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THE IMPACT OF CREATIVITY ON THE EVALUATION OF ENTRY-LEVEL
INTERIOR DESIGN PORTF OLIO S:
EXAMINIG THE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG CREATIVE NOVELTY,
RESOLUTION, AND STYLE
KATHRYN E. LEVINS
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
Kathryn E. Levins
I would like to acknowledge several people whose support and contributions made
this research study possible. First, I would like to thank my parents for their unwavering
support and unconditional love, and my siblings for always being by my side. I would
especially like to thank my husband for always encouraging me to look ahead and press
Many thanks go to my graduate advisor, Dr. Margaret Portillo, for great ideas and
guidance throughout the entire process, and to Dr. Jason Colquitt, whose assistance and
statistical expertise proved invaluable. I wish to also thank Professor Candy Carmel-
Gilfilen for her encouragement and helping hand in various aspects of the proj ect, as well
as Michael Compton for his contributions to this study.
Lastly, I would also like to thank the firms and designers involved in the research
for donating their time and expertise. This study would not have been feasible without
their interest and willingness to participate.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT S ........._.._.. ...._... ..............._ iii..
LI ST OF T ABLE S ........._..... ...._... ............... vii...
LIST OF FIGURES ........._.._.. ...._... ...............viii...
AB STRAC T ................ .............. ix
1 INTRODUCTION .............. .................... 1
Purpose .............. ...............2.....
Si gnificance .............. ...............3.....
Research Questions............... ...............5
Delimitations ........._..... ...._... ...............6...
Assum options ............... ...............7....
Equal Opportunity .............. ...............7.....
Creativity is Everywhere .............. ...............7.....
Unbiased Judgments ........._..... ...._... ...............7.....
Summary ........._..... ...._... ...............8.....
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ........._.._.. ...._... ............... 9...
Creativity .............. ...... ...............9..
What is Creativity? ........._.._.._ ...............10......_.....
Creative Products ........._...... ........_.._ ...............12.....
Assessment of Creative Products .............. .....................15
Creative Product Analysis Matrix ......_.._............... ........._.._.......17
Consensual Assessment Technique ........._.._.. ....._.. ........._.._......20
Summary ................. ...............21.._._._.......
3 METHODOLOGY .............. .................... 23
Research Design .............. ...............23....
Setting ........._..... ..._ ... ...............23.....
Pilot Study .............. ...............25....
Sam ple .............. ...............26....
Participants .............. ...............27....
Participant Procedure ................. ...............3.. 1..............
Instrum ent ................. ...............3.. 1..............
Proc edure s ................ ...............33........... ....
Timed slide show............... ...............33..
Evaluations .............. ...............34....
Interview s .............. ...............34....
Limitations ................. ...............36.................
Sum m ary ................. ...............36.......... ......
4 FINDINGS ................. ................. 37..............
Participant Demographics ................. ...............37.................
Data Analysis............... ...............40
Research Question One............... ...............42..
Research Question Two ................. ...............46........... ....
Research Question Three .................. .......... ...............50......
Defining creativity in interior design .............. ...............51....
Defining creativity in entry-level portfolios............... ...............5
Additional factors for portfolio evaluation............... ...............5
Sum m ary ................. ...............58.......... ......
5 DI SCU SSION ................. ................. 59..............
V alidity .............. ...............60....
Reliability ................. ................ .........6
Entry-level Interior Design Portfolios .............. ...............64....
N ovelty .............. ...............66....
Re soluti on ................. ...............67........... ....
Creativity .............. ...............73....
Implications .............. .... ...............76..
Suggested Future Research ................. ...............78........... ....
Conclusion ................ ...............80.................
A PARTICIPATION LETTER REQUEST ................. ................. 82.............
B INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL LETTER ............... ... ........... 83
C PORTFOLIO EVALUATION INSTRUMENT ................ .......... ............... 85
D INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE ................. ................. 86......... ....
E SUMMARY OF QUALITATIVE FINDINGS ................. .......... ................ 87
LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ................. 92......... ....
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................. ................. 98.............
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Creative Product Analysis Matrix ................. ...............18........... ...
3-1 Firm profile .............. ...............28....
3-2 Participant design and portfolio review experience .............. .....................3
4-1 Participant demographics .............. ...............38....
4-2 Position title by employment variables .............. ...............40....
4-3 Portfolio assessment variables .............. ...............41....
4-4 Descriptive statistics of novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential .42
4-5 Correlation matrix of novelty, resolution, and style related to creativity ................44
4-6 Multiple regression analysis of creativity .............. ...............45....
4-7 Correlation matrix of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity related to hiring
potential ................. ...............47.......... .....
4-8 Multiple regression analysis of hiring potential ................ ......... ................48
LIST OF FIGURES
4-1 Design specializations of participating firms ................ .............. ........ .....38
4-2 Distribution of job positions............... ...............3
4-3 Relationship model of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity ................... ...........43
4-4 Relationship model of novelty, resolution, style, creativity and hiring potential ....46
4-5 Model of creative product variables related to hiring potential in interior design...49
4-6 Designer responses to open-ended questions ..........._._ ......_.._ ........._........50
4-7 Definitions of creativity by novelty, resolution, and style .............. ....................52
4-8 Definitions of creativity in design portfolios by novelty, resolution, and style.......54
4-9 Designer considerations for reviewing portfolios .................. ................5
4-10 Additional designer considerations for entry-level hiring............... .................5
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
THE IMPACT OF CREATIVITY ON THE EVALUATION OF ENTRY-LEVEL
INTERIOR DESIGN PORTF OLIO S:
EXAMINIG THE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG CREATIVE NOVELTY,
RESOLUTION, AND STYLE
Kathryn E. Levins
Chair: Margaret Portillo
Major Department: Interior Design
This study explored the impact of creativity in entry-level interior design portfolios
where the creative product attributes of novelty, resolution, and style were examined
relative to the creativity and hiring potential of design portfolios. Twenty-one designers
individually assessed 12 portfolios from graduating seniors in an accredited interior
design program. A locally developed evaluation instrument was used to measure five
dimensions: novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential. Designers also
responded to qualitative questions aimed at revealing individual views of creativity and
entry-level interior design portfolios.
The study was investigated in three stages. First, designers watched a programmed
slide show of the 12 portfolios to get an overall impression of the portfolio group.
Designers then viewed and evaluated the 12 portfolios independently using an evaluation
instrument. Lastly, designers answered questions regarding creativity, entry-level design
portfolios, and their design background.
The quantitative Eindings which analyzed 248 data points and the qualitative
Endings of 12 designers' opinions, support novelty, resolution, and style as attributes of a
creative product. The Hyve variables measured by the study--novelty, resolution, style,
creativity, and hiring potential--were found to highly associated with one another.
Further investigation revealed that creativity is influenced the most by novelty and then
style; hiring potential is influenced the most by style, followed by resolution, and then
creativity. In addition, designers perceive resolution to be the most important attribute of
creativity, while style, resolution, and novelty are considered important factors for hiring
potential. Style appears to be the overall organizing attribute for novelty and resolution
of a portfolio.
A creative compilation of personal and collaborative efforts produced throughout a
period of time, the design portfolio can combine many design proj ects into a unifying
testament of one' s ability (Newstetter & Khan, 1997). For many design professions, the
use of portfolios is a way of communicating talents, skills, and potential growth of entry-
level professionals as well as experienced persons in the business. The design fields,
including architecture, interior design and graphic design, acknowledge the portfolio as a
necessary instrument allowing designers of all experience levels to showcase their work
Performance-based assessments such as portfolios are developed with the purpose
of better understanding students' competencies and skills: "Performance assessments
provide a systematic way of evaluating those reasoning and skill outcomes that cannot be
adequately measured by the typical objective or essay test" (Gronlund, 1998, p. 138).
More commonly used in education now (Castiglione, 1996), performance assessments are
advocated by educational researchers, and thought to be a better approach to measuring
highly complex skills (Arter, 1999; Eisner, 1999; Wiggins, 1989; Wiley & Haertel, 1996;
and Spalding, 2000). The interior design portfolio, a special case of performance
assessment, is a useful tool for assessing both what students have retained from their
educational experiences, as well as their potential for future success--two qualities that
prospective design firms, professors, and teaching facilities alike consider integral for
Design portfolios, professional design projects, and competition entries seeking
design awards are just a few applications within interior design that are subj ect to
assessments of creativity (Christiaans, 2002). Since interior design is highly visual, being
creative is a dominant factor in this field as much as it is in other design-based
professions. Graduating students entering the design field not only understand the paucity
of entry-level design positions and the competitive nature of design and designers, but
also the role their portfolio has in securing future employment. Since creativity is
considered a maj or element when defining the quality of a designer, many graduating
students or students seeking internships are uncertain on how to display their design
talents and skills through their portfolio in the most unique and appropriate way. Hoping
to stand out among their peers, these students strive for direction on what is going to
make them more desirable than a peer seeking the same position.
The purpose of this study is to determine what design professionals consider
creative in entry-level interior design portfolios. These judgments will be measured
using a quantitative portfolio assessment and an open-ended, qualitative inquiry. A 5-
point Likert scale will be used to assess 12 portfolios on thirteen creative product
characteristics. Five major variables will emerge from the 13 items that include novelty,
resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential. The results will likely reveal that the
three creative product dimensions-novelty, resolution, and style--will be weighed
differently for creativity and hiring potential. In addition, creativity will be defined
differently amongst design professionals, but similarly in regard to the aspects of
creativity that are deemed the most valuable.
In both art and design, creativity is believed to be the most important criteria for
quality of performance (Christiaans, 2002). While research has been done on creativity
in last decade, little highlights the systematic assessment of creativity in interior design.
Creativity research centers on Mooney's (1963) four "P's" of creativity. The four facets
of creativity represent the creative person, the creative process, the creative product, and
the creative press (environment). Research has been done to analyze these four facets
together, a combination of the facets, and to assess each facet individually. The creative
product alone is the basis for this study. A creative product, defined by most researchers,
is some combination of novel and appropriate (Jackson & Messick 1956; Amabile, 1982;
Torrance, 1988). By assessing products for creativity, researchers have made
considerable theoretical efforts "to identify precisely what attributes of the product
contribute to its creativity" (Besemer & O'Quin, 1986, p. 115).
An in-depth investigation of a product in the art and design field, that being an
entry-level interior design portfolio, will significantly affect creativity research, design
education, and interior design students. First, exploring creativity of design portfolios, an
area that has been researched very little, will considerably add to the body of knowledge
surrounding creativity. Secondly, educators and teaching facilities can also gain
applicable knowledge from this research. Understanding the aspects of interior design
portfolios that are valued by professional designers will allow interior design educators to
focus their teachings to maximize skills and content that may help students acquire a
professional design position. Finally, interior design students will be introduced to the
characteristics of creativity and educated on the value these characteristics hold for entry-
level portfolios. This knowledge will inevitably affect possible future careers in interior
Additionally, many studies have been completed in the last decade to illustrate
what design practitioners prefer in terms of skills and attributes of recent graduates.
Though these studies touch on very important aspects of the physical characteristics of
the portfolio, such as format and substance, there is a lack of concern for the creative
qualities that give each portfolio their unique character. One study conducted by Baker
and Sondhi (1989) looked at the competencies and attributes needed by entry-level
interior design graduates by surveying the top 200 interior design firms across the
country. The study found that "large interior design firms are looking for entry-level
personnel who critically think through design solutions based on design theories,
communicates verbally and through graphic presentation, practice professional ethics,
and present themselves as mature, enthusiastic, and well groomed" (p. 35). Although the
professionals favored hiring graduates with a 4-year degree, sixty-eight percent of the
responses said the portfolio was the primary basis of hiring decisions, followed by
education. This illustrates not only the value that professional interior designers place on
the portfolio, but also that the portfolio is the maj or ingredient that leads to entry-level
These findings are similar to the results of a previous study conducted in 1983.
Hernecheck, Rettig, and Sherman analyzed the viewpoints of 63 professional designers
on the subj ect of competencies for interior design entry-level positions. Similar to the
previous study, Hernecheck, Rettig, and Sherman found that the qualifications of the
applicant were more of a concern to the professionals than whether the applicant' s
educational institution was accredited. These professionals place more emphasis on the
"the individual's capabilities as shown in the resume, portfolio, and personal presentation
at the time of the interview" (1983, p. 12).
Through an empirical investigation, this study intends to measure how design
professionals judge creativity in potential employees by assessing the portfolios of
students from an accredited four-year interior design program. A quantitative scaled
measurement will primarily be used, followed by a qualitative inquiry, to give substantial
insight into the characteristics of successful, creative entry-level interior design
portfolios. In order to understand creativity, this study tries to identify specifically, what
design professionals perceive as creative in senior design student's portfolio work.
By utilizing the Creative Product Analysis Matrix theory (Besemer and Treffinger,
1981), several dimensions of creativity have been identified to help quantify and measure
the creative characteristics of interior design portfolios. The Creative Product Analysis
Matrix theory was developed to create an in-depth observation of creative products by
bringing attention to the more relevant qualities of the products (Besemer & Treffinger,
1981). These qualities, novelty, resolution, and style (Besemer, 2003), will be used to
analyze interior design portfolios. Novelty refers to the newness of the product,
resolution deals with how well the product functions, and style refers to the stylistic
attributes of the product. Included as well are the dimensions of creativity and hiring
potential. Creativity gives a measurable value to each portfolio and hiring potential is the
student's potential to be hired by the participant's firm. This study relies on these five
dimensions of entry-level interior design portfolios to help address the following research
1. What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, and style in entry-level
interior design portfolios in predicting creativity?
2. What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity in entry-
level interior design portfolios in predicting hiring potential?
3. How do the open-ended designer perceptions of creativity and entry-level
portfolios support the quantitative portfolio evaluations?
The University of Florida' s graduating class of 2005 provided the entry-level
interior design portfolios used in this study. Located in Gainesville, Florida, the
University of Florida was the only university selected to participate. Participation from
other universities would have been beyond the scope of a master' s thesis, and in addition,
provided more portfolios than necessary. The number of portfolios used was limited to
12. Any more would have been detrimental to the time constraints of the judges, all of
which scheduled approximately two hours during their workday to participate in the
study. Additional portfolios would have extended the time necessary to complete the
study, possibly causing fatigue and other emotional responses, which could then affect
their judgments of the portfolios.
Another delimitation of this study is that the 12 portfolios are comprised of a
varying number of student interior design proj ects consisting of both individual and team
projects. The projects illustrated varying amounts of information as well. In addition,
since the 12 portfolios that made up the sample are from an all-female class, this study
can only be generalized within the female population of undergraduate interior design
students from interior design programs similar to the University of Florida' s.
The portfolios used in the study are comprised of a variety of work that was created
throughout the student' s tenure in the interior design program at the University of
Florida. Portfolios exhibit varying amounts of educational material produced at UF from
the beginning of the interior design program until the end. Since no transfer students
were included in this study, students went through the same curriculum with the same
professors. It is assumed that each student received similar instruction and attention, and
that students had an equal opportunity for success for each interior design proj ect and for
their portfolios as well.
