In addition,
they value faculty members who are innovative thinkers and team players.
At the time of the PAR, Iowa State University (ISU) had four full-time tenured,
two part-time tenured, three part-time non-tenure track, three half-time graduate teaching
assistants, and eleven support faculty on staff. Only the six tenured faculty members
were included in the content analysis. Two of the tenured faculty members are full
professors, three are associate professors, and the remaining faculty is an assistant
professor. Most of the faculty team has taught at the program over a decade, with
members hired in 1971, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1984, and 1993.
Two faculty members received a Ph.D. and four hold Master's degrees. The other
faculty member's highest degree is a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with a
degree in architecture. The educational backgrounds of ISU faculty are primarily in
interior design, where five of the six members hold their degrees. Two others hold
interior design degrees and have additional degrees in theater, sociology, and
environmental design. All six members have extensive design experience in the field and
two are NCIDQ certified. Half of the faculty members taught solely at ISU and the
remainder taught at other universities as well. Faculty hiring decisions are impacted at
ISU "partly because we are in a College of Design but within a Department of Art."
Valuable credentials in hiring decisions include a creative portfolio with individual
and/or student work, NCIDQ qualifications, computer skills, and being a team player.
In the interiors program at Louisiana State University (LSU), there are six full-time
and two part-time faculty members. Only the six full-time faculty members were
included in the analysis. Three of the faculty members are associate professors and three
are assistant professors. The majority of the faculty team has been there since the 70's
with four members hired in 1971, 1974, 1975, and 1976. The remaining two faculty
members were hired in 1996 and 1997. Four faculty members hold Master's degrees and
the other two hold Bachelors degrees. At the time of the PAR, no faculty members held a
The faculty at LSU received their degrees in a variety of disciplines. One member
has their degree exclusively in interior design. Another member has degrees in both
interior architecture and architecture. There are two faculty members that have their
degrees in architecture but also hold degrees in fine arts as well as art and design. The
remaining two faculty members have degrees in fine arts. All six members have
extensive design experience and three are NCIDQ certified with one registered architect
on their staff. Four faculty members have taught only at LSU at the time of the PAR,
where the other two members have taught at other institutions as well.
The LSU Department Chair feels that the academic home affiliation influences
faculty hiring decisions. The Chair notes "that its not only faculty hires, but where we
are housed affects a bit the overall tenor of the program in that we are housed in other
professions that deal with the built environment." Because the faculty members of the
interiors program need to cover a wide range of skills and teaching assignments, they
look for faculty members with broad professional knowledge. The program head asserts
that they like to keep "a balance between faculty that have had significant practice
experience and faculty that have been more research and academic oriented."
Cornell University's interiors program has six full-time and one part-time faculty
member. The part-time member was not included in this analysis. At the time of the
PAR, there were four associate professors, one assistant professor, and one full-time
lecturer. One faculty member was hired in 1978 and the rest of the faculty were hired in
the 1990's, with three hired in the early 90's and two hired in the mid to late 90's. Each
full-time faculty member's highest degree was a Masters, with their educational
background in a variety of fields. Two faculty members have degrees in interior design
with degrees in housing/urban studies and industrial design as well. Two of the faculty
members have degrees in architecture but also hold degrees in industrial design and one
additionally earned a degree in physics. The remaining two faculty members have
degrees in design or design history and industrial design. Five faculty members have
extensive design experience and three are NCIDQ certified. Mostly all of Cornell's
faculty members have taught at other institutions besides their home institution with only
one member teaching exclusively at Cornell.
The interior design program's academic home at Cornell influences faculty hiring
decisions. The Chair notes "we look for broad based faculty who can work in a multi-
disciplinary collaborative environment that is evidence-based and that is focused." In the
past, they considered a Master's degree an important credential, but moving forward it is
likely to be a Ph.D. The Chair commented that a potential faculty member "has got to
have demonstrated a capacity to teach interior design studios at a high level as well as to
have demonstrated interest and experience in doing research related to design."
The other human ecology program, Kansas State University (KSU), also had six
faculty members included in the analysis. While the complete faculty list includes nine
members: four full-time tenured/tenured track, two part-time tenured/tenured track, two
adjunct instructors, and one graduate teaching assistant, only the six tenured or tenured
track faculty members were included in the analysis. Of these six faculty members, two
are full professors and four are assistant professors. The faculty team has a fairly even
distribution between old and new members. Two were hired in the mid to late 70's, one
was hired in the mid 80's, one was hired in the early 90's, and the remaining two were
recently hired in 1999 and 2001.
Two members hold their Ph.D.'s and the remaining four all have Masters' degrees.
