Interior Design Program gets makeover, adds creative courses

The Interior Design Program just finished one of its most important renovation projects: its own curriculum.

The program will shift its course load to focus on practical design work next fall, leaping from nine to 30 credits of required studio courses to give professors more time to work one-on-one with students. In those classes, students work on design projects ranging from office buildings to schools.

“The studio is where the creativity happens. It’s a dynamic space,” program director Stephanie Travis said.

The changes, which have been in the works for three years, underline the program’s mission to push students to think creatively, Travis said. It will also look to establish a stronger foundation for students in architecture and boost total credits from 45 to 60.

The current slate of studio courses give professors only about 15 minutes to work individually with students each class period, a constraint assistant professor of interior design Nancy Evans said is frustrating.

“It’ll be fabulous to have the extra amount of time with each student and each project to go into more depth,” Evans said.

The program includes about 80 undergraduate and graduate students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and is housed on the Mount Vernon Campus. It was originally part of Mount Vernon College when it started in 1974, before being absorbed by GW in 1999.

To accompany the curriculum changes, the program will also be renamed Interior Architecture and Design, a change that “better reflects our sensibility and approach,” Travis said.

Evans added that the name change will clear up confusion about interior designers, who design spaces and iron out technical issues like lighting and acoustics.

“Too many people still think interior design is interior decoration. I still have to explain the difference to people,” Evans said. “We design everything from the face [of the building] to the furniture, the lighting, custom designing – every single thing down to the light switch. That’s what people hire us for.”

The Bureau of Labor statistics expects employment for interior designers to increase by 19 percent over the next decade.

Evans said that the new curriculum helps the program add value to an education in interior design. Interior design professionals need to stand out for businesses and homeowners as design software allows anyone to take part in design, she said.

In addition to the new focus on the studio courses, the program will require stronger courses in the history of architecture and design, sustainability, freehand sketching and computer graphics, Travis said.

Graduate students who start the program in fall 2013 will begin the new MFA in Interior Architecture and Design curriculum.

Undergraduates will not begin the new curriculum until spring 2014. Students who are already in the program will not be affected by the changes to the program.

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