Creativity is Everywhere
Creativity is considered by researchers to be a normally distributed trait (Parnes,
Noller & Biondi, 1977). While past ideas of the creative person had always been linked
to highly distinguished people, often geniuses, more current research contends that
everybody is creative, to some degree (Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Besemer
& O'Quin, 1986). Moreover, many scholars maintain creative thinking can be developed
and taught to students in some domain (Amabile, 1983; Nickerson, 1999). This idea
supports the assumption that students educated to the highest level of undergraduate,
interior design schooling have some degree of creative ability.
The professional interior designers and architects involved in the study make up the
expert panel. These experts were selected because of their employment at highly
recognized architecture and interior design firms located near the University of Florida in
Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa. One can assume these distinguished firms have an
invested interest in research, gaining knowledge about design, and bettering the field of
design. Since there are no comparisons being made to other institutions or universities, it
is assumed that the expert panel of design judges representing highly recognized firms
will act without bias when assessing the student portfolios.
Entry-level interior design portfolios are a vital aspect for entry-level interior
designers gaining employment. By studying the creativity of entry-level interior design
students' portfolios, a heightened understanding of creativity in research and design
education will be acknowledged. Assessing these creative products will give additional
insight into the professional practice of interior design and benefit entry-level designers.
The purpose of this study is to find out what professional designers perceive to be
creative in entry-level interior design portfolios. The five dimensions of novelty,
resolution, style, overall creativity, and hiring potential of 12 portfolios will be assessed.
An additional qualitative inquiry will clarify how design professionals define creativity.
With the understanding of what professionals agree to be creative, entry-level interior
designers will be able to exemplify their skills and potential with the use of a highly
creative design portfolio.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
An in-depth study of senior interior design portfolios will measure various
dimensions of creative production. The review of literature focuses on defining creativity
and understanding creative products. Creative product measurement tools and theories
are also discussed further. Additionally, two important instruments that are used in the
methodology of this study are highlighted later in the literature review.
Creativity is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that defies an easy definition.
Much of how creativity occurs is unseen, nonverbal, and some argue occurs during a
conscious/unconscious psychodynamic state (Torrance, 1988; Sternberg & Lubart, 1999).
Many theories and approaches have been developed by psychologists, scientists, and
researchers to study the often unexplainable concept of creativity. As Boden (1994) put
is a puzzle, a paradox, some say a mystery. Inventors, scientists, and artists rarely
know how their original ideas arise. They mention intuition, but cannot say how it
works. Most psychologists cannot tell us much about it, either. What' s more,
many people assume that there will never be a scientific theory of creativity--for
how could science explain fundamental novelties? [...] Why does creativity seem
so mysterious? To be sure, artists and scientists typically have their creative ideas
unexpectedly, with little if any conscious awareness of how they arose. But the
same applies to much of our vision, language, and commonsense reasoning.
Psychology includes many theories about unconscious processes. Creativity is
mysterious for another reason: the very concept is seemingly paradoxical (p. 75).
Although creativity can be complicated, Kneller writes, "[It] is a unique and
invaluable aspect of human behavior" (1965, p. iii). It is something that still mystifies as
well as fascinates the minds of the scholars who study the nature of creativity (Tardif &
The knowledge and understanding of creativity is always being redefined and
further developed. In order to study this concept scientifically, there has to be some sort
of definition to guide research. This section of the review of literature will be utilized to
discuss some of the definitions of creativity, and will also elaborate on creative products
and how they are assessed.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is defined differently amongst researchers and scientists, and is
conceptualized differently for every field (Amabile, 1996). The collection of views and
perspectives for identifying creativity has lead to a variety of definitions. However, a
commonality between these sometimes-differing views is that creativity is both novel and
usually appropriate (Torrance, 1988; Jackson & Messick, 1956; Amabile, 1982). For
instance, in order for something to be considered original, the frequency of the response
should be statistically unusual, and the response should be suitable for the problem
Several different approaches for the assessment of creativity have been identified.
According to Mooney (1963), there are four notably different perspectives to the
creativity problem. Creativity is believed to be: (1) the individual personality traits that
produce new ideas, the creative person; (2) the process of conceiving new ideas, the
creative process; (3) the result or product of the creative process, the creative product;
and/or (4) the environments that allow new ideas to evolve, the creative press (Mooney,
1963; Taylor, 1988; Alves, et. al, 2005). Each of these aspects has differing methods and
criteria for identifying creative talent, but often times are used in varying combinations:
"All of these four approaches have been found to some degree as an approach or set of
approaches used by investigators in their proj ects and/or programs of research" (Taylor,
In Boden' s (1994; 2001) view, creativity is the novel combination of old ideas.
There is a certain amount of surprise involved that is a result of the improbability of the
combination--the more improbable, the more surprising. Combinations that are valuable
and creative not only have to be new but interesting as well and relevant to a given
situation (Boden, 1994; 2001; Kneller, 1965).
Boden (1994; 2001) highlights two main theories that previous literature suggested
was involved with novel ideas: (1) those that that are new to the person's previous ways
of thinking, and (2) those that that are completely new and have never existed before.
Kneller (1965) was a strong proponent of the first theory, maintaining that creativity is an
idea, artifact, or form of behavior that is discovered and expressed and is new to that
individual. He believes that although novelty is a "rearrangement of existing knowledge,
it still is an addition to knowledge" (1965, p. 4). Additionally, Thurstone (1952) and
Stewart (1950) regard newness as a condition of creativity and believe that as long as
something is new to the individual that created it, then it is creative, even if the something
has previously been done.
On the contrary, Stein (1953) believed the second theory to be true: that novelty
meant that the creative product has never existed before in the same form. He also
believed that the product needed to be accepted as useful and satisfying in the time of
history in which it appears. Suggesting meanings of creativity may shift over time, Stein
(1953) implied that what may be viewed as creative at one time in one society may not be
These differing views of creativity have lead to a variety of definitions, all seeking
to solve the problem of establishing a criterion by which to assess creativity. Researchers
gain understanding of creativity by studying the person, the product, the process, and the
environment in which creativity occurs. Presenting literature specifically on the creative
product will put forth comprehensive research that is important for the present study.
In the past 15 to 20 years, psychometric approaches to measuring creativity have
advanced past the traditional cognitive and personality perspectives and have diversified
to include a broader range of approaches (Plucker & Renzulli, 1999). The methods can
be understood through the four facets of creativity discussed earlier. Current
psychometric methods have been used to measure personality characteristics of creative
individuals (creative person) (MacKinnon, 1978; Barron & Harrington, 1981), to
improve measures of generating new ideas (creative process) (Runco, 1991; Runco &
Mraz, 1992), to measure the creativity of products (creative product) (Besemer &
O'Quinn, 1986; Reis & Renzulli, 1991; Lobert & Dologite, 1994)), and to explore
environmental issues that are related to creativity (creative press) (Amabile, 1979,
Hennessey & Amabile, 1988). Studies in the past have investigated creativity utilizing
these methods individually and combinations of methods.
Analyzing creative products has been said to be "the starting point, indeed the
bedrock of all studies of creativity" (MacKinnon, 1987, p. 120). MacKinnon argues that
regardless of whether one chooses to study the creative person, the creative process, or
the creative environment, one must still define creativity in terms of the creative product.
For instance, the creative product is a result of the creative process or processes,
performed by the creative person, in a creative situation or environment. In addition,
MacKinnon (1975) says that until research on creative products is more firmly
encouraged and established, creativity research would continually be looking for answers
to the criterion problem. Other researchers agree on the significance of the creative
product (Taylor & Sandler, 1972; Treffinger & Poggio, 1972; Ward & Cox, 1974), and
furthermore, feel that analyzing creative products responds to and makes up for the
inconsistencies inherent in divergent thinking tests and rating scales (Runco, 1989).
Brogden and Sprecher (1964) contended that by analyzing the creative product, the
study of creativity would close the gap on the criterion problem. They proposed a
traditional definition for creative products:
A product may be a physical obj ect-an article or patent--or it may be a theoretical
system. [...] It may be an equation or a new technique. [...] It is not uniquely
bound up with the life of an individual (p. 160).
In other definitions, researchers have tried to incorporate criteria necessary for a product
to be considered creative. Newell, Shaw and Simon (1963) suggested that a creative
product satisfy one or more of the following conditions:
* a product that has novelty and value either for the thinker or the culture;
* a product that is unconventional in the sense that it requires modification or
rej section of previously accepted ideas;
* a product resulting from high motivation and persistence, either over a considerable
span of time or at a high intensity;
* a product resulting from the formulation of a problem which was initially vague
and ill-defined (p. 780).
Similarly, Jackson and Messick (1965) attempted to define the criteria essential for
a creative product. They proposed that a creative product must satisfy four criterions,
which are explained in order with respect to the progression of complexity, and are
dependent on the ones that precede it. To ensure a products' creativity, Jackson and
Messick (1965) argue that the following must be true:
* a product must be both unusual and appropriate in relation to its norms, fitting the
context of its response or situation, and evoke surprise and satisfaction to the
viewer; these two criterions are used conj ointly rather than independently.
* a product must transform and overcome conventional constraints, creating new
forms; and be stimulating.
* a product must possess "condensation"-requiring continued contemplation, or
savoring--where apparent simplicity and complexity are unified.
Jackson and Messick (1965) were also sensitive to the expected emotional or aesthetic
responses transmitted by the product to the viewers. They felt was important to not only
look at the "responsive" qualities of the creative product (i.e. unusualness,
appropriateness, transformation, and condensation), but also to discuss them in relative
Amabile's (1982) consensual or operational definition of creativity is widely used
for subj ective, contextually-bound assessments of products. She states that:
A product or response is creative to the extent that the appropriate observers
independently agree it is creative. Appropriate observers are those familiar with
the domain in which the product was created or the response articulated. Thus,
creativity can be regarded as the quality of products or responses judged to be
creative by appropriate observers, and it can be regarded as the process by which
something so judged is produced (1982, p. 1001).
Amabile (1983) argues that it is impossible to utilize obj ective criteria alone for
analyzing and identifying products as creative. For example, the beauty of something or
someone is decided based on judgments of others--where defined characteristics of
beauty may or may not be applied. Therefore, Amabile (1983) suggested that in order to
identify something as creative, there must be some type of subj ective assessment
included in the methodology.
There are benefits to pairing obj ective dimensions of creativity with subj ective
assessments of experts. Sobel and Rothenberg (1980) solicited two internationally
acclaimed artists to rate sketches on three dimensions. In this study, the raters were
informed of the protocol by which to assess the sketches. The researchers defined
creativity in terms of originality and value, and explained the criteria to assess for:
* Originality of sketches: the sketch presents a fresh, new or novel design, structure,
image, or conception;
* Value of sketch: the artistic worth of the sketch, determined by factors such as
effectiveness, visual interest or visual power, coherence or unity, intelligibility,
emotional impact, "says" or "conveys" something;
* Overall creative potential of the art product: degree to which the product is both
original and of value (Sobel and Rothenberg, 1980, p. 957).
Similarly, Getzels & Csikszentmihalyi (1976) evaluated works of art by
incorporating four different groups of judges-two expert and two nonexpert groups.
These judges were asked to use their own subj ective views while rating the drawings on
the three dimensions of originality, craftsmanship, and overall aesthetic value.
Assessment of Creative Products
The analysis of products has long been seen as the forerunner of assessment
methods for identifying creativity (MacKinnon, 1978). The types of investigations
employed throughout literature run the gamut. Simple, straightforward rating scales have
been utilized while complex assessment techniques have been used to record value
through the use of expert judges. Some studies employ a single criterion such as
originality (Simonton, 1980), while others use multiple criteria like creativity, technical
quality, attractiveness, interest, expressiveness, integrating capacity, and goodness of
example (Christiaans, 2002). Exploring both ideas, Ward and Cox (1974) compared the
use of a single criterion versus multiple criteria for the assessment of creativity to
examine if sex and socioeconomic status were associated with the evaluated creativeness
of a product. A radio contest was held where "listeners were invited to submit humorous
and original little green things" (p. 202). In two studies, judges evaluated these products
using the criteria: originality, infrequency, attractiveness, humor, complexity, and effort
(Ward & Cox, 1974). In the first study, using only the criterion of originality, the authors
found "a significant association between social status measures and originality for
entrants whose products represented some investments of effort" (p. 210). The second
study utilized all the criteria as a subset to originality and reported that humor,
infrequency, and amount of effort were the best predictors of originality. Ward and
Cox' s efforts proved effective for supporting the idea of using several dimensions to
Several instruments for assessing creative products have been developed by
researchers that are based on theoretical models. Researchers have taken different
approaches to establishing these models but with a similar goal--solving the criterion
problem. In the examples reviewed below, Taylor's (1975) theoretical model introduces
seven criteria that can be used to evaluate the degree of "effective creativeness" of a
product. This framework guided Besemer and Treffinger (1981) to introduce a
theoretical matrix that discusses the attributes of a creative product. Additionally,
Amabile (1983) introduces criteria for subj ective assessment through the use of expert
In 1975, Taylor formally presented the Creative Product Inventory for assessing
creativity of products. This theoretical model evaluated products using seven criteria:
"generation, the extent to which it generates or produces new ideas; reformulation, the
extent to which the product introduces significant change or modification in oneself or
others; originality, the degree of the product's usefulness, uncommonness, or statistical
infrequency; relevancy, the extent to which the product satisfactorily provides a solution
to a problem; hedonics, the valence or degree of attraction the product commands;
complexity, the degree of range, depth, scope, or intricacy of the information contained
in the product; and condensation, the degree to which the product simplifies, unifies, and
integrates" (Taylor, 1975, p. 314, 316).
Creative Product Analysis Matrix
The review of literature on creative products and the characteristics or attributes
presented in previous creativity studies encouraged Besemer & Treffinger (1981) to
synthesize and organize the literature into the Creative Product Analysis Matrix (CPAM).
This theoretical framework hypothesized that the three related categories created were the
"fundamental dimensions, the independent variables of creativeness manifested in
creative products" (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981, p. 163). Besemer (1998) also argues
that the model can be used for any type of 'artifact" of the creative process including
works of art and new product ideas. The three creative product attributes included (1)
novelty, (2) resolution, and (3) elaboration and synthesis. Novelty refers to the newness
of the product in terms of concepts, techniques, methods, and materials used to make the
product. The resolution of a product indicated the correctness of the solution to the
problem at hand, and elaboration and synthesis deals with the stylistic attributes of the
product (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981; Besemer and O'Quin, 1986; 1999; Besemer,
1998). These three characteristics are further broken down into facets. Early literature
on the CPAM framework illustrates 14 facets; however, the model currently demonstrates
9 facets that are: "for novelty, originality and surprise; for resolution, logical, useful,
valuable, and understandable; and for elaboration and synthesis, organic, well-crafted,
and elegant (Besemer & O'Quin, 1999, p. 287). Besemer (2003) later referred to
Elaboration and Synthesis simply as Style (Table 2-1).