One has a degree in interior design. Two have their degrees in interior design with
additional degrees in fine arts and architecture. Another faculty member has an
architecture degree. The other two have degrees in housing or home economics as well
as textiles and clothing and vocational home economics. Of the six faculty members,
four have extensive design experience and two are NCIDQ certified. Three faculty
members have taught at other institutions besides KSU and three have taught exclusively
Faculty hiring decisions are influenced by the academic home because they have an
emphasis in their program on human behavior and human needs. A master's degree in
interior design or an allied field, such as architecture or fine arts, is typically required for
new faculty hires. They do not require a Ph.D. degree, but the Program Coordinator cites
the importance of "almost always want[ing] someone with practice experience."
Nonetheless, practice experience was not a requirement.
In this study of six noted interior design programs, their faculties ranged from five
to eight core members. Because the sample size is limited, definitive conclusions cannot
be made. Yet it is important to note that approximately 80% of the faculty members had
degrees in either interior design or architecture and 60% (n=37) of faculty members
highest degree received was a Master's degree. The next most reported degree was a
Ph.D. and 27% (n=37) of the faculty members held this degree. Only 5% (n=37) earned
a Bachelor degree and the remaining 8% (n=37) held degrees in dentistry, veterinary
medicine, and education. Although 78% (n=37) of faculty members had design
experience, only approximately one third of all faculty members were NCIDQ certified,
and the majority of these faculty members in fine art and human ecology programs.
Alumni information that was explored included whether or not the graduate stayed
in the same state as their alma mater, and the disciplines practiced at their current
employer. Information concerning alumni was primarily found in each program's PAR
with additional information gathered through external sources, such as websites and by
contacting firms by telephone. Each firm's practice type were determined and divided
into seven categories by discipline. The first three categories were those that practice
interior design exclusively, those that practice both architecture and interior design, and
architecture and interior design firms that have other allied disciplines. The other four
categories were retail, other design, other non-design, and those firms whose practices
were not able to be determined. The retail category included alumni working at retail
establishments that offered design services. Also, many alumni worked in other design
industries such as web or floral design therefore they were placed within the 'other
Some interior design programs listed only alumni who were working in the
industry while other programs listed all or most of their alumni who have graduated
whether they were working in the industry or not. Therefore, alumni not working in the
design industry were placed in the 'other non-design category. Finally, for programs that
listed limited information about alumni employers, a majority of the information was
found through external sources. However, some employer information could not be
determined and as a result, these alumni were determined 'unknown.' Table 4.3 contains
results for the content analysis.
Alumni graduating in 2003 and 2004 were included in the University of Florida's
PAR. There were 15 alumni listed for 2003, and 12 alumni listed for 2004, totaling at 27
alumni recorded. The UF's interior design program has approximately 30 graduates each
year; therefore the reported data for alumni placement does not include all graduates of
Table 4-3. Alumni placement upon graduation
Architecture Fine Arts Human Ecology
Employer Location UF UNL ISU LSU CU KSU
In State 8 23 12 32 16 24
Out of State 7 8 29 17 16 24
Not in industry 0 0 0 3 0 5
University Instruction 0 0 2 0 0 0
Unknown 3 0 0 0 5 5
TOTAL 18 31 43 52 37 58
Interior Design (ID) 8 7 6 11 8 3
Architecture/ID 4 7 8 9 5 4
Arch/ID + Allied Disciplines 3 7 6 5 13 8
Retail 0 4 7 10 0 19
Other Design 0 2 6 6 8 6
Other Non-Design 0 0 3 3 0 5
Unknown 3 4 7 8 3 13
TOTAL 18 31 43 52 37 58
Graduate School 9 1 0 2 9 0
Note. UF = University of Florida, UNL = University of Nebraska-Lincoln, ISU= Iowa
State University, LSU = Louisiana State University, CU = Cornell University, KSU=
Kansas State University.
the program for these two years. Placement information for about 33 graduates was not
included in the PAR. In the information provided in the class of 2003, five of the fifteen
alumni attended graduate school, seeking master's degrees in architecture, building
construction, and graphic design at the University of Florida, the University of
Wisconsin, and Georgia Tech. The other ten alumni from 2003 were employed in fields
relating to their degree. Of the twelve graduates listed in the PAR that graduated in 2004,
eight were employed in design firms and the remaining four went on to masters'
programs upon graduation. These graduate students remained at the University of
Florida and to start their degrees in interior design and building construction.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln also listed a similar number of graduates over
a two-year period. Specifically, a total of 32 graduates were recorded from 1999 and
2000. Thirteen alumni were recorded from the class of 1999. One of those graduates
remained at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for their master's degree in architecture
after graduation. There were 19 graduates recorded that graduated in 2000. Of graduates
noted from both the 1999 and 2000 classes, four worked in retail at various office
furniture stores that also provide design consulting. In addition, two alumni worked in
other design fields. For example, one of the graduates works for Duncan Aviation in
Lincoln, NE, designing airplane interiors. The other graduate works in floral design.
