Design Library gives students a hand-on approach to new materials and industry connections

Group photo of students running the design library
Left to right: interior architecture and design students Emily Mok, Morgan Sehi, and Liberty Atencio in CSU's Design Library.

The Interior Architecture and Design Program in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University has unveiled a student-run professional Design Library for students similar to those in interior design firms. The Design Library, located in the Nancy Richardson Design Center, opened in the spring of 2020 and features product samples which serve to enhance experiential learning and as inspiration for students as they design their projects. The Design Library has also been integrated into the class INTD 340 that focuses on products and materials. The samples include a range of sustainable, innovative, and health-focused products such as reclaimed wood products, modular panel systems, lighting, and acoustic green wall systems.

Design Library table with the materials and products.
Design Library table with the materials and products.

“Considering the material health of interior products and finishes is important, especially at the scale and impact of commercial design,” said Leah Scolere, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising, “Our program teaches students how to consider the positive impact a material can have on health and well-being of human occupants, whether it’s sustainably sourced, and how a material helps benefit the construction of the building,. There’s an intentionality behind material selection and taking into account the lifecycle of the material, which is very different from just considering colors and patterns of a material.”

Scolere gives the example of healthcare environments in the age of COVID-19. Choosing materials that can be easily cleaned yet avoid harmful chemicals to promote safer interior environments is something students are thinking about.

Goals for the Design Library

The Interior Architecture and Design Program emphasizes the entirety of designing and constructing a space. Thanks to the Design Library, students can enjoy the inspiration and new products to enhance and connect their designs in real ways similar to designers in the industry. Students who are working to build the offerings in the Design Library work and seeking opportunities in the future to expand to a digital database of materials for students to browse.

Unique experiential hands-on opportunity

Emily Mok (left) and Leah Scolere (right) observing materials in the library.
Emily Mok (left) and Leah Scolere (right) observing materials in the Design Library.

The concept of a Design Library is used in the professional design field to keep designers up to date on the latest materials and inspire them to use them in projects. Emily Mok, a sophomore majoring in interior architecture and design, is serving as the collection’s manager overseeing what products come in and out of the library.

“The Design Library is unique in that it mimics how a firm’s library would function,” says Mok. “Having this resource available to students gives them the opportunity to see a small glimpse of how a firm would run but because we are a student-run organization, we can cater to the needs of students within the program.”

In the interior architecture and design industry, new materials from flooring, wall paneling, acoustics, textiles, glass and upholstery are constantly changing to be sustainable and