The extent of newness of the How well the product works, The degree to which the product
product; in terms of the number and functions, and does what it is combines unlike elements into a
extent of new processes, new supposed to do. The degree to refined, developed, coherent whole,
techniques, new measures, new which the product fits or meets the statement or unit.
concepts including; in terms of the needs of the problematic situation.
newness of the product both in and Organic
out of the field. Logical The product has a sense of
The product or solution follows the wholeness or completeness about it.
Surprise acceptable and understood rules for All the parts "ai !i1. 11! together.
The product presents unexpected or the discipline.
unanticipated information to the Well-Crafted
user, listener, or viewer. Useful The product has been worked and
The product has clear, practical reworked with care to develop it to
Original applications. its highest possible level for this
The product is unusual or point in time.
infrequently seen in a universe of Valuable
products made by people with The product is judged worthy Elegant
similar experience and training. because it fills a financial, physical, The product shows a solution that is
social, or psychological need. expressed in a refined, understated
The product is presented in a
communicative, self-disclosing way,
which is "user-friendly."
Table 2-1. Creative Product Analysis Matrix (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981, p. 164;
A variety of creative products were assessed using the CPAM model. The testing
instrument developed by Besemer and her colleagues was used to measure the creative
attributes of products. Largely based on Taylor and Sandler's (1972) Creative Product
Inventory, the bipolar, adj ective scale created was derived from the theoretical model and
later termed the Creative Product Semantic Scale (CPSS). The scale measured the three
characteristics of the CPAM model--novelty, resolution, and elaboration and synthesis--
by using several semantic pairs of adjectives (Besemer & O'Quin, 1986; 1987). The
CPSS started with 1 10 adj ectives using 4-point scale ratings; though, after many tests, the
instrument was modified to 55 bipolar items with 7-point scale ratings.
The CPSS instrument that Besemer and her colleagues created has been used in its
entire form in some studies, while others have chosen a shorter, modified version. Lobert
and Dologite (1994) felt it was important to adapt the instrument to the specific domain
and product being investigated. Following suggestions given by expert judges, four items
were removed from the scale because they were either considered inappropriate for the
domain or were repetitive, and two more items were added. Lobert and Dologite (1994)
also thought it was necessary to capture the overall assessment in order to explore the
correlations with the other scales. Thus, an overall creativity dimension was included in
the scale as well.
Other studies have chosen to utilize only the CPAM. By using the matrix as a
theoretical framework, researchers have been able create valuable instruments specific to
their studies. One study utilized the CPAM to generate a 52-item survey for assessing
products from the perspective of the consumer (Horn & Salvendy, 2006). Centrality,
importance, and desire were recognized as significant predictors of consumer satisfaction
and purchasing ability.
In another study, Cropley and Cropley (2000) wanted to see if engineering students
would produce more creative ideas if they were taught creativity by way of class lectures.
Products made by the engineering undergrads were evaluated using an instrument that
combined certain ideas from the CPAM and the Creative Product Inventory. The product
was subj ectively judged on the dimensions of: "effectiveness (distance traveled), novelty
(originality and surprisingness), elegan2ce (understandability and workmanlike finish),
and germinality (usefulness, ability to open up new perspectives)" (pg. 211). An Overall
Impression dimension was also included to encourage students to be as creative as
possible. This fifth dimension was effective in illustrating whether effectiveness,
novelty, elegance, and/or germinality were responsible for overall impression or
perceived creativity of the product. In this study, novelty and germinality correlated
significantly with overall impression, suggesting that the rater' s subj ective assessment of
the product was influenced by how original and useful the product was.
Consensual Assessment Technique
Supplementary to the consensual definition of creativity previously discussed,
Amabile (1983) developed a theoretic framework for the assessment of creativity. She
clarifies two essential elements that discuss the nature of the observer' s responses. This
framework operates on the idea that: "A product or response will be judged as creative to
the extent that:
1. it is both a novel and appropriate, useful, correct or valuable response to the task at
2. the task is heuristic rather than algorithmic" (Amabile, 1983, p. 33).
While incorporating the common approach of most product definitions where
creativity occurs when there is novelty and appropriateness, Amabile's framework takes
into account the type of task involved. A heuristic task is one in which the "path to the
solution" is not obvious and easily noticeable (1983). By contrast, an algorithmic task
has a path that is clear-cut and simple.
Amabile (1982; 1983) developed an assessment method based on this theoretical
framework. The consensual assessment technique relies heavily on the subjective
judgments of experts within the domain of the product under evaluation. There are
several requirements for this method that should be mentioned: the judges involved in the
assessment process should have some experience with the domain at hand; judges should
make their assessments independently; judges should assess the product for other
dimensions in addition to creativity; judges should rate products relative to one another
on the specific dimensions in question; and each judge should examine the products
randomly and in a different order (Amabile, 1983).
The most important criterion for this technique is that the expert' s assessments be
reliable. Amabile (1983) claims that, "by definition, inter-judge reliability is equivalent
to construct validity. If appropriate judges independently agree that a given product is
highly creative, then it can and must be accepted as such" (p. 39; Hennessey & Amabile,
1988). Amabile and her colleagues (Amabile, 1982; 1983; Hennessey & Amabile, 1988)
have developed and tested this technique in several studies involving children and adults,
utilizing poems, stories, and collages. A consistently high inter-rater reliability score has
been reported for over thirty experimental studies (Amabile, 1982; 1983; Hennessey &
Amabile, 1988). For example, one study asked female students in a psychology course to
create a collage (Amabile, 1979). Fifteen artists evaluated the collages on 16 dimensions
of judgment. The inter-judge reliability was .79, where reliability for 15 of the 16
dimensions was .70 or above, 12 of the 15 were over .80, and the median reliability was
.84, illustrating significant inter-rater reliability.
The complex nature of creative is illustrated in a thorough review of literature.
Though difficult to define, creativity is multifaceted and can be identified as the creative
person, the creative process, the creative product, and/or the creative press (Mooney,
1963). Having the widely accepted characteristics of novelty and appropriateness, the
creative product is recognized as "the starting point" of all creativity studies and
examined in further detail. Specific types of creative product assessment methods were
introduced including two that are relevant to the methodology of this study-the Creative
Product Analysis Matrix (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981) and the Consensual Assessment
Technique (Amabile, 1983). The Creative Product Analysis Matrix utilizes the criteria of
novelty, resolution, and style to describe the creativity of a product, and the Consensual
Assessment Technique is based on the assumption that creative products are
independently judged by experts familiar to the domain of the product. Studies using
both methods reported high reliability ratings.
This exploratory study aims to measure how design professionals judge creativity
of entry-level interior designers by examining senior interior design student portfolios
from the University of Florida. The study integrated survey and interview research
methods into a three-part investigation. First, professional interior designers watched an
overview slideshow presentation of the selected portfolios. Next, designers viewed and
evaluated each portfolio individually using a locally developed evaluation form. Finally,
open-ended interview questions were asked to realize designer' s perceptions of the
creativity of entry-level portfolios. The descriptive and statistical analyses developed
from the resulting data were acquired during the second and third phases. This
triangulation of methods increases the confidence of the analysis (Denzin, 1984; Yin,
The University of Florida was selected to be part of this study because of its
extensive history and notable design program and institutional standing. As a member of
the Association of American Universities (AAU) since 1985, the University of Florida
has been committed to advancing American universities through intensive research.
Encouraged within the university, research is an integral part of all the schools and
colleges on the University if Florida' s campus. The Department of Interior Design is
especially dedicated to "promoting, developing, and advancing the interior design
discipline through excellence in teaching, research, and service (Mission and Goals).
The interior design program at the University of Florida initially began in 1948 and
was later established as a Department in the College of Architecture in 1982. Now rooted
in the College of Design, Construction, and Planning, the Department of Interior Design
offers students the opportunity to graduate with a Bachelor of Design in Interior Design
degree from a CIDA accredited program. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation
(CIDA) has been acknowledging interior design programs from North American colleges
and universities for over 35 years. The University of Florida' s Department of Interior
Design is currently one of CIDA' s 201 accredited design programs. The Council takes
great pride in the accreditation process and standards required of programs seeking
The Professional Standards set forth by the Council for Interior Design
Accreditation are used to evaluate interior design programs that prepare students
for entry-level interior design practice and position them for future professional
growth. The Council is firmly committed to setting high standards for interior
design education, challenging others to meet and exceed those standards and
seeking ways to continuously elevate and evolve the standards, thus significantly
contributing to the advanced professionalism of the interior design field
Since the University of Florida' s Interior Design program is accredited, it is assumed that
the students graduating from this program are of the caliber of entry-level designers for
the Interior Design profession.
Furthermore, the University of Florida has also been recognized by leading design
firms as one of the nation' s top interior design schools (DesignIntelligence, 2005).
Printed annually, America's Best Architecture and' Design Schools is a guide for
prospective students, acknowledging the top architecture, landscape architecture, interior
design, and industrial design programs throughout the nation. The University of Florida
has appeared in this publication within the top 25 design schools Hyve times since its first
printing in 2001.
Prior to the data collection, a pilot study was conducted that proved to be
invaluable. Sommer and Sommer (2002) stress the importance of pre-testing study
procedures and tools in order to identify any problems and omissions and to refine survey
and interview questions. They believe that a pilot study does improve "the precision,
reliability, and validity of the data collected in the actual study" (pg. 9).
Two interior design educators from the University of Florida where selected to
pilot test the instrument and study procedure. These faculty members were chosen
because they exemplify the characteristics of the participants in this study; they both have
practiced interior design professionally, and have experience reviewing portfolios. With
no time restrictions, the educators viewed the slide show, evaluated the portfolios in
random order, and then responded to the eleven interview questions. The overall
evaluation instrument and interview protocol were effective; however, one portfolio was
eliminated and replaced by another, and the slideshow was modified to display each slide
a few seconds longer with a clear, visual break in between student proj ects.
The slide show incorporated a randomly selected proj ect from each of the 12
portfolios with a blank screen appearing between each project. The purpose of the slide
show was to allow the viewer to have a chance to get an overall sense of all the portfolios
in the sample. Initially it was set-up to play automatically and advance each slide after
Hyve seconds. After the pilot test was conducted, both designers noted how quickly the
slides advanced, not permitting enough evaluation time to develop an impression of the
portfolios. Instead of the projects advancing after five seconds, the amount of time each
slide was displayed on the screen was delayed to seven seconds. A colored slide,
additionally included after each blank screen, color coordinated with the proj ect
following it and did not add or detract from the proj ect itself. The blank slide provided
the viewer a visual break while the colored slide prepared the viewer for the next proj ect.
Once the pilot test was completed, each educator was asked to sort the 12 portfolios
into groups indicating excellent, average, and poor creativity so that the sample of
portfolios represented a range in quality. This approach of grouping or rating the
portfolios relative to one another by expert judges follows the widely accepted
Consensual Assessment Technique of creative products developed by Amabile (1982).
The technique requires products in a domain to be judged in relation to each other by
experts familiar to that domain and the judgments must be made independently. This
technique was used by two design educators to sort the portfolios into the three quality
related groups. The resulting groups differed by one portfolio; one educator classified a
portfolio as being average, while the other viewed it as poor. It was also noted that the
number of portfolios in the excellent group was small compared to the average and poor
groupings. Therefore, the complete sample represented mostly average portfolios, and
the poor group included more portfolios than the excellent group. As a result, the lowest
scoring portfolio was replaced with an above average portfolio to balance the quality of
the portfolios within the sample.
The interior design portfolios were the property of the University of Florida from
the Department of Interior Design' s graduating class of 2005. The sample of portfolios,
representing about one-third of the graduating class (n = 12), was selected because they
were available in digital format. Each student' s portfolio showcased what they perceived
as their best work produced throughout their design studios in the interior design
program. The 12 portfolios used in the sample represented a varying number of proj ects
that illustrated mostly healthcare, corporate, retail, hospitality, and residential design, and
portfolios include projects completed individually and with a group. The number of
slides included in each portfolio ranged from 4 to 31 with a mean number of 17.75 slides.
The portfolios were submitted in varying digital formats that required use of many
different computer programs in order to view the portfolios. Prior to the pilot test, the
portfolios were formatted into individual Microsoft PowerPoint slide shows. The
integrity and context of the portfolios were kept exactly the same as when they were
originally submitted. By formatting the portfolios into a single layout, it allowed the
portfolios to be viewed by a particular computer program which was more time efficient,
and controlled for variances in the many programs capable of producing similar graphic
For this study, several design firms were selected based on specific criteria: firm
size, services, clientele, accolades, and location. Each firm that was selected to
participate was similar in size with 16 or more design employees in both medium and
large sized firms. This study adopted the definition by Battaglini (2003) where a medium
size firms employ 8 to 49 employees and large firms have 50 or more people on staff.
(See Table 3-1). The twenty-one participants came from 4 medium firms and 6 large
firms. The scope of services and target clientele are similar and include but are not
limited to corporate, hospitality, retail, education, government, healthcare, justice,
residential, and information design. Each firm has received outside awards or honors in
the architecture and design Hields, such as annual awards, design competitions, awards of
excellence, and design merit awards from both American Society of Interior Designers
and American Institute of Architects. The firms are located in Jacksonville, Tampa, and
Orlando, all of which offer a comprehensive and competitive design market in the
Southeast Region of the United States. Jacksonville was home to 4 firms, Tampa had 6
firms involved, and 2 firms in Orlando participated. A total of 12 offices contributed to
the study, but because two firms had office branches in two of the three locations, there
were a total of 10 firms involved in the study (See Table 3-1).
Table 3-1. Firm profile
Location Firm Name Firm Size Participants (n=21)
Jacksonville ASD Large 1
Gresham .Glithl and Partners Large 2
Rink Design Partnership Medium 2
Rolland, DelValle & Bradley Medium 2
Orlando HKS Large 1
Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo Lar ge 1
Tampa Alfonso Architects Medium 2
Elements Design Medium 1
Gensler Lar ge 5
Gresham .Glithr and Partners Large 2
Gould Evans Associates Lar ge 1
HKS Large 1
Note: Firms listed in italics have been ranked in Top 100 Giants of 2006 by Interior
Design Magazine (Davidsen & Leung, 2006).
The 10 firms utilized in the study were selected because of their high credentials in
the field of design. Of the 10 firms involved in the study, the six large firms have been
recognized and ranked by a national magazine based on their monetary growth. ASD,
Gresham Smith and Partners, HKS, Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo, Gensler, and
Gould Evans Associates have received recognition in Interior Design Magazine as the top
100 industry leaders of 2006 (Davidsen & Leung, 2006). The four remaining firms not
ranked by this magazine and are medium sized firms; Rink Design Partnership, Rolland
DelValle and Bradley, Alfonso Architects, and Elements Design are also recognized in
the field as influential and innovative.