Iowa State listed 22 alumni for 2000 and 21 alumni for 2001 totaling 43 graduates
from a two-year period. The graduates were hired in a variety of working environments
with an approximatley even distribution in each category. Again, the majority of
graduates who are categorized in the retail category are working in office furniture sales
that offer design and space planning consulting. Graduates also work in other design
fields. One alumnus is working for Chaps, Ralph Lauren as a visual merchandiser. In
addition, a few graduates are working as freelance designers. There were also two
graduates who were hired as university instructors at ISU after graduation.
Alumni from Louisiana State University (LSU) were reported over a three-year
period, totaling 52 graduates. They listed 15 alumni in 1998, 27 in 1999, and 10 in 2000.
It is assumed that these numbers do not include all graduates from each year. Besides
graduates who work in retail at office furniture stores, one graduate works at Home
Depot as a designer. The graduates working in other design areas are involved in floral
design, stone design, freelance design, and a real estate development company that has
Cornell University listed alumni information in two sections of the PAR. One part
listed 23 alumni from 1996 2001 with the firm name and location. In the other section
of the report, 23 alumni were reported from 1998 through 2001 by year and included the
firm name, type, and graduate's position. Nine graduates were reported on both lists;
therefore a total of 37 graduates working in the industry were recorded. Additionally,
nine alumni were reported to have attended graduate school for business, graphic design,
real estate, and architecture. Some remained at Cornell for their graduate education but
others went to other universities such as Columbia University, Pratt, University of
Chicago, University of Maryland, and the University of Pennsylvania. Graduates of
Cornell also worked in other design-related areas such as architectural lighting design and
Kansas State University (KSU) provided considerably more alumni data in their
PAR compared to the other programs studied with 58 listed graduates from 2000 2002.
Thirty-one graduates from 2002, 20 graduates from 2001, and seven graduates from 2002
were listed. While some programs only included alumni who were working in the design
industry in their PAR, KSU recorded information for the majority of their graduates,
whether they were currently in the design industry or not, especially in 2002. This may
be why KSU was observed to have had the most alumni working in non-design fields.
Alumni also work in other design fields, which include A&D specifying for a
manufacturer, floral design, and lighting design.
Figure 4-2 shows the percentage of alumni by the firm type who are working in the
Architecture (n=42) Fine Arts (n=74)
Human Ecology (n=74)
Figure 4-2. Alumni employer type distribution
Several interesting differences across program types were found in the placement of
alumni. First, graduates from the architectural programs had the most representation in
* Interior Design
* Architecture/Interior Design
O Architecture/Interior Design +
* Other Design
interior design firms. In fact, they had 12-20% more alumni in this category than
programs of fine arts and human ecology. Also programs in units of architecture and fine
arts had 11-14% more alumni in architectural firms than programs of human ecology. On
the other hand, the human ecology and architecture units had 9-13% more graduates in
multi-disciplinary firms containing architecture, interior design, and other allied
disciplines than fine art programs. In both the retail and other design category, the
architecture programs had considerably lower representations.
Overall, the six programs under study had both similarities and differences found
among them. Most of the core interior design courses were consistent across all
programs. Only one course was determined to be unique to each academic home.
Minimal differences were found in the credit hours allocated to support courses; however
notable differences in the design studio credit hours were determined. Also, differences
were found in the percentage of credit hours required for each course type. Eighty
percent (n=37) of all faculty members had a degree in either architecture or interior
design with many holding additional degrees in a variety of disciplines. The most
common degree found in the programs was a Master's, followed by a Ph.D. The few
remaining faculty had either their bachelors other degrees such as dentistry, veterinary
medicine, and education. Finally, the most significant differences were found in where
alumni were employed upon graduation. However, differences were not only found by
academic home, but also between the two programs found within that setting.