After selecting firms that met all the criteria, the designer' s participation was
requested. Designers were selected from each firm based on their position and
responsibilities. In order to evaluate portfolios of interior design graduates seeking entry-
level placement, it was important that the judges had experience in viewing and assessing
portfolios of potential new hires. A letter was sent to each firm acknowledging a
designer who was endorsed as a leader within the firm. The letter explained the purpose
of the study and the amount of time anticipated for participation (See Appendix A). A
follow-up telephone call was made to the designer three days later soliciting
participation. After a verbal agreement, the designer was asked for a recommendation of
another designer within the firm who had similar credentials and would be available to
participate in the study. If the designer had a suggestion, in most cases a verbal
connection was initiated by the designer. On occasion, the researcher contacted the
accompanying designer. Of the thirty-six designers solicited over a period of six weeks,
twenty-two designers agreed to represent the sample of judges that were responsible for
assessing the 12 portfolios. Following further review of the participants' credentials, one
designer with only one year working in the profession was eliminated from the
There were a few occurrences in the data collection that contained missing
information. During the individual portfolio evaluations, answers were left blank for
three participants. Two incidences appeared to be an oversight, while the third was
attributed to problems accessing four of the 12 portfolios. Completing these four
portfolios at a later time was not suitable for the participant. After discussing the matter
with a statistician, it was determined that since the participant evaluated over 50% of the
material, his information was valuable and it was not necessary to eliminated it from the
The total of 21 participants was made up of 9 males (43%) and 12 females (57%).
The mean age was 42.6 years (n=20). The mean number of years the participants had
been practicing interior design or architecture was 18.2 years. The participants reviewed
an average of 20 portfolios per year for an average of 10 years (See Table 3-2).
Table 3-2. Participant design and portfolio review experience
Age Design Reviewer Portfolio /yr Review Time
Pariciant (n20) Experience (n=21) (n=20) (n=20)
M~ SD M~ SD M~ SD M~ SD M~ SD
Total 42.60 0.71 18.19 8.69 10.20 7.52 20.07 19.48 59.10 18.94
Reviewer = Number of years participant has reviewed entry-level portfolios
Portfolio / yr = Number of entry-level portfolios participant reviews per year
The participants (n=21) selected ranged from principals, vice-presidents, associates,
directors of interior divisions, senior managers, proj ect managers, proj ect designers, and
interior designers or architects. The participants were categorized into four groups based
on job position (Coleman, 2002). The following illustrates the four groups created:
* Principle (n=6)
* Design Director; includes vice-presidents, first level managers, and design
* Project Manager; includes senior designers, senior project designer, and proj ect
* Designer; includes interior designers and architects (n=2)
Upon initiating the study procedure, all 21 participants were informed of the
consent requirements and agreed to participate. It was made known that: the study did
not anticipate any risks or benefits, participant identities were to remain confidential,
participation was completely voluntary, and no penalty would be assessed for
withdrawing from the study.
When a research study involves human subj ects, the University of Florida requires
approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) (Appendix B). To submit to the
IRB, the necessary documents included a concise description of the study's purpose and
participants, a summary of the intended methodology, and examples of the evaluation
form, interview questions, and consent form. The board granted complete approval for
the research study.
Since both quantitative and qualitative methods were implemented in this study,
two different types of instrumentation were developed by the researcher. The quantitative
portion of the study required a tool that measured characteristics of a creative portfolio
and allowed for numerical analysis (See Appendix C). The survey tool created for this
study quantified specific attributes of creative products and entry-level portfolios. An
evaluation form emerged that included Hyve dimensions: novelty, resolution, style,
creativity and hiring potential. The qualitative evaluation was captured with a
questionnaire (See Appendix D). The five open-ended interview questions were designed
to get focused responses to each participant' s subj ective views of creativity and entry-
level portfolios. Six additional questions were utilized to determine background
information and establish a profile of the sample firms.
The Creative Product Analysis Matrix (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981) framework
was used to organize the attributes of creativity into three maj or characteristics. The nine
attributes, along with two additional attributes for both creativity and hiring potential,
became the thirteen points the evaluation form measured. The three conceptual
dimensions that were identified--novelty, resolution, and style--related to analyzing the
creativity of a product. Novelty refers to the newness of the product and can be
characterized by originality and surprise; resolution deals with the usefulness,
logicalness, value, and understandability of the product; and the style of the product
attests to the physical attributes of the finished product and consists of an organic, well-
crafted, and elegant design (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981; Besemer, 2003).
Overall creativity and hiring potential were included in the evaluation form.
These additional attributes provided a way to connect the success of a portfolio to its
genuine purpose. The creativity variable awarded a value to each portfolio based on its
overall creativity. Though the Creative Product Analysis Matrix asserts that a product' s
creativity is a result of its values of novelty, resolution, and style, an overall value of the
product' s creativity is not accounted for. Incorporating this variable provided a way to
compare the creativeness of each portfolio. In addition, the last variable of hiring
potential was especially important considering that entry-level interior designers create
portfolios in order to gain professional employment. Thus, it was necessary to identify
the value professional interior designers place on the different aspects of entry-level
interior design portfolios. Including these two variables provided additional information
that was useful for determining how and which of the characteristics of creativity had the
Since the participants had not been informed beforehand of the criteria being
evaluated and no concrete definition of creativity was mentioned, the questionnaire was
utilized to seek out each of the participant' s personal views on creativity in terms of
interior design and entry-level portfolios. The Einal six of the eleven total questions
captured pertinent background information on participant's personal experience and their
firm's services and specialties.
The data collection took place at each of the respective firms. The designers
scheduled a two hour block of time to complete the study. A packet was created for each
judge containing two compact discs (CD), 12 evaluation forms, and the list of interview
questions. The procedure was broken into three parts. First, to get an overall impression
of the portfolios as a group, judges watched a programmed slide show of the 12
portfolios. Second, judges viewed and evaluated the 12 portfolios based on the attributes
of creativity. Third, the researcher asked each judge eleven questions regarding
creativity, portfolios, and their design background.
Timed slide show
In order for the judges to evaluate the portfolios, it was necessary for them to get a
glimpse of each one before individually assessing them. Amabile (1996) incorporates a
similar method in her Consensual Assessment Technique where "the judges familiarize
themselves with the products to be rated before they actually begin the rating task"
(pg.75). Amabile suggests using a random sample of approximately 20% of the entire
product or products when rating a products) could be tedious and time consuming. As a
result of this concept, a CD was created that, when inserted into a computer,
automatically started a timed Microsoft PowerPoint slide show illustrating one proj ect
from each portfolio. Although each project was randomly selected from each of the
individual portfolios, efforts were made to ensure that similar proj ects weren't viewed
directly next to one another in the sequence. These proj ects allowed the judges to get a
quick look at all of the portfolios before they evaluated each one individually.
For the second step of the procedure, five different CD's were made that contained
the 12 files of the portfolios in question. The digital portfolios were formatted into
individual Microsoft PowerPoint slide shows that began as soon as each file was set in
motion. Randomly changing the order in which the portfolios appeared on the five CD's
helped control for ordering effects that would confound the results. In addition, the five
CD's were randomly issued to the twenty-one judges. Although the portfolios remained
the same on each CD, two judges from the same firm never viewed the portfolios in the
Since these slide shows were not programmed to advance automatically, each judge
could control the portfolio and the time they spent evaluating. The twenty-one judges
were asked to view and evaluate each one using the evaluation form. As soon as each
judge received the CD of portfolios to assess, the time the first portfolio started was noted
as well as the time when the judges finished evaluating the last one. This observation
was recorded to see if there were unusual variances in the evaluation times between each
The final step in the procedure was comprised of interviews. As soon as the
evaluations of the 12 portfolios were completed, the interviews commenced. The
questions were structured and open-ended. A tape-recorder was used to document the
verbal responses of the judges. One participant asked to see the questions before
answering so they could formulate comments. In other instances, the participant
preferred to respond to the questions in writing. This was the case in 67% of the
interviews. This was an unexpected option, but became helpful in situations where two
or more designers were participating at the same time, the meeting time turned out to be
inconvenient for the designer and the designer didn't have enough time to complete the
entire process, or if a designer was out of town.
The questions were divided into two sections. The first section was an extension of
the evaluation process. Five questions were asking questions regarding creativity and
entry-level portfolios. The second section asked six questions involving the participant's
background and history in the interior design profession.
The responses to the first set of questions on creativity and entry-level interior
design portfolios had to be coded. Since the questions were open-ended, participants'
responses varied. To be more reliable, the researcher and an interior design educator
independently coded the answers. The responses were coded similarly for each question.
For the first two questions that asked for the participant' s definition of creativity and
entry-level portfolios, the researcher and educator were able to organize the responses
according to the creative product attributes. When designers mentioned one or more
characteristics of one attribute, the answer was coded for both characteristics. If the same
designer mentioned characteristics for one or more attributes, the answer was coded to
include all attributes mentioned. In the third and forth questions that introduced other
factors besides creativity, categories representing those responses were included.
There was one limitation this study couldn't control. Since the Creative Product
Analysis Matrix (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981) guiding the study accredits a product' s
creativity to its values of novelty, resolution, and style, it does not provide an overall
value of the product's creativity. Besemer and Treffinger (1981) indicate that novelty,
resolution, and style define the creativity of an already creative product. However, in
order to compare these attributes to the creativity of the design portfolio, another variable
was included to give a value to each portfolio based on its creativity.
This study, which combined quantitative and qualitative methods, gathered
information on creativity of entry-level interior design portfolios. Twelve interior design
portfolios from the University of Florida were evaluated on several characteristics of
creativity. Twenty-one participants were selected from high profile architecture and
design firms that were noted as industry leaders. The designers not only had valuable
experience in design, but more importantly had experience reviewing portfolios. The
study procedure was accomplished in three parts; first, designers viewed a slide show that
illustrated one randomly selected proj ect from each portfolio, then, designers evaluated
the 12 individual portfolios using a locally developed form, and finally, a questionnaire
was completed to obtain the designers' subj ective views of creativity and entry-level
The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of what professional
designers consider creative in entry-level interior design portfolios. Designers
participating in the study overviewed selected portfolios, evaluated each portfolio
individually, and responded to questions that explored their views of creativity in interior
design and portfolio evaluation. A description of the 21 participants responsible for
assessing the 12 portfolios along with a detailed account of the data analysis precedes the
discussion of the research questions. This study utilized three research questions that
examined the importance of novelty, resolution, and style in predicting creativity and
hiring potential, and sought further elaboration on designers' perceptions of entry-level
interior design portfolios. All statistical analyses reported in the study employ an alpha
level of .05 to determine significance.
The sample of participants consisted of interior designers and architects from
leading firms in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa. Two of the ten firms had multiple
offices involved in the study. For example, designers from Gresham Smith and Partners
participated in Jacksonville and Tampa, and designers from HKS participated in Orlando
and Tampa. The total of 12 offices contributed seven designers from Jacksonville, two
from Orlando, and twelve from Tampa. The participating designers answered a series of
demographic and employment experience questions including age, type of design work,
j ob position, design experience, number of years reviewing portfolios, and number of
portfolios reviewed per year.
Participants (n = 21) ranged in age from 28 to 62, with a mean age of 42.60 and
standard deviation of 8.65. Table 4-1 illustrates that 42.9% (n = 9) of the designers were
male while 57. 1% (n = 12) were female. The age range of the males (SD = 1 1.55) was
much broader than that of the females (SD = 5.72).
Table 4-1. Participant demographics
Gender n % Age (n = 20)
Male 9 42.9 43.89 11.55
Female 12 57.1 41.55 5.72
Total 21 100.0 42.60 8.65
The specializations of design work from the designers' respective firms are
illustrated in Figure 4-1. Both public and private sectors of design practice included
healthcare, corporate, retail, education, government, hospitality, and residential. The
greatest number of designers in the study practiced corporate design (n = 16), while the
least number engaged in government design (n = 4). All 21 designers practiced in the
public or commercial sector, with an additional six also working in the private or
Healthcare Corporate Retail Education Government Hospitality Residential
Figure 4-1. Design specializations of participating firms
Position titles of these designers included Principle, Vice-President, Associate,
Director of Interior Division, Senior Manager, Proj ect Manager, Proj ect Designer, and
Interior Designer or Architect. These responses were organized into four groups based
on level of responsibility as: Principle, Design Director, Proj ect Manager, and Designer
(Coleman, 2002). Figure 4-2 represents the frequency of each group within the
participant sample. Design Directors composed the largest portion with 38.1% (n = 8),
followed by Principles with 28.6% (n = 6), Proj ect Managers with 23.6% (n = 5), and
Designers with 9.5% (n = 2).
28.6%, JOB POSITION
n = 6 H Principle
23.8%, OProject Manager
Figure 4-2. Distribution of job positions
In addition, questions were asked regarding experience in design as well as
experience reviewing portfolios. These variables appear to correlate naturally with job
position. Table 4-2 illustrates that the higher the position, the more experience the
participant had in design practice and with portfolio reviews. The six Principles had the
most design experience with 24. 17 years, followed by Design Directors (20.38 years),
Project Managers (11.80 years), and Designers (7.50 years).
Table 4-2. Position title by employment variables
Design Exp. Review Portfolio / yr
Group n %
(n = 21) (n = 21) (n = 21)
M ~SD M2~SD M ~ SD
Principle 6 28.6 24.17 8.80 15.50 6.63 26.42 20.60
Design Director 8 38.1 20.38 6.37 11.57 6.02 27.44 20.61
Proj ect Manager 5 23.8 11.80 5.93 05.60 6.66 07.80 10.33
Designer 2 09.5 7.50 3.54 01.00 1.41 02.25 01.77
Design Exp. = Number of years participant has practiced design
Review = Number of years participant has reviewed entry-level portfolios
Portfolio / yr = Number of entry-level portfolios participant reviews per year
The Principles reviewed portfolios for 15.50 years; Design Directors reviewed for
1 1.57 years; Proj ect managers reviewed for 5.60 years; and Designers reviewed
portfolios for 1.00 year. The approximate number of portfolios reviewed each year
showed that the two most experienced groups--Principles and Design Directors--
reviewed the greatest number of portfolios. On average, Design Directors (27.44) and
Principles (26.42) review comparably the same number of portfolios each year, Proj ect
Managers review 7.80 portfolios per year, and Designers reviewed only 2.25 portfolios
The maj ority of the data analysis centered on examining relationships between
three creative product attributes. Designers evaluated 12 portfolios using a locally
designed instrument that measured thirteen items using a Hyve-point Likert scale ranging
from poor to excellent. The instrument contained Hyve variables that consisted of items
defining the creative product attributes of novelty, resolution, and style, as well as
creativity and hiring potential. Creativity was included to gauge the creativeness of the
portfolio, while hiring potential was included to measure the value of entry-level interior
designers seeking employment.
To ensure that the items correlated and consistently measured the main variables,
data entered into Microsoft Excel was tested for inter-item reliability. Table 4-3
illustrates the thirteen items that make up the five variables. The items within each
variable were pair-tested to see if they correlated. The items that make up the style
variable, for example, were pair-tested three times: well-crafted with organic, well-
crafted with elegant, and elegant with organic. These correlations were used to obtain
alpha ratings using Cronbach 's alpha, a test that measures the reliability of variable in
producing consistent results (Blaikie, 2003). A high alpha value indicates a high level of
consistency among items, while an alpha rating less than .70 is not considered reliable.
The reliability ratings for the five variables can be seen in Table 4-4. All five variables
were found to be consistent reaching an alpha level of .85 or higher, with creativity
reaching the highest reliability with an alpha score of .92.
Table 4-3. Portfolio assessment variables
Novelty Resolution Style Creativity
Original Logical Well-crafted Creative Potential
Surprise Useful Organic Innovative Promise
Evaluations of the 13 items within the portfolio instrument resulted in a total of 248
data points. This data was inserted into SPSS, a statistical software program, and
analyzed. Table 4-4 illustrates the mean and standard deviations of the five variables.
Since the findings show the mean scores for the five variables were between 3 and 4, the
thirteen items within the evaluation instrument were rated between average and good.
Resolution was the highest scoring variable with a mean score of 3.53 and consequently
had the smallest spread of scores (SD = 0.77). However, resolution had one of the lowest
average inter-item correlations (.69). Even so, resolution had a high alpha level
indicating a strong correlation among items. Alpha has a positive correlation with the
number of items within a variable: the more items in a variable, the higher the alpha
value will be (Blaikie, 2003). Novelty had the lowest mean score of 3.21. The spread of
the distribution of scores was largest for hiring potential shown with a standard deviation
Table 4-4. Descriptive statistics of novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring
Variable Average Inter- Standard
(n = 248) Item Correlation Deviation
Novelty .74 .85 3.21 .90
Resolution .69 .90 3.53 .77
Style .66 .85 3.44 .88
Creativity .85 .92 3.31 .95
Hiring Potential .84 .91 3.37 .99
Research Question One
What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, and style in entry-level
interior design portfolios in predicting creativity? This question considers the three
creative product variables, as identified by Besemer and Treffinger (1981; Besemer,
2003), in relation to the creativity of entry-level interior design portfolios. It further
seeks to examine the relationship between these attributes and creativity.
The analysis being undertaken is based on the assumption that there are key
attributes of a product that relate to creativity. More specifically, these attributes are
likely to influence the degree of creativity of the product. Figure 4-3 illustrates the
possible associations and influences novelty, resolution, and style have on creativity.
Resolution ,I Creativity
Figure 4-3. Relationship model of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity
The associations between the three creative product variables (novelty, resolution,
and style) and creativity can be seen in Table 4-5. As a measure of the strength of
association, Pearson's r coefficient shows the larger the number, the stronger the
association is between two variables; and how much variance two variables share in
common (Blaikie, 2003). The relationships demonstrated here are all positive and
significantly associated with creativity, but with varying strengths of association.
Examining the associations between these four variables, the strongest relation exists
between novelty and creativity (r = .89). Style also has a very strong association with
creativity with a coefficient of .84. The weakest association is between resolution and
creativity (r = .71). Even though this association is still considered to be strong, it is the
weakest among the three creative product variables. Some unaccounted variance may
exist between the variables but since their associations are not fully correlated they are
not measuring the same thing, and thus, the variables are not interchangeable.
In order to understand the variance between two variables, the r value is squared.
For instance, in the relationship between novelty and creativity, r2 = .79. This means that
novelty can predict creativity 79% of the time. Additionally, style can predict creativity
71% of the time, while resolution only has a 50% chance of predicting creativity.
Table 4-5. Correlation matrix of novelty, resolution, and style related to creativity
Variables Novelty Resolution Style Creativity
Novelty --- .70* .79* .89*
Resolution .70* --- .81* .71*
Style .79* .81* --- .84*
Creativity .89* .71* .84* ---
To examine these relationships further, multiple regression was used to explain the
relative influence of the predictor variables on a single outcome variable by indicating the
contribution of each predictor variable when the influence of all other predictors is held
constant. In this case, novelty, resolution, and style are the predictor variables and
creativity is the outcome variable. This type of analysis assumes the relationship between
variables is linear; that as one variable increases or decreases, the other variable also
increases or decreases, and that the changes in value on both variables occur at the same
rate (Blaikie, 2003). In addition, "the predictor variables are regarded as having the same
role, that is, in possibly contributing to an explanation of the outcome variable" (Blaikie,
2003, p. 294).
The influences of the three creative product variables on creativity can be seen in
Table 4-6. The purpose of this table is to explain the variances of creativity and to
illustrate which predictor variables are the strongest contributors to creativity. By
looking at the R2 ValUe (Which is the correlation coefficient for multiple regression,
comparable to r2) Of .84, this set of predictor variables--novelty, resolution, and style--
can explain 84% of the variance in the outcome variable. In looking at the significance
values, novelty (t = 14.17) and style (t = 7.15) are the only two significant variables (p <
.05) with a t-value greater than 1.96, while resolution is not significant with a t-score of
To further assess the individual contributions of the predictor variables, we need to
examine the standardized coefficient beta for each variable. We find .61 for novelty, -.22
for resolution, and .38 for style. These values indicate that novelty has one-third more
influence on creativity than style. This may be a result of the fact that there is a very
strong association between novelty and creativity (r = .89), and marginally less
association between style and creativity (r = .84). Hence, novelty, defined as the original
and surprising characteristics of a portfolio, is viewed as more creative than the stylistic
attributes of well-crafted, elegant, and organic.
Beta values also indicate the linear degree of contributions by the predictor
variables. Beta tells us how many standard deviation units of the predictor variable will
cause an increase in one standard deviation unit in the outcome variable. In this case, as
the value of creativity increases by one standard deviation unit, the value of novelty
increases by .61 standard deviations and the value of style increases by .38 standard
Table 4-6. Multiple regression analysis of creativity
Predictor Variables Slope (b) Std. Error Beta t Sig.
Novelty 0.67 0.05 .61 14.17 .00*
Resolution -0.03 0.06 -.22 -0.50 .62
Style 0.43 0.06 .38 7.15 .00*
R = .92 R2 = .84
*p < .05
The data analysis from research question one initially examined the relationships
between the creative product attributes and creativity. Since significant associations were
established, the data analysis was taken a step further to examine the strength of
influences the attributes had on creativity. Novelty, resolution, and style are all
significantly associated with creativity, but only novelty and style significantly influence
creativity. Furthermore, novelty predicts creativity almost two-thirds of the time, while
more than one-third of creativity is attributed to style.
Research Question Two
What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity of
entry-level interior design portfolios in predicting hiring potential? This question
addresses the creative product attributes in addition to creativity and their influence on
entry-level interior designers hiring potential.
A conceptual model guided this analysis that conveyed the relationships of the Hyve
variables (Figure 4-4). The relationships between hiring potential and novelty,
resolution, style, and creativity are analyzed in the same manner as the previous research
Figure 4-4. Relationship model of novelty, resolution, style, creativity and hiring
By looking at the Pearson correlation matrix illustrating the Hyve variables in
question (Table 4-7), we Eind that novelty, resolution, style, and creativity are statistically
associated with hiring potential. With values ranging from .77 for novelty to .87 for
style, the four variables show very strong associations with hiring potential. Style has the
strongest association (r = .87), followed by creativity (r = .81), resolution (r = .80), and
novelty (r = .77). The last three variables seem to differ only marginally while presenting
a larger gap between style and the others. This could possibly be indicating a stronger,
independent association with hiring potential. In addition, the bivariate regression
produced a R2 Of .76. This suggests that style accounts for 76% of the variance, meaning
that 76% of the time, style can predict hiring potential. The other three variables of
creativity, resolution, and novelty accounted for 66%, 64%, and 59% of the variance,
Table 4-7. Correlation matrix of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity related to hiring
Varibles Novety Rsoluion Style Creativity
Novelty --- .70* .79* .89* .77*
Resolution .70* --- .81* .71* .80*
Style .79* .81* --- .84* .87*
Creativity .89* .71* .84* --- .81*
Hiring.77* .80* .87* .81* -
Multiple regression established the independent influence of the set of predictor
variables on hiring potential. Table 4-8 shows the regression analysis scores of the
predictor variables--novelty, resolution, style, and creativity--on the outcome variable--
hiring potential. The R2 Score (.80) indicates that this set of predictor variables can
explain 80% of the variance in hiring potential. By looking at the t-test values, we notice
that resolution, style, and creativity are significant at the .05 level. Novelty's low t-test
value of 1.08 doesn't meet the 1.96 criterion, which in turn explains why this variable
does not have a significant influence on hiring potential. The beta values indicate that
style (.46) has almost twice as much influence on hiring potential than resolution (.25),
which is followed by creativity (. 19).
In analyzing the contributions of resolution, style, and creativity on hiring potential,
we can discuss several things about the linear regression. As the value of hiring potential
increases by one standard deviation unit, the value of style increases by .46 standard
deviations, the value of resolution will increase by .25 standard deviations, and the value
of creativity will also increase by .19 standard deviations.
Table 4-8. Multiple regression analysis of hiring potential
Variables Slope (b) Std. Error Beta t Sig.
Novelty 0.07 0.07 .07 1.08 .28
Resolution 0.30 0.06 .25 4.93 .00*
Style 0.49 0.07 .46 7.04 .00*
Creativity 0.18 0.07 .19 2.61 .01*
R = .89 R2 = .80
*p < .05
With these results, we can summarize the relative importance novelty, resolution,
style, and creativity have on predicting hiring potential. The correlation matrix (Table 4-
7) illustrates the strong associations between all four variables to hiring potential. The
strongest association lies with style (r = .87), followed by creativity (r = .81), resolution
(r = .80), and novelty (r = .78). Additionally, style has the strongest influence on hiring
potential with a beta of .46. Resolution has about half as much influence (beta = .25),
creativity has even less (beta = .19), and novelty does not significantly influence hiring
When we analyze the results from question one and two, we can better understand
the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. All four predictor
variables have a statistically significant influence on hiring potential. (See Figure 4-5).
Since we already know that creativity is associated to novelty, resolution, and style, this
model took into account both the direct and indirect influences. In this instance,
creativity becomes an intervening mechanism with the influence novelty, resolution, and
style on hiring potential indirectly mediated through creativity. Since we learned in the
previous question that resolution does not have a significant influence on creativity, the
line connecting the two variables is dashed. The associations between novelty and style
with creativity are shown with solid lines representing a significant influence. Beta
values are represented to show the degree of influences between two variables. The
results from question two allow us to chart the direct influences as well. Resolution,
style, and creativity have direct, significant influences on hiring potential, while novelty
does not. Novelty does, however, influence hiring potential indirectly through creativity.
Novelty .6 1* ''
" "' ~Creativity .19 Hrg
Resolution (mediator) (dirct effct) Potential
I I idrc fet
Figure 4-5. Model of creative product variables related to hiring potential in interior
Research Question Three
How do the open-ended designer perceptions of creativity and entry-level
interior design portfolios relate to the quantitative portfolio evaluations? This
question examines the similarities and differences between how professional designers
personally define creativity and how they assess creativity of design portfolios in terms of
novelty, resolution, and style. Findings from portfolio evaluations will be analyzed
relative to the four questions posed in order to better understand designers' perceptions of
creativity. Figure 4-6 illustrates an overview of designers' responses to the qualitative
Figure 4-6. Designer responses to open-ended questions
Open-ended questions allowed designers to answer freely without other
preconceived factors inhibiting responses. Two researchers independently assessed the
answers from the four qualitative questions and classified responses accordingly. The
"something fresh and
0 Style ~
0ii Technical skills
"new abilities in software"
"clear well thought out
concepts and solutions"
"how well a person speaks,
O Thought process
"well-rounded thought process
tEi Technical skills
"to present and sell ideas
"sense of humor,
O Thought process
"exhib~itmng more process"
"be exposed to the office
creatingg a space that is
useful for its occupants"
"thinking outside the box"
"cohesive and clear design"
first two questions dealt with definitions of creativity and the characteristics of novelty,
resolution, and style emerged as the three categories in which responses were organized.
The third question, asking for other factors that were important when reviewing
portfolios, was also coded based on responses and included the three creative product
attributes as well as three other categories comprised of technical skills, the individual,
and thought process. The Einal question simply asked participants for further elaboration
on the topic of creativity and portfolio evaluation. These responses were organized into
the five categories of technical skills, the individual, communication, thought process,
and internship experience.
Defining creativity in interior design
Designers were asked to supply their personal definition of creativity. The
responses to this question were organized using the attributes novelty, resolution, and
style. The frequency of each attribute appears in Figure 4-7. Sixty-two percent of
responses referenced design specifically, suggesting creativity was "the ability to see
multiple solutions to a design problem," while the other 38% of responses were more
general and, for example, defined creativity as "developing unique solutions." Overall,
50% of the responses related to characteristics of resolution, 27% mentioned
characteristics of novelty, and 24% referenced the stylistic attributes of a portfolio.
The maj ority of designers defined creativity in entry-level portfolios in terms of
resolution. Responses that related to resolution as a variable of creativity defined a
functional solution that is both useful and sensitive to human aspects and client needs.
Designers mentioned characteristics of the four items representing resolution: logical,
useful, valuable, and understandable. For example, one designer shared the sentiment of
others when he defined creativity as "creating a space that is useful for its occupants."
Designers also recognized the value of the human condition for both the client and the
end users with statements that demonstrate the need to "support human functions" and
"meet the client's expectations."
Further, the designers referenced novelty (26.5%) and style (23.5%) in their
definitions almost equally. Novelty, representing originality and surprise, was noted as an
"uncommon solution for a common problem" and the ability to "think outside the box."
Style describes the portfolios appearance and how well it is put together. Style was
captured by designers who emphasized, "solving a problem in a manner that is
aesthetically pleasing" and presenting a "cohesive and clear design."
n~s 8 n 9 DEFINITIONS OF CREATIVITY
Figure 4-7. Definitions of creativity by novelty, resolution, and style
These Eindings strongly support the quantitative Eindings in that novelty, resolution,
and style are considered by designers to be important aspects of creativity in entry-level
design portfolios. However, the analysis from the first research question that examined
the importance of novelty, resolution, and style for predicting creativity concluded that
resolution did not influence creativity, but did have a significant influence hiring
potential. In addition, the value designers place on the creative product attributes differs
from their perceptions of creativity of entry-level interior design portfolios. When
designers define creativity, the characteristics of resolution are mentioned twice as much
as the characteristics of novelty and those of style.
Defining creativity in entry-level portfolios
Question two asked designers to define creativity in terms of entry-level portfolios.
Since characteristics of novelty, resolution, and style were also mentioned for this
question, responses were organized accordingly. Figure 4-8 illustrates that the
characteristics of style were considered 43.3% (n = 13) of the time when discussing
creativity of entry-level interior design portfolios, followed by resolution (33.3%) and
novelty (23.3%). Designers who emphasized characteristics of style felt "overall
presentation" was important with responses including topics of format, layout,
techniques, and materials. One designer felt it was important to "organize your portfolio
to be clear but graphically outstanding," while another contended "well translated and
well put together" as qualities of creativity in entry-level portfolios.