Accredited interior design programs, representing the art and science aspects of the
discipline, exist in a range of university structures including architecture, fine arts, and
human ecology. The researcher found two key studies that have sought to discover the
similarities and differences between interior design programs found within these
academic units. Examining a range of variables, one study's findings supported
differences among programs, while the other supported mostly similarities. Therefore,
the purpose of this thesis was to explore commonalities and unique features of six noted
interior design programs in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Specifically, the
study examined patterns across curriculum content, faculty backgrounds, and alumni
The intent was not to identify the best interior design program, but rather to
uncover shared and unique qualities of programs in distinct academic homes. A further
goal focused on exploring evidence for specialization in interior design programs
accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER). The
results from this study provide profiles of top interior design programs; however,
replication of this study with a larger sample size is needed for a wider generalization of
The content analysis of design program accreditation reports and interviews with
program heads compared the curriculum, faculty, and alumni at Cornell University, Iowa
State University, Kansas State University, Louisiana State University, University of
Florida, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. These accredited interior design
programs, with recognized national reputations, showed more common characteristics
than unique features in their curricula, faculties, and alumni at the undergraduate level.
Interior design course work for all programs consistently included design studios
and supporting design courses. These supporting classes included introductory courses,
graphics, professional practice, history and/or theory, as well as materials and/or textiles.
Additionally some programs integrated furniture design into their materials and textiles
course. The design studio and supporting courses were taught in every interior design
program in the sample to provide students with fundamental knowledge about the
discipline. In addition to design and supporting courses, all programs required liberal arts
courses. Interior design programs in the context of land-grant institutions appear to
demonstrate a connected curriculum advocated in the Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang,
1996). This acknowledges the importance of requiring professional knowledge in the
context of a well-rounded education.
Yet differences did emerge among programs. Human ecology units have college
wide requirements for all students to take human ecology specific courses. For example,
the interior design programs in this area each had at least three credit hours devoted to
human ecology offerings. Also, each of the interior design programs in architecture and
fine arts had a design course unique to their unit. Specifically, the only programs that
taught lighting were found in architecture. Further research is needed to determine if this
finding is widespread or just a function of the sample. Also, drawing classes were unique
to programs in fine arts, which may emphasize a stronger art focus than the other units.
More research is needed to see if the content of these courses are integrated into other
courses at the other programs in this study.
All six programs had a comparable sequence of required studio courses, ranging
from six to nine courses. The content analysis for this study analyzed credit rather than
contact hours. Knowing the content hours would allow the researcher to know how many
hours students spend in studio receiving instruction. However, the programs in
architecture had more credit hours allocated to each studio course on average than
programs in fine arts and human ecology. Consequently, the programs in architecture
required fewer credits outside the interior design curriculum, which limited the credits of
elective courses. Interestingly, graduates from architectural programs in this sample
appear to be primarily working in the interior design industry and not in allied design
fields, which may be because graduates of these programs are more specialized. An
alternative explanation is that this finding was influenced by missing or incomplete data
on alumni placement where alumni working in other allied or other design fields were
underreported. On the other hand, programs in fine arts and human ecology offered more
electives outside interior design courses and reported a wider range or graduates working
in other design fields such as web design, lighting design, and floral design.
All programs heads interviewed expressed that the curriculum was impacted by
existing in either architecture, fine arts, or human ecology because they are able to share
resources and courses with the other areas of study within the college. In addition, the
program heads perceived a move to either one of the other two academic homes would
negatively impact the interior design program, which confirms Nutter's (2001) findings
stating that faculty believe the academic home of their program is superior to alternative
locations. The program heads mostly felt that the focus of their program would be
significantly diminished in the other units. Program heads from units of architecture or
fine arts felt that a move to a human ecology unit would lessen their creative design focus
as well as their interaction with other allied design disciplines. Whereas program heads
from units of human ecology felt that in a move to either architecture or fine arts would
diminish the human perspective inherent to their identity. This was one of the areas that
program heads appeared most passionate about, yet negligible differences were found
among programs. This finding replicates Nutter's (2001) study and deserves further
study to determine the source of these strong opinions. Perhaps there is a different
culture in these academic homes that might account for these perceptions.
One difference among programs was the implementation of the selective
admissions process. Interior design programs utilize selective admissions processes to
control both quantity and quality of students in upper-division studios. All programs in
this study implemented a selective admission process; however, when the selection
occurs differed across the programs. For programs within architectural homes, the
selective admissions took place at the end of the second year, while the selective
admissions process for fine arts programs occurred at the end of the first year. The
programs found within Colleges of Human Ecology implemented the selective admission
process before students are accepted into any interior design courses. Therefore, entering
freshman and transfer students apply before admission into the interior design major.
Both positive and negative implications arise from the timing of the selective
admissions. Having the selective admissions later in the program, for example after the
second year, allows the students to develop their design skills before applying for upper-
division and offers students who have not had previous design experience a better chance
of gaining requisite skills before their portfolio is reviewed. However, having the
selective admissions later in the program effects students because the interior design
curriculum is so specialized, courses often do not transfer to other majors if the student is
not accepted into the interior design program.