The features of resolution were mentioned second to style with 33.3% of responses
(n = 10) as novelty captured 23.3% of responses (n = 7). Designers who defined
creativity of portfolios using characteristics of resolution talked about "appropriate design
responses," "resolving design issues," and "maintaining a good design concept and
solution." Novelty was mentioned as a "reinterpretation of the expected," "something
fresh and different," "new," and "not what everybody else is doing." One designer
captured the essence of all three attributes when he said creativity of a portfolio was "the
ability to relay an idea, a concept, in a very simple fashion, so it' s understandable,
exciting, does have a sense of surprise to it but also a sense of reality."
23.3%, DEFINITIONS OF CREATIVITY
n = 7 INT PORTFOLIOS
Figure 4-8. Definitions of creativity in design portfolios by novelty, resolution, and style
This question essentially focused on hiring potential by examining the connections
between the three attributes of a creative product and entry-level interior design
portfolios. This finding offers additional support for recognizing style as the greatest
influence on hiring potential, followed by resolution. Novelty was also very important to
designers when defining creativity of portfolios even though novelty only had an indirect
influence on hiring potential in the quantitative Eindings.
Additional factors for portfolio evaluation
Designers were asked to identify additional influences besides creativity that they
perceived to be important when reviewing portfolios. Interestingly, although this
question targeted other factors besides creativity, responses still included characteristics
of the three creative product attributes. Designers noted characteristics of style the most,
followed by technical skills, the individual, resolution, novelty, and the thought process
as additional factors they perceive as important. Figure 4-9 illustrates the relative
importance of each category. Qualities of style were mentioned almost 40% of the time
with responses focusing on the "overall look" including "organization skills" and
"presentation" techniques. A few designers stated "neatness, spelling, [and] grammar"
were important factors as well.
Technical skills (21.7%) were reported the most after style and were related to
specific skills and computer programs. Issues dealing with "new abilities in software,"
"technical drawing," and "skill sets in general" were discussed. The characteristics of
resolution (13%) were mentioned as "appropriate scale of space" and "clear well thought
out concepts and solutions." The individual (13%) was also discussed the same number
of times as resolution. One designer' s felt it was important to point out that the firm
"looks at the work and person as a whole. How well a person speaks, how they are
dressed, etc.," are important considerations besides the portfolios.
Other responses mentioned by designers were qualities of novelty (7%) and topics
dealing with the thought process (7%). Designers talked about the characteristics of
novelty by suggesting "new ideas" and "innovative designs." They also revealed the
importance of presenting a "well-rounded thought process."
6.% ADDITIONAL FACTORS
21 7%/. n IMPORTANT FOR
n =I: 1'- 3. REVIEWING PORTFOLIOS
13.0%/;. ~1 O Novelty
n = 6 O Thought Process
Figure 4-9. Designer considerations for reviewing portfolios
Since this question examines factors important for reviewing portfolios, these
Endings relate to hiring potential. The Eindings discussed here support the quantitative
Endings that examined the importance of novelty, resolution, and style in predicting
creativity and hiring potential and the findings from the previous interview question
related to definitions of creativity for entry-level portfolios. Novelty, resolution, and
style remain important factors that designers consider when reviewing portfolios. Within
the three creative product attributes, style of a portfolio continues to be the most
important factor in terms of hiring potential, followed by resolution and novelty.
However, the Eindings for this interview question introduce additional factors designers
feel are important that, in some instances, are more important than resolution and novelty.
Following style, important factors designers mentioned were: technical skills, resolution,
the individual, novelty, and the thought process. Resolution and the individual were
mentioned equally, as well as novelty and the thought process.
Finally, the designers were asked to offer any additional comments on the topics of
creativity and entry-level interior design portfolios. Overall, technical skills were
mentioned the most, followed by communication and the individual, the thought process,
and lastly, a new, additional category of internship experience was discussed (Figure 4-
10). When designers talked about characteristics of technical skills (28.6%), comments
mostly related to knowledge and experience with various software programs including
three-dimensional rendering with "Photoshop and Illustrator," as well as "[Auto]CAD
Designers also mentioned themes conveying communication (23.8%) skills to
illustrate the importance of being able "to present and sell ideas well," as well as "speak
in front of others, and listen to potential clients." Communication was discussed the
same amount as the personality of the individual (23.8%). As one designer asserted,
"The people themselves are a huge part of it; sense of humor, personality, etc."
Issues relating to thought process were mentioned in terms of "exhibiting more
process," especially when one designer suggested, "that there is a keen interest among
professionals to see the entire process." Lastly, internship experience was pointed out as
an additional benefit. Designers shared this sentiment by saying it was important "to
work, or intern, or be exposed to the office atmosphere" and that students should spend
time "interning for architectural or interior design firms."
28 60 n
/ IMPORTANT TO DESIGNERS
23.8%, O~ii Technical Skills
n = 5 2 Communication
0 Thought Process
O Internship Experience
Figure 4-10. Additional designer considerations for entry-level hiring
This last interview question relates to the quantitative Eindings by addressing topics
that go beyond what was asked in the previous interview questions that looked at
designers' personal definitions of creativity, their perceptions of creativity in design
portfolios, and their considerations for portfolio review. The topics introduced by
designers are thought to be important and support the additional factors designers
reported that relate to hiring potential. Furthermore, the third qualitative question found
that in addition to the three creative product attributes, technical skills, the individual, and
the thought process are supplementary aspects designers felt were important when
reviewing portfolios. These three aspects, along with communication and internship
experience were also mentioned in question four by designers when they had the
opportunity to suggest other issues relevant to the topic of creativity and entry-level
interior design portfolios.
This study examined the creative product attributes of entry-level interior design
portfolios to understand the relationships between novelty, resolution, style, creativity,
and hiring potential. The statistical analyses found strong associations between each
variable. Moreover, novelty and style significantly influence creativity, while style,
resolution, and creativity influence hiring potential. The qualitative findings strongly
support creative novelty, resolution, and style on many levels. When discussing
creativity and entry-level portfolios, designers implicitly recognized the three attributes
of a creative product. In an ideal sense, they perceived resolution to be the strongest
quality of creativity, followed by novelty and style. In terms of creativity relative to
entry-level interior design portfolios, style was the greatest quality, followed by
resolution and novelty. Characteristics of style were also recognized as the strongest
contributor for designers when reviewing portfolios. Technical skills, resolution, the
individual, novelty, and the thought process were also considered important by designers,
as well as communication and internship experience.
This study considered the impact of creativity on the evaluation of entry-level
interior design portfolios by examining the relationships among the creative product
attributes of novelty, resolution, and style. The portfolio evaluation instrument also
revealed the significance of each attribute in influencing the creativity and hiring
potential of interior design portfolios while open-ended interview questions revealed
additional, qualitative factors. These results will be discussed and interpreted in relation
to the larger literature on creative products and connected to the domain of interior
design. Possible reasons for several seemingly contradictory findings will be suggested
along with recommendations for future research directions.
This study examined perceptions of creativity in a sample of entry-level interior
design portfolios where designers individually assessed 12 portfolios from graduating
seniors in an accredited interior design program using an instrument measuring novelty,
resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential. Designers responded to qualitative
questions aimed at revealing individual views of creativity and entry-level interior design
portfolios. The findings from the research questions below will be discussed in detail and
implications will be made for the field of interior design as a whole.
* What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, and style of entry-level
interior design portfolios in predicting creativity?
* What is the relative importance of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity of entry-
level interior design portfolios in predicting hiring potential?
* How do the open-ended designer perceptions of creativity and entry-level interior
design portfolios relate to the quantitative portfolio evaluations?
The present study was designed to employ highly experienced designers skilled in
reviewing entry-level interior design portfolios. The participants of the study represent a
high caliber judge group of professional designers from respected firms in Jacksonville,
Orlando, and Tampa. Six of the ten firms represented in the study are considered large
firms with over 50 employees and are nationally recognized in the Top 100 firms of 2006
(Davidsen & Leung, 2006). Many of these firms have multiple offices across the world.
For example, Gensler is ranked as the number one firm in the nation in terms of value of
their work installed and interior design fees, and generates design work from 29 offices
spanning the globe. Other firms that made the list include: HKS in 31s~t place, ASD in
48th place, Gresham Smith and Partners in 54th place, Gould Evans in 63rd place, and
Wimberly Allison Tong and Goo in 78th place. The remaining four firms are medium in
size and have one or two offices with between 8 and 49 employees. Though somewhat
smaller, these firms are also considered industry leaders having received numerous
accolades from the foremost design organizations such as American Society of Interior
Designers and the American Institute of Architects.
The 21 designers involved in the study were also considered highly respected with
significant experience. The designers were nearly 43 years of age on average, which is
consistent with significant professional experience needed to evaluate portfolios. While
the 21 designers involved in the study illustrated various levels of responsibility and
review experience, the maj ority represented primary decision makers or senior designers
of the firms. Since nearly sixty-seven percent of the designers were in high-level
positions, the level of experience designers noted was also consistent with their j ob
position and further validates the strength of the judge group. The findings also suggest
that Principles and Design Directors actively participate in the hiring of entry-level
designers possibly more than Project Managers and Designers. The professional
experience of the participants provided a particularly good fit with the University of
Florida' s Interior Design program from which the portfolios were selected; a strong
commercial emphasis of the interiors program was reflected in the portfolios and in the
Why is it important to have such a high caliber judge group? Not only does the
experience of the judge group strengthen the methodology, but it also provides pertinent
information for interior design education. Since the firms are respected leaders in the
Hield of interior design, students who aspire to work for one of these firms and design
educators preparing students to enter the Hield can trust the Eindings as representative of
what designers from highly valued firms are looking for in portfolios of prospective
In addition to the experience level of the judge group, the validity of the study is
also dependent on familiarity with accepted standards for portfolios in the domain of
design. The designers' open-ended responses reinforced that creativity of a product
should be assessed within its field. Specific examples offered insights into the meaning
of creativity in entry-level portfolios and the results of the investigation support domain
specifieity. This finding aligns with Amabile's (1982; 1996) consensual definition of
creativity maintaining that creativity is domain specific and should be judged by experts
in the field under study. For example, if individuals with only basic design knowledge
judged the entry-level design portfolios, the findings would not be as relevant especially
for predicting hiring potential. In sum, the reliance on well seasoned designers from
noted firms increases the validity of the study.
The idea of domain specificity supports evaluating portfolios within interior design
in as close to an actual setting as possible. For example, since the hiring process quite
often takes place in a conference room or office of a designer guiding the interview, the
present study collected data at each firm in either a conference room or designer's office.
Other assessment tools also reflected factors tied to field testing. For pragmatic reasons,
the evaluation instrument was an abridged version of the theoretical framework
developed by Besemer and Treffinger (1981). Although the Creative Product Analysis
Matrix offered a 55-item semantic scale adjective checklist, a 13-item evaluation
instrument based on the matrix was developed to shorten the time necessary to complete
the assessment. Since designers evaluated 12 portfolios on 13 items, a shorter instrument
was more practical and sensitive to time, fatigue, and other uncontrollable responses.
Other studies have taken into account the benefits of creating an evaluation
instrument that responds to the domain in question. For example, Cropley and Cropley's
(2000) study also utilized an abridged version of the Creative Product Analysis Matrix to
examine products designed by engineering students. For the dimensions of novelty,
germinality, which relates to resolution, and elegance, which relates to style, they found
novelty and germinality significantly correlated with overall creativity, but elegance did
not. Though these three dimensions were termed differently, this study essentially
explored novelty, resolution, and style. Cropley and Cropley's (2000) study implies that
these dimensions are considered in the engineering field as one thing, yet, the findings
from the present study suggest the three dimensions mean something else for the domain
of interior design.
The findings indicate the designers consistently judged the 13 items utilized in the
portfolio evaluation instrument. Where an alpha rating greater than .70 is considered
acceptable (Blaikie, 2003); novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential
yielded high alpha ratings ranging from .85 to .92, showing strong internal reliability of
the instrument,. In several preliminary studies testing the reliability of the subscales for
the original Creative Product Analysis Matrix (Besemer & O'Quin, 1987), similar high
alpha ratings were found. Besemer and O'Quin tested a variety of letter openers,
cartoons, and art work using an experimental judging instrument based on the model.
They found reliability ratings ranging from .70 to .80 with an average alpha of .76 for all
the studies. The present study reported even higher alphas averaging .87 for the five
variables, which further validates the reliability of the judging instrument.
After establishing the level of reliability, designers' judgments of novelty,
resolution, and style of the 12 portfolios were examined further by comparing average
ratings of the variables. The mean score for resolution was the highest of the variables
and had the smallest variance of rated scores assigned by judges. This suggests the four
items indicating the functionality of a portfolio in terms of its logicalness, usefulness,
understandability, and value, were scored higher and more consistently among judges
than the other two variables. Style had the second highest mean of the five variables,
while novelty had the lowest.
Since this study used Besemer and Treffinger' s (1981) definition of a creative
product that features novelty, resolution, and style as attributes, it is interesting to note
the mean score for the variable creativity was almost exactly the average of the means for
the three creative product variables. The findings suggest the creativity variable may
closely measure the creativeness of design portfolios. This is especially important
because, while there is a fair amount of agreement in the field that these dimensions are
important for creative products. However, it is not definitive that other factors do not
come into play, particularly in an interior creative design product.
In addition, the average of novelty, resolution, style, and creativity is almost equal
to the mean score of hiring potential. Although novelty, resolution, and style are
products of creativity, their value along with the actual value of the portfolio' s creativity
is a strong indicator of the potential of the portfolio' s creator to be hired by the firms
involved in the study. Since the variables correlate highly to overall creativity and hiring
potential, the findings of the study help establish the reliability of the evaluation
instrument utilizing the creative product attributes of novelty, resolution, and style.
Further research would have to be undertaken to explore other influencing factors.
Entry-level Interior Design Portfolios
A portfolio is a summation of work accomplished throughout a period of time
(Newstetter & Khan, 1997). An entry-level interior design portfolio is comprised of
selected design proj ects that are perceived by the individual compiling his or her portfolio
as representing a body of work produced over a given period of time. Design proj ects, by
definition, are creative products. While design projects are guided by design criteria and
program requirements, these open-ended problems encourage many imaginative,
innovative solutions. There may be several design projects featured in an interior design
portfolio, but the portfolio itself acts as a single unit to display a student' s abilities,
experiences, and potential. It is because of this reason that interior design portfolios can
be viewed from two vantage points: as a creative product and as a means for
The Eindings support examining entry-level interior design portfolios from a
creative product perspective. A number of researchers in creativity have suggested
criteria to define the creative product (Newell, Shaw, & Simon, 1963; Jackson &
Messick, 1965; Getzels & Csikszentmihalyi, 1976). While many discuss novelty and
appropriateness, there exists disagreement on these criteria. Nevertheless, researchers
agree that a set of criteria that defines a creative product should apply to creative products
across domains and disciplines. Besemer and her colleagues support this notion and
propose nine facets of the Creative Product Analysis Matrix that "are internally consistent
across different creative products in different samples" (Besemer & O'Quin, 1987).