On the other hand, an earlier selective admissions process may disadvantage
students with little or no art or design training. Also, because some interior design
programs do not require a portfolio upon admission, students are being accepted
primarily on GPA and test scores, without gauging their design ability and skills. A
recommendation is to have a selective admissions process after the first year of courses,
which may allow students to gain design experience before applying to upper-division
and also permit them to transfer to other majors more easily if they are not accepted into
When asked how they would like to see their program grow and develop in the
future, four of the six program heads emphasized their desire to either improve or
develop a graduate program. At the time of the study, four of programs already had
established graduate interior design programs in place. Therefore, graduate programs
appear as an important asset in interior design educational programs; however, this
perception may be at odds with commonly held views espoused by practitioners.
Birdsong and Lawlor (2001) found that the top 100 design firms ranked graduate
education lowest by among those graduating from an accredited program, state licensing,
NCIDQ certification, research, and graduate education. The conclusion from this study is
that many practitioners do not fully recognize or understand the importance of a graduate
education and there is a disconnect between these practitioners views and the leaders in
top programs interviewed for this study. In contrast to the views held by practitioners
(Birdsong & Lawlor, 2001), the program leaders clearly advocated for graduate education
and research in the field. This direction deserves additional study.
As interior design educational programs move toward increasing graduate
education, it will be interesting to see FIDER's role in accounting for these programs.
FIDER may chose to recognize the relationship between undergraduate and graduate
programs in the undergraduate accreditation process or consider developing an
accrediting process for graduate interior design education. For example, graduate
programs directly support the tri-fold mission of teaching, research, and service in
interior design programs in land-grant institutions. A graduate education program may
contribute to the undergraduate program. These programs may have a greater emphasis
on introducing research into the design studio, allowing more developed programming to
occur. Also, graduate students can serve as teaching assistants for interior design
courses, providing supplemental resources for undergraduate students.
The sample of faculty members was very small; therefore it is difficult to form
definitive conclusions concerning this variable. While a majority of the faculty members
had a degree in either interior design or architecture, many of the faculty members also
had additional degrees in other areas of study with a Master's degree as the most frequent
highest awarded degree. Architecture programs had fewer NCIDQ certified faculty
members, but had more licensed architects on the faculty team. However, each program
head noted the preference of hiring faculty members who are NCIDQ certified. This may
reflect changing expectations in the field.
A Master's degree was the most predominant credential for faculty across
participating programs. The majority of the programs considered a master's degree as
acceptable for faculty hiring purposes but the Ph.D. appeared to becoming increasingly
important. One program head noted, "We like to keep a balance between faculty that
have significant practice experience and faculty that have been more research and
academic oriented." It was observed that programs in architecture had the highest
percentage of faculty with doctoral degrees. Further research is needed to discover if this
association is a result of the sample or a trend among architecture programs.
Over 80% (n=37) of all faculty members had a degree in either interior design or
architecture and many had additional degrees in other areas of study, such as industrial
design, fine arts, education, sociology, physics, art history, theatre, and even dentistry and
veterinary medicine. The remaining faculty members held degrees in fine arts, design
history, industrial design, home economics, and textiles. The high-breadth educational
backgrounds of faculty members, when interior design degrees are couple with other
degrees, is clearly a strength of interior design educators. Further, developing respect of
diverse faculty backgrounds was a formally put forth goal in the Boyer report (Boyer &
Mitgang, 1996) in their recommendations of diversity i/ ih dignity.
In addition to faculty members' educational background, their practice experience
is also important. Seventy-eight percent (n=37) of the faculty members are noted to have
had extensive design experience, whether in interior design or other allied disciplines.
Approximately one third of all faculty members are NCIDQ certified, which is the
preferred credentialing deemed necessary by FIDER to teach upper-division design
studio to interior design students. The faculty members' hybrid backgrounds in design
and education appeared to be a strength.
Both fine arts and human ecology programs had an equal number of core faculty
members who were NCIDQ certified. On average, just below half of the faculty in the
four programs were NCIDQ certified. The programs found within an architectural
academic home had the fewest NCIDQ certified faculty members, but the greatest
number of registered architects (31%, n=13). Although FIDER does not recognize this
preferred credential, architecture experience is most likely more valued than in this unit
compared to fine arts and human ecology.