Yet, a creative product should also be considered in the context for which it was
created. An entry-level interior design portfolio, as one designer stated, is "an artistic and
creative rendition of one' s best academic works." The purpose of the portfolio is to act
as a mechanism for gaining entry-level employment. By connecting the creative
attributes of a portfolio to the reason why entry-level designers create portfolios initially,
the findings of the study help understand the relationship of the portfolio to hiring
potential. This study also examined creativity in a domain-specific context to see how
important creativity is to hiring potential in interior design.
To reiterate the primary purpose, the present study examined theory of a creative
product to see if it could be applied to interior design portfolios. After reviewing a
number of writings on the creative product, Besemer and Treffinger' s Creative Product
Analysis Matrix (1981) appeared to be the most appropriate for the interior design field.
According to Besemer and Treffinger (1981), the three attributes inherent to all creative
products are novelty, resolution, and style. Novelty refers to the newness or originality of
the product; resolution deals with how well the product functions or does what it was
supposed to do, while style pertains to the stylistic and craftsmanship qualities of the
product. This matrix helped direct the research questions that focused on analyzing
specifically what was creative about entry-level interior design portfolios and how the
creative product attributes contribute to hiring potential. The findings related to novelty,
resolution, style, and creativity will be discussed in further detail.
Novelty, defined as "the extent of newness of the product in terms of processes,
techniques, and concepts" (Besemer & Treffinger, 1981, p.164) appears to be a
significant factor in design portfolios. Of the three product attributes, the present study
found the strongest associations between novelty of a portfolio and perceived creativity
but not to hiring potential. The findings also show that novelty significantly influences
the creativity of a portfolio more than the other attributes of resolution and style. The
designers participating in this study were not supplied with a formal definition of
creativity, yet, when they offered their own creativity definitions, interestingly
characteristics of novelty were mentioned in more than one-forth of the responses, such
as "thinking outside the box" as well as "developing unique solutions." Thus, the
quantitative and qualitative results support the concept of novelty as a clear dimension of
While novelty clearly emerges as a well-recognized dimension of the portfolio as a
creative product, its influence is not nearly as strong in predicting hiring potential as
resolution and style. Furthermore, the indirect influence novelty had on hiring potential,
though important, is not as significant as the influences of resolution and style on hiring
potential. When considering the design portfolio as a vehicle for entry-level
employment, it appears that novelty may be necessary for a portfolio to be considered a
creative product, but is not sufficient to gain employment. Designers making hiring
decisions may not give as much credence to portfolios that are just novel, different, or
unique in interior design where factors such as functionality and presentation may
supersede creative novelty.
However, novelty of a portfolio should not be completely discounted. Designers
may feel that an individual can be trained on the job to think and design in more
functional and stylistic ways, whereas the ability to develop novel idea may be more
difficult to develop. Although some designers may show a preference for individuals that
create portfolios illustrating more original and novel points of view, it is possible that a
large group of designers from other regions may have different preferences, but further
research is explore this issue.
Another variable examined in the study was resolution, which was defined as "how
well the product works, functions, and does what it is supposed to do" (Besemer &
Treffinger, 1981, p. 164). The most surprising and contradictory findings of the study
relate to resolution as a creative product attribute. Resolution had the weakest association
to creativity and was not significantly perceived to be an indicator of creativity in the
design portfolio. It is possible that, while the resolution scores were the highest of all the
variables, they were also the least comparable to creativity scores, especially because
resolution did not correlate as strongly to creativity. For example, if a portfolio was
judged to have very high resolution, while novelty, style, and creativity were scored less;
novelty and style would be more closely associated to creativity than resolution,
indicating a stronger influence on creativity. It appears that strength of influences are
directly associated to strength of correlations between two variables, and furthermore, by
controlling the effects of novelty and style on the creativity of portfolios, the effects of
resolution become redundant and thus non-significant.
Nonetheless, resolution emerged as an important factor in designers' definitions of
creativity. Fifty percent of responses illustrated characteristics of resolution manifest in
designers' comments that often referenced a practical solution to a challenge. This is
likely because resolution deals with how well the design solution functions or solves the
problem. Additionally, over sixty percent of those responses focused on design rather
than creativity in a general sense. For example, such statements explained resolution as
"useful for its occupants," "functional to the end user," and "solves the design problem."
Consequently, designers' definitions of creativity seem to regard functionality very
highly and support resolution as a dimension of creativity.
Perhaps designers viewed resolution as a key factor because functionality is so
critical to the success of design projects, and in design practice, the designer' s main
concern is to create a space that is purposeful and functional to its end users and proves
satisfactory to clients. This may be true since eighty percent of the designers participated
in corporate design where work environments need to offer employees adequate settings
in which to work productively. Rengel (2003) suggests that resolution of an office design
A good understanding of the many units on the office, their roles, and their
relationship to each other. The first step of any office design solution is to
carefully place all elements for optimal function. The second step is to organize
these into a coherent system of open and enclosed areas (p. 337).
While optimal function is necessary in order to achieve resolution in an office design, the
design would have to demonstrate a logical, useful, understandable, and valuable
The findings of the study might have been very different if the focus was on
designers and portfolios that were residentially oriented. It is possible that resolution
would not be viewed as the most important attribute since residential design often times
deals largely with the stylist attributes and in an interior residence those may include
interior finishes, color, pattern, and ornamentation (Rengel, 2003). These are significant
to enriching the overall environment but may contribute less to the function of the design.
While it is not to say that residential interior designers don't consider novelty and
resolution when designing the interior of a home, further research in this area is
necessary. However, it is hypothesized that style would be regarded as the most
The influence resolution had on hiring potential is cleaner cut than resolution.
Considered the second most influential variable, resolution of a portfolio predicts hiring
potential more than creativity and novelty, but less than style. In addition, characteristics
of resolution also contributed to one-third of the qualitative comments including
"appropriate design responses" that are "understandable" and "easy to follow." It
appears that designers consider resolution to be an important element in entry-level
design portfolios, and these findings are illustrated in the words of one designer who
implicitly explained the value of functionality over novelty:
I guess a lot of what you see in entry-level portfolios is just extreme creativity and
you don't see a lot of the technical information. You know there are other elements
to our industry.... [Students] see something and think 'oh that' s cool,' but is it
practical to use here, how do you install it, and will it last through the people
working in the environment.
This citation demonstrates that the functional aspects of design are just as important, if
not more important than novelty alone.
While resolution appears to be an important element for interior design, it is
difficult to determine why resolution was not an influential factor for predicting creativity
in the quantitative results, but emerged as such a maj or component in the qualitative
portion of the study defining creativity. One explanation may be attributed to the fact
that designers made specific judgments on the 12 portfolios without accompanying
proj ect descriptions or narratives while they commented on creativity and entry-level
design portfolios in a general sense. It appears that designers responded to the open-
ended questions by describing or suggesting considerations of an actual entry-level hiring
situation. One designer suggested the difficultly in evaluating portfolios without having
the actual job applicant present:
I think the difficult thing to separate was that I was evaluating the portfolios and
not the proj ects, that was hard because some of them had some really good proj ects
but again not as strong a presentation, and again, I think seeing it only on a laptop
makes it harder to evaluate a portfolio and a person or a person's ability.
An actual portfolio evaluation involves designers viewing a portfolio with the job
candidate talking through and explaining the contents within the portfolio. By verbally
communicating the ideas and thought processes behind a design solution, the
characteristics that define resolution may become clear, in that, the functionality of a
design is based on its logical, useful, valuable, and understandable qualities. This may be
especially relevant since designers recognized the importance of communication, thought
process, and the individual when considering additional factors that contribute to entry-
level hiring. One designer felt: "If you have the opportunity to present your portfolio, it
is a little easier to talk about what the process was and it is a little more personal then to
have it all written down because you loose the attention span." Yet, understanding the
design process and the functionality of the design is not the only factor driving the design
solution; if this were the case, the path to the solution would be clear cut and only a
limited number of design solutions would emerge. In addition, a portfolio in an actual
hiring situation may illustrate design projects through physical pages or may be viewed
digitally. Nevertheless, designers seem to encourage verbal communication of the
process by explaining how the design responded to the limitations and functional criteria,
while at the same time incorporating original ideas.
Style is identified as "the degree to which the product combines unlike elements
into a refined, developed, coherent whole, statement or unit:" (Besemer & Treffinger,
1981, p. 164). In the present study, style of a portfolio refers to how the portfolio looks
visually, particularly its organization and craftsmanship. Style, in addition to novelty,
was found to significantly influence creativity. Although novelty was more influential,
the degree of influence for style was quite substantial. This is interesting since the
previous findings indicate that novelty may be the least important attribute of the three.
In addition to the possibility that novelty is viewed synonymously with creativity, it is
also possible that novelty influences creativity more than style because the two items
representing novelty were found to be more consistent than the three items representing
the style of the portfolios, indicated by equal alpha scores. Yet, the emphasis placed on
novelty and style for predicting creativity is contradictory to designers' definitions of
creativity that mention resolution in half of the responses.
Style also had a strong relationship with hiring potential. Of the four variables,
style claimed the strongest association to and influence on hiring potential. Style
significantly influences hiring potential almost twice as much as resolution and more than
double creativity. The value placed on style of a portfolio shown by the Eindings suggests
that the style may be more important than novelty, resolution, and creativity in predicting
hiring potential. This means that when designers try to determine the potential of an
entry-level interior designer by assessing their portfolio, they are most strongly
influenced by how well the portfolio is put together and the overall, visual presentation.
In addition to the direct influence style has on hiring potential, intervening effects
of style also persuade hiring potential. Since the style of a portfolio influences its
perceived creativity and the creativity of a portfolio influences hiring potential, a
portfolio's style inadvertently influences potential for employment. We already know
that the visual presentation of a portfolio is a very significant indicator of hiring potential.
The fact that style has an additional affect on hiring potential that is indirectly mediated
through creativity, further supports that entry-level interior designers should prioritize the
look of their portfolio and its organization.
Style is further supported as the most important consideration by designers in
determining hiring potential. When asked to define creativity in entry-level portfolios,
designers' responses mentioned characteristics of style over forty percent of the time.
Even though designers cited to characteristics of style more than novelty and resolution,
they appeared to value each attribute since the frequency of responses were quite similar
across the three variables. Interestingly, since designers recognized these three attributes
of a creative product, designers' views were consistent with the study's guiding
framework developed by Besemer and Treffinger (1981). In sum, the designers'
comments frequently reflected novelty, resolution, and style in entry-level interior design
When asked to suggest other factors important while reviewing portfolios,
designers referenced the style of a portfolio more than other factors. For example,
comments included "organization from the start to finish of the portfolio" and the
"presentation [and] overall look." Perhaps style is given more attention when evaluating
hiring potential because the stylistic qualities of a portfolio affect how the information is
presented and may influence designers' perceptions of the material within the portfolio.
In other words, the style of the portfolio illustrates "the ability to solve a problem in a
manner that is aesthetically pleasing." Interior design is highly visual, and as one
designer mentioned, "[the] visual impact [of the portfolio] is just as important, sometimes
as a first impression more important than the design because you want someone to pay
attention to what you are trying to do." The overall look of the portfolio, through the
organization and the layout of the page, maybe the factor they return to when evaluating a
portfolio and making hiring decisions.
The creativity variable was included in the multiple regression analysis to gauge its
contribution to hiring potential. Although a significant influence on hiring potential was
found, we do not know how much of the influence was solely attributed to creativity.
Since novelty and style influenced creativity, part of the influence creativity had on hiring
potential was also influenced by these other factors, and furthermore, because these
variables overlap to a degree. Some designers appeared to view novelty as the same
thing as creativity. As mentioned earlier, one designer stated "A lot of what you see in
entry-level portfolios is just extreme creativity and you don't see a lot of the technical
information." This comment implies novelty may be viewed synonymously with
creativity. Although novelty has a strong association with creativity, the two variables
were still found to be different statistically. The profession of interior design also
supports this view by defining interior design as "a multi-faceted profession in which
creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior
environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the
occupants, and are aesthetically attractive" (NCIDQ, 2006). This definition implies that
the interior design profession may view novelty and creativity similarly. It also reflects a
misconception that designers cannot be creative with the technical and functional aspects
of design. Yet at the same time, the definition illustrates the importance of creative
novelty, resolution, and style. Nevertheless, the qualitative findings showing less than
perfect associations suggest that novelty and creativity are not the same thing since
designers regarded them differently when rating the portfolios on the five variables in
question. Further research into the field of interior design should target these
misconceptions and suggest a clearly defined definition of interior design that takes into
account the creativity aspects of novelty, resolution, and style.
In sum, the results of the present study support the complex and multifaceted nature
of creativity based on both the quantitative and qualitative findings. The quantitative
findings are more definitive than the qualitative findings since they are based on 248
assessments of portfolios as opposed to the opinions of 12 judges. The quantitative
portion of the study found:
* Novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential are associated;
* Creativity is influenced the most by novelty and then by style, and;
* Hiring potential is influenced the most by style, and then resolution and creativity.
The qualitative, exploratory findings of the elite judge group found:
* Designers perceive resolution to be the most important attribute of creativity; and
* Designers perceive style, resolution, and novelty to be important for hiring
In addition to the importance of entry-level design portfolio to interior design, the
portfolio appears to carry a significant weight in the hiring process, accounting for almost
three-fourths of the hiring decision. In Baker and Sondhi's (1989) study that looked at
competencies and attributes of entry-level interior design graduates, they noted that sixty-
eight percent of hiring decisions by professionals are made based on the individual's
portfolio. The current study supports the importance of portfolios for assessing
performance and emphasizes the role portfolios play in gaining entry-level employment.
Yet, additional factors that account for remaining influences in hiring decisions
should be recognized. The participating designers stressed the importance of being able
to communicate, show technical skills, exude personality, illustrate thought processes,
and have internship experience. As one designer put it, "We do not evaluate a portfolio
alone, we also are interviewing the person: how well a person speaks, how they are
dressed, etc. We look at the work and the person as a whole." This multi-dimensional
process is captured by Baker and Sondhi (1989) who concluded that "large interior
design firms are looking for entry-level personnel who critically think through design
solutions based on design theories, communicates verbally and through graphic
presentation, practice professional ethics, and present themselves as mature, enthusiastic,
and well groomed" (p. 35). Assuming an evidence-based approach to portfolio
preparation at the job applicant level can facilitate the development of a portfolio that
provides the best opportunity for employment.
Recommendations can be drawn from these results to benefit interior design
educators and entry-level graduates who are entering the job market. If interior design
educators were informed of the significance these attributes have on entry-level
portfolios, they could consider focusing their studios and even curriculum to align with
professional expectations. Educators could incorporate novelty, resolution, and style into
the earliest stages of design and through the final presentation stage. They could
structure design problems to specifically address the three attributes, in turn, providing a
framework helpful for students throughout the development of a design solution. These
criteria--novelty, resolution, and style--could then be used by educators to evaluate
projects. Furthermore, during the design juries, students could present their design
solution by explaining how the attributes contributed to their process. For instance,
novelty can be explained as an enriching factor of a design by possibly creating
originality and surprise; resolution can be explained as an ordering factor that facilitates
understanding and orientation while also clarifying the value and usefulness of the
design; and style can be explained as an expressive factor that communicates the design
message as a cohesive unit that is elegant and carried out skillfully. Informed educators
could inevitably influence the way students address their design proj ects, as well as create
their portfolios. These advantages, in turn, could create a greater seamlessness between
education and practice.
The findings from this study also allow entry-level interior designers to maximize
their potential for employment. It is suggested that entry-level interior designers create a
portfolio that showcases their talents and skills while keeping in mind professional
designers' perceptions of creativity and entry-level portfolios. It was found that
designers with hiring responsibility appeared very impressed with how the portfolio is
presented visually and the degree to which it emphasizes appropriate solutions,
originality and uniqueness. A combination of these attributes is preferred rather than
concentrating on one attribute. For example, a portfolio that is purely novel may be
viewed as bizarre or attention getting, with no underlying substance or style. If a
portfolio has only characteristics of resolution it may be lacking organization, a visual
impact and imagination. Alternatively, if a portfolio is purely stylistic it can suggest a
lack of substance, functionality, interior design skills, and originality.
Though the results of this study strongly support the stylistic attributes, a portfolio
should illustrate characteristics of all three variables in varying degrees. Kilmer and
Kilmer (1992) suggest overall design impressions are greater than the sum of its parts and
are dependent on style: "The impact of design will depend on its successful organization
of ideas or elements into unifying wholes--the use of materials, the manipulation of
form, aesthetic sensitivity, and satisfying a need" (p. 17). The current study advocates
that style is considered the umbrella for the portfolio, or the overall visual impact of the
organization of the portfolio. Style is also integrative, in that, it bridges the attributes of
novelty and resolution into an organized, coherent unit. This is true for the portfolio as a
unit as well as for the individual design proj ects within a portfolio. One designer
mentioned the importance of presenting the individual work in a stylized manner and
stressed "organization from start to finish of the portfolio and each proj ect within."
Evident at many levels, style contributes to the design of spaces within design proj ects,
and also influences the visual impact across proj ects in a portfolio.
One challenge for design students when integrating the attributes of creativity into
their portfolios is the issue of illustrating resolution. Designers evaluating the design
portfolios appeared to have a harder time recognizing resolution than novelty and style.
While the Eindings support j ob applicants explaining the resolution of their portfolios,
there are benefits to explicitly clarifying the functional considerations within design
proj ects. Some ways to do this, for example, may include manipulating graphics or
including written explanations to better communicate the effectiveness and organization
of the design, as well as bring more attention to the human conditions. While the job
candidate remains important to the hiring process, carefully considering the functional
aspects of a design by visually illustrating resolution will allow entry-level design
portfolios to convey a more accurate message.
Suggested Future Research
Given the paucity of research on creativity in interior design related to entry-level
portfolios, Bender encourages further investigation into this topic and is writing the first
book dedicated to interior design portfolios (D. Bender, personal communication,
October 2006). The following recommendations offer ideas on expanding this study
conceptually and methodologically.
The first recommendation is to replicate and expand the study by utilizing a large,
random sample of differently focused participants. While the designers and the portfolios
in the study focused on commercial design, another worthwhile study could examine
residentially focused designers and portfolios. It is hypothesized that style would emerge
as the most important factor along with novelty because residential design and designers
seem to direct more attention on the stylistic attributes of a space while also incorporating
unique characteristics. Resolution may not be as influential because residential designs
frequently do not address as many code regulations or special user groups or constraints.
A second recommendation is to compare physical design portfolios to digital ones.
Although it may be difficult, this study would be beneficial to providing a more accurate
representation of the portfolio, in turn, contributing to more accurate results. One
designer mentioned "seeing [the portfolio] only on a laptop makes it harder to evaluate."
Using actual portfolios in the assessment task would allow designers to see and touch the
portfolio. It is possible that "the texture" and "the quality of the paper" contribute to the
visual impact or style of the portfolio, which in the end influences designers' perceptions
and the portfolio's potential for employment. Further, some design programs encourage
the development of a container to hold the portfolio. This container may in fact
contribute to designers perceptions of the style of a portfolio, but would have to be
It may also be beneficial to expand the present study to include other components
that addressed one or more of Mooney's four 'P's" (1963) discussed in the review of
literature. Creativity studies revolve around the creative person, the creative process, the
creative product, and the creative press. Future studies relating creativity to hiring
potential in interior design, for example, could investigate characteristics of the creative
person as well as related to their creative product. In the domain of interior design field,
entry-level portfolios and entry-level interior designers could be examined to gain better
insights into whether the characteristics of a creative person contribute to the perceived
characteristics of their design portfolio.
A final recommendation for future research is to explore the interior design
programs from several universities. Often times, interior program may convey and
overall identity or look that could possibly contribute to how design proj ects are resolved
and portfolios developed. In turn this could have positive or negative influences on
designers' perceptions of the novelty, resolution, and style of a portfolio.
Research is responsible for continually expanding the current perceptions and
knowledge base in the interior design Hield. The Eindings from the current study support
and suggest further research in order to inform design education and design students as
well as advance the profession.
The purpose of this study was to determine what design professionals consider
creative in entry-level interior design portfolios. More specifically, the study explored
the specific attributes of creative products to determine how the perceptions of entry-level
interior design portfolios relate to creativity and hiring potential. Twenty-one
professional designers applied a locally developed instrument to 12 entry-level interior
design portfolios to judge novelty, resolution, style, creativity, and hiring potential.
Further open-ended questions expanded designer views on creativity and interior design
The study found that designer' s perceived creativity of entry-level interior design
portfolios to be influenced by the portfolio's unique character and its overall presentation.
Furthermore, the perceived hiring potential of the portfolio' s creator was influenced
directly by the overall presentation, the appropriateness of the portfolio, and its creativity.
When designers discussed creativity, they most often cited characteristics relating to the
appropriateness of the portfolio. However, when discussing factors relevant to the hiring
potential of portfolios, designers most frequently cited the characteristics of style were
most often cited, followed by appropriateness and novelty.
The results of the study are significant for creativity research, as well as for design
educators and students applying for entry-level employment or even internships. The
understanding of creativity as a scholarly area of research is expanded through new and
exciting applications of interior design. Benefits also accrue with the field when
educators can inform interior design students on best practice requirements for creating
their portfolios, and in turn students will have the best opportunity for gaining
employment at suitable design firms.
PARTICIPATION LETTER REQUEST
March 1, 2006
My name is Katie Levins. I am a graduate student at the University of Florida studying
interior design. I am currently working on a thesis proj ect that seeks to understand what
interior design professionals look for in senior design portfolios. As you know, creativity
is a vital aspect of any design proj ect or product, including portfolios. With this study, I
want to measure how design professionals judge creativity in potential employees by
assessing the portfolios of senior interior design students.
For my sample, I would like to collaborate with you and possibly another member of
your firm that you would recommend with experience in reviewing portfolios and hiring
entry level designers. I anticipate your involvement being less than two hours and at a
time convenient to your work schedule. I would like to collect my data towards the
middle of April and will be calling you to discuss your possible participation in this study
and answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Meg Portillo is the professor who is supervising this proj ect with me. She has done
several studies on creativity in interior design and been published in numerous journals.
If Dr. Portillo or I can answer any questions for you, please feel free to contact either one
Margaret Portillo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL LETTER
Protocol Title: The impact of creativity on the evaluation of entry-level interior design
Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this
Purpose of the research study: This study intends to measure how design professionals
judge creativity in potential employees by assessing the portfo~lios of students from an
accredited four-year interior design program. A quantitative scaled measurement, paired with a
qualitative inquin; will give substantial insight into the professional practices of interior
What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to review and evaluate 12
entnt-level design portfolios with an evaluation form that will be sulpplled to you for each
portfolio. The portfolios will be viewed in PowerPoint format. You will first watch a ~timed slide
show revealing one randomly selected project from each portfolio to familiarize yourself with
the portfollas to be evaluated. Following the slide show you will observe the 12 portfolios
individually and complete an evaluation form for each one. The speed for viewing the
individual portfolios is controlled by you. When you are finished evaluating the 12 portfolios,
you will be asked several questions regarding the portfolios and your background. These
answers will be audio taped for la~teFr reviewving by the research committee.
Time required: 2 hours
Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks for particlpatung in this study. You will be
given an executive summary-of the findings that will document the perceptions of entry-level
portfolios of leading firms in Florida.
Compensation: There will be no compensation for particlpating in this survey.
University of Florida
Institutional Review Board 02
Protocol # 2006-U-306
For Use Through~320
Confidentiality: Your identity will remain confidential to the extent provided by the law. Any
information linking you and your work will be kept in a locked file. Your name will not be
mentioned in any report. Your taped responses will not: be heard by anyone other than the
Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not part c pating.
Right to withdraw from the~ study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at
anytime without consequence.
Whom to contact if you have any questions about the study: Katie Levins, Graduate
Student, Department of Interior Design, 342 Architecture Bulllchng. PO Box 115705, Gainesville,
FL 32611-5706, ph 941-928-5209, klevins~ufl~edu
Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UF"IRB
Office, Box 1112250, University of Florida, Galnestllet, FL 32611-2250; ph 352-392-0433.
Agreement;: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in
the procedure and I have received a copy of this description.
University of Florida
Institutional Review Board 02
Protocol # 2006-U-306
For Use Through 04/3/2007
I VIll VIV IYVIIIVI CI'C'VV p
Evaluate the portfolio as a complete unit. Rate the thirteen dimensions for each portfolio using the following scale:
1 =Poor; 2 =Below Average; 3 =Average; 4 =Good; 5 =Excellent
Poor Average Average Good Excellent
Logical The portfolio Is appropriate for the disciphlne of
mterior design 2 3 4 5
Useful The portfolio has clear, practical apphications1 2 3 4 5
Understandable The portfolio commumicates in an effective and "user-friendly" way
Well Crafted The portfolio presentation shows a high degree of technical skill and care 2 3 4 5
Original The portfolio Is unusual and novel 1 2 3 4 5
Innovative The portfolio Is mnovative1 2 3 4 5
Surprise The portfolio presents unexpected mformation to the viewer 1 2 3 4 5
Creative The portfolio Is creative
Elegant The portfolio Is refmned and graceful 2 3 4 5
Valuable The portfolio addresses the human conditions 2 3 4 5
Organic The portfolio has a sense of wholeness or completeness about It
Promise What Is the hlkehlhood that this portfolio seems comparable to your other entry-level
employees? 1 2 3 4 5
Potential What are the chances that the person who created this portfolio would be hired by
o iloftro #
PORTFOLIO EVALUATION INSTRUMENT
PORTFOLIO EVALUA N
1. How do you define creativity in interior design?
2. How do you define creativity in entry-level portfolios?
3. What factors besides creativity are important when you evaluate portfolios?
4. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
5. Can you estimate on how many portfolios do you review a year?
Year of birth
How many years have you practiced interior design?
How many years have you reviewed portfolios?
What type of design work do you do?
Healthcare Corporate Retail _
Conunercial Hospitality Residential
Formal Position Title
How many interior designers are employed by your firm?
SUMMARY OF QUALITATIVE FINDINGS
Question 1: How do you define creativity?
1 to think outside their realm of exposure
2 uncommon solutions for common problem
3 thinking outside of the box
5 creativity is developing unique solutions
6 an idea of reordering something in a way that is different
8 creativity, innovative
9 creating an unforgettable experience
10 evolving practical solutions to design challenges
11 design solution that is based on the clients' needs
12 solution that not only meets the client's expectations but also the functional and the human aspects
13 various design solutions
14 the ability to totally capture a concept or idea into a 3D space
15 to have a concept or point-of-view regarding the program or client, that will drive the project.
16 solutions for what the client is asking for
17 creating useful space; makes it function better
18 do they clearly illustrate the main item or idea of the project.
19 support human functions
20 relationship between form & function
21 functional to the end user
22 solves the design problem
23 the ability to see multiple solutions to a design problem or client request.
24 understanding of forms and human elements
25 creating a space that is useful for its occupants
26 design that reflects the function of the space
27 color, texture
28 use of materials
29 creative use of material, textures, form, and light
30 is the complete thought shown; plans, perspectives, or other items to convey the ideas
31 leverage available materials
32 an expressive understanding of the process of interior architecture
33 the ability to solve a problem in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing
34 cohesive and clear design
Question 2: How do you define creativity in entry-level portfolios?
1 different attitude, a different way of looking at things, a different way to solve a problem
2 exciting, does have a sense of surprise
3 putting your own twist on it, fresh and something different
4 fresh ideas
5 an attempt at reinterpretation of the expected
6 not what everybody else is doing
7 thinking beyond the obvious solution
9 has a sense of reality
10 used their sources of inspiration & concepts to inform their projects
11 to resolve design issues could be in use of materials or space definition
12 drawings clearly define the concept
13 the ability to deliver appropriate design responses
14 good design concept and solution
15 understanding of forms and human elements
16 easy to follow
17 clarity of intent is most important
18 design solution is detailed
19 overall presentation
20 well translated and well put together
21 the ability to rely an idea, a concept, in a very simple fashion
22 creativity is well-rounded, in all aspects of the portfolio, concepts, graphic/technical, hand sketches
23 using materials
24 organizing your portfolio to be clear but graphically outstanding
25 format on your portfolio page
26 an artistic and creative rendition of ones best academic works
27 new presentation techniques
28 showcasing all of ones projects in a highly designed manner
29 design and layout of the pages can emphasis the design
30 use of various mediums is good
Question 3: What factors besides creativity are important when you evaluate
1 an individual or a team project
2 the person seems to be organized
3 we also are interviewing the person, so how well a person speaks, how they are dressed, etc.; we look
at the work and the person as a whole
4 what you love to see is consistently excellent and excellent people are typically consistently excellent
5 what can the person bring to the team
6 range of talents and experiences
7 new ideas
8 innovative designs
10 a consistent train of thought
11 is it put together n a very logical [way]
12 consistent level of quality
13 constructability, rationality, realism
14 clear well thought out concepts & solutions
15 appropriate scale of the space
16 excellent organizational skills
17 an understanding of color and proportion
18 I look at it for professionalism, is the portfolio neat, clean, well organized, are the edge cut clean, and
precise, are the mountings meticulous
19 graphics, the texture, the quality of the paper, or if it's in PowerPoint, on the computer, then the visual
20 overall organization of the portfolio
21 neatness, spelling, grammar; it should look professional
22 clearly organized
23 organization, fluidity, metaphoric "tie-ins"
24 presentation, line weight in drawings, true 3D perspectives
25 understanding the materials
26 organization from the start to finish of portfolio & each project witlun
27 graphics, technology, balance
28 organization, logical layouts; easy to read and understand
29 neatness, spelling
30 design flow
32 presentation, overall look
33 simple and clear presentation of the project process and goals
34 technical drawing
35 understand how to put construction documents together
36 are they familiar with codes and regulations
37 technical skills, skill sets in general
38 new abilities in software
39 graphic design skills
40 varied skills; technical, graphic
41 technical skills
42 showing of skill sets
43 use of computer automated drafting
THOUGHT PROCESS S
44 thought process
45 thought process and seeing how someone's mind works
46 well rounded thought process and interpretation