In the standards and guidelines, FIDER stresses the need for professors who teach
upper-division studios to be NCIDQ-certified and program heads unanimously preferred
hiring faculty members who are NCIDQ-certified. However, given the ever-increasing
emphasis on research in tenure and promotion decisions at land-grant institutions,
programs may have difficulty maintaining a balance of faculty who have design
experience, and engage in significant creative scholarship and peer reviewed juried work
with research faculty. This may be especially evident at the four programs in this study
that are members of the research-intensive Association of American Universities (AAU),
where a Ph.D. is the preferred degree for faculty members. Further, programs contained
both core tenure track faculty as well as lecturers, visiting faculty, graduate teaching
assistants, and instructors whose responsibilities are primarily teaching.
All programs had alumni representation in interior design, architecture, and multi-
disciplinary design firms. However, the percentages of graduates working in these firm
types varied by academic home. Also, graduates working in a retail environment differed
greatly by program. Furthermore, interesting observations were noted on whether
graduates remained in the state of their university or whether they went out of the state.
Alumni were first examined based on whether they remained in the state where
they graduated or went out of state upon graduation. Therefore, it is important to note
cities in the United States that have large representation of interior design firms. In
Interior Design magazine's ranking of the top 100 firms in interior design, states that are
represented most frequently include California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York,
Philadelphia, Texas, and Washington D.C. (Interior Design website, 2005). Some of the
states where the programs examined in this study were found were listed in the top 100
which include Florida, Nebraska, and New York. The other states, Iowa, Louisiana, and
Kansas were not represented on the list. It is important to note that all of the programs in
this study are found in universities that are located in relatively isolated college towns
separate from urban communities.
The University of Florida (UF), Cornell University (Cornell), and Kansas State
University (KSU) all had approximately an equal percentage of alumni who stayed in
state and who went out of state. This is surprising for UF and Cornell in that they both
are located in states with cities that have top interior design firms. Therefore, one might
guess that alumni would choose to seek employment in these cities with many interior
design opportunities. It would be interesting to determine whether these graduates were
out of state students to see if they were returning to their home state as opposed to
seeking for a job in the state of their alma mater. Although no top 100 interior design
firms are located in Kansas, half of their alumni chose to stay in state upon graduation
with graduates employed in diverse settings including retail environments such as office
furniture stores that offer design services and systems dealerships.
Significant variations were found in three of the six programs on whether the
graduates stayed in state or went out of state. Specifically, these programs were the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Iowa State University (ISU), and Louisiana State
University (LSU). Many graduates of University of Nebraska, located within a state
represented in the top 100 design firms, stayed in state upon graduation. Interestingly,
considerably more alumni from LSU also stayed in state. Therefore, alumni from these
programs have less out of state visibility than the other programs in this study. Although
Louisiana was not home to any of the top 100 design firms, graduates from LSU are
working in interior design firm within the state. However, a majority of graduates from
ISU went out of state upon graduation. Similar to Louisiana, because there is no
representation of design firms from Iowa listed on the top 100, it is assumed that there is
not a large interior design industry in Iowa. As a result, students are moving out of state
upon graduation to seek jobs in the interior design industry. It remains to be determined
if students are looking for opportunities to practice in more prominent firms or if there
are simply not enough in-state employment opportunities in interior design.
Alumni were also examined based on the disciplines their employers practice. The
programs found in architecture units had the highest representation of students working in
interior design and architecture firms with interior design departments. Perhaps the
greater amount of design credit hours and the incorporation of architectural knowledge
gave students from these programs an advantage at these firm types. Conversely, the
architectural programs had the lowest percentage of alumni working in retail
environments and other design areas. This may indicate a greater degree of specialization
in these program types, although there is no readily identifiable specialization. On the
other hand, the fine arts and human ecology programs had a greater percentage of
graduates working in a retail environment or other design areas than architecture. Their
programs' curriculum allows students to take a large portion of electives to explore other
areas of study and therefore alumni are able to obtain jobs in other similar design areas.
Although the two programs in architecture had many similarities in the types of
firms their alumni are working for, UNL had alumni working in retail and other design
fields, where UF had no representation in these areas. The programs in fine arts were the
most consistent with alumni placement, with both programs having representation among
all categories. On the other hand, the interior design programs in human ecology differed
significantly in the percentage of alumni working in each category. Most of Cornell's
graduates worked at an interior design, architectural, or multi-disciplinary firm while the
majority of KSU's graduates were working in retail. This may be because of Cornell
greater focus on design studios, where students are required to take 13 more design studio
credit hours than KSU.
Alternative Interpretations of Findings
The above discussion of findings regarding curriculum, faculty, and alumni overall
show both similarities and differences but there does not appear to be unique identities of
these programs based on their academic homes. The research question driving this study
-- Do noted interior design programs reveal similarities and/or differences in curriculum,
faculty, and alumni by their distinct academic homes? -- lends itself to at least four
interpretations of the results.
First, if the results of this study are valid, there does not appear to be enough
distinct differences among programs to show a unique identity or specialization. This
would indicate that the professional movement of interior design, headed by FIDER,
might be leading to less variety and more uniformity across interior design educational
programs. Either interior design programs are not utilizing the flexibility of the FIDER
standards, or the standards are not flexible enough for detectable differences among
programs. Also, the lack of large differences among interior design programs may be
because interior design has not yet evolved to the extent that it can support specializations
at the undergraduate level.
Secondly, the results of this research study may not have included all variables that
contribute to detect core differences among the programs. The analysis relied heavily on
the PAR document and perhaps the program accreditation report is not sensitive enough
to capture program distinctions. Also, the variables examined may not have been
explored to the depth needed to uncover program differences. For example, the
curriculum analysis compared the course titles and the course credit hours; however
examining specific course content and how the courses are taught may reveal more about
the program identity. Additionally, other program variables such as resources,
administration, or facilities may need to be explored.
Thirdly, most of the program heads expressed the need to improve their existing
graduate program or the desire to develop a graduate program in the future. The
development of a graduate program might help programs develop a specialization
through the research areas that are pursued. A graduate interior design program
contributes to the identity of an undergraduate program because faculty members use
their time differently with a large portion devoted to working with graduate students.
Graduate students are qualified to assist teaching or sometimes individually teach a
course. Also, the research focus of graduate studies is often incorporated within the
undergraduate studies, enriching the program with the topics of research.
Fourth and finally, the use of programs from the Designlntelligence survey may
have impacted the results of this study. Interior design programs in the
Designlntelligence ranking are evaluated based on practitioners' opinions of recent
graduates preparation for the workforce. These programs are likely covering similar
knowledge bases that make graduates from them desirable to practitioners. Therefore,
this may suggest that highly ranked programs have more uniformity and possibility those
that are more specialized may not rate as high on rankings or surveys. For example, an
interior design program that specializes in lighting is likely very good at lighting
specifications, but may not have the overall characteristics to earn external recognition.
This study found both similarities and differences among six noted interior design
programs and the findings warrant further examination. Since FIDER accreditation
focuses on student outcomes and accreditation teams use the PAR as a roadmap to
student work, future research should not only explore programs' accreditation reports, but
also include an analysis of student work across programs.
Further research should also utilize a larger sample size for more definitive
conclusions. This study had a limited sample size and therefore, results cannot be widely
generalized. The increased sample size should first include all FIDER-accredited interior
design programs found in universities then be expanded to interior design programs in
other types of institutions awarding bachelor degrees. Also it would be interesting to
compare both FIDER-accredited programs and non-accredited programs on important
variables such as curriculum, faculty, and alumni. In addition, these three variables could
be expanded on in further research studies. Although the curriculum course category and
credit hours were compared, the studio content, methods of teaching, and the number of
contact hours spent in class could be investigated as a possible differentiation.
Faculty education and design experience were also studied in this research. This
could be expanded to research how faculty specializations developed from practice
and/or research areas impact the program. Further, it may also be interesting to interview
faculty members who have taught at multiple interior design programs across academic
units who could provide insights into overall strengths and weakness of programs in
architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. In addition, this research addressed alumni;
however, all programs provided limited information on their alumni. While it is often
difficult to track alumni; gathering a complete list of alumni from interior design
programs would provide more comprehensive understanding of entry into the field or
advanced studies. Finally, in recognition of the many variables that shape interior design
programs, additional considerations to be studied may include program resources
(facilities and budget), administration, strategic plans at department, college, and
university levels, and university admission standards. Exploring a wider range of
variables would create a more inclusive picture of interior design education.
The interior design discipline should develop a vision of interior design education
with specific recommendations for the future. This would offer direction to accelerate
the professional movement in interior design rather than encourage homogeneity and
stagnation. For example, research and graduate education can be a positive force on
undergraduate interior design education.
Interior design education also may benefit from investigating potential
specializations. Specialization of programs reflects a more mature discipline and would
assure a level of diversity among programs. It appears from the results of this study that
the majority undergraduate interior design programs in this study recognize the growing
importance of a graduate education. The challenge will be how to develop undergraduate
and graduate programs that mutually reinforce one another.
In addition, FIDER, interior design education, and professional organizations
should continue and expand to partner in understanding career paths and tracking alumni.
Even the format for alumni in the accreditation report could be more specific to capture
more complete alumni information. Otherwise, there is an inconsistency in how
programs are reporting this information. Interior design education may want to explore
more innovative ways to keep in contact with their alumni. For example, one program
studied in this thesis had recently developed an interactive website where graduates could
update their information.
Overall, both similarities and differences were found among the six programs under
study. The core curricula of the programs offered design studios, support courses, as well
as required liberal arts offerings. Differences emerged among the credit hours required in
design studios with only minimal differences in the credit hours allocated to support
courses and only one course was found to be unique to each academic unit.
Also, the majority of faculty had similar educational backgrounds with 80% (n=37)
having a degree in either interior design or architecture. Programs in fine arts and human
ecology had more NCIDQ-certified faculty on staff where the architecture programs had
fewer NCIDQ-certified faculty but had a greater representation of registered architects.
While the academic units of architecture likely see registered architects as a desirable
qualification, it will be interesting to see whether interior design programs in these units
will hire more certified interior design faculty members in the future to be in greater
compliance with the FIDER recommendations.
The most predominant program differences were observed among the alumni;
however, alumni data were not systematically reported by the programs. From the data,
alumni placement differed by academic home. Specifically, architecture programs had
the highest percentage of graduates in interior design and architecture firms, while human
ecology units had the greatest percentage of graduates in multi-disciplinary firms, retail,
and other design fields. Yet, even programs within the same academic unit varied on the
placement of their alumni.
The overall results on curriculum, faculty, and alumni, did not show a magnitude of
difference as great as anticipated. Given the finding of White and Dickson's study
(1996), that interior design programs differed in mission and administrative perceptions
of faculty productivity, it was expected that there would be clear distinctions in
curriculum, faculty, and alumni associated with these units. However, this was not the
unequivocal conclusion in this study. The question remains are high-ranking interior
design programs able to meet FIDER standards and develop a readily identifiable identity
or specialization at the undergraduate level? While the Boyer report (Boyer & Mitgang,
1996) recommends standards n iith,,it standardization, what are the advantages to
encouraging this interior design education?
Several studies explored interior design programs in academic homes of
architecture, fine arts, and human ecology. Namely, White and Dickson (1996) found
differences in program missions and valued faculty productivity in units of
architecture/fine arts and human ecology, while Nutter (2001) found differences in the
historical development of these units but similarities in curriculum and other factors
contributing to the program. This study drew on both studies but specifically expanded
on Nutter's multiple case study by exploring programs within the three academic homes
on curriculum content, faculty background, and alumni placement. Many similarities
were found among the course types and faculty educational backgrounds of six programs
under study reinforced Atkins findings. However, notable differences were also detected,
including the credit hours required for design studios, faculty NCIDQ certification status,
and graduate employer practices; although these differences were not strong enough to
imply a distinct identity on the studied factors.
This study has created a beginning understanding of noted accredited programs
housed in architecture, fine arts, and human ecology from public land-grant institutions.
The accreditation self-study reports (PAR) provided extensive information on curriculum
and faculty with some insights on alumni and this data, coupled with information from
the program heads, allowed the researcher to profile important program factors. Further
research is encouraged to offer a comprehensive understanding and strategic direction of
interior design education. A challenge is to continually assess and re-evaluate interior
design education to be assured that the students of today, who will lead the profession
into the future, are receiving the best education possible.
LETTER REQUESTING PARTICIPATION
Dear Program Head:
For my master's thesis at the University of Florida, I am conducting a study of FIDER-
accredited programs housed in academic units of Architecture or Design, Fine Arts, and
Human Ecology. These three academic units often have distinct missions that may
influence characteristics of Interior Design programs. My thesis research will examine the
possible impact of these academic units on Interior Design programs. If significant
differences are found between the Interior Design programs, then their unique qualities will
be studied in relation to the FIDER standards and guidelines. This thesis is under the
supervision of Professors Margaret Portillo and Mary Jo Hasell, both of whom have
recently chaired the FIDER Research Council.
Since your program has been identified as one of the top tier programs nationally, I would
like to request your participation in this study. With your permission, a copy of the most
recent Program Evaluation Report (PER) is requested to examine curriculum content,
faculty background, and alumni placement. After a content analysis of the PER document,
you will be contacted for a short phone interview for follow-up questions clarifying salient
issues. The interview will be audio recorded with your permission and should take no more
than 30 minutes. You can be assured that your program will remain anonymous. I will be
happy to share the results of the study with you.
I will contact you within the week to discuss any further questions that you might have.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Margaret Portillo, Ph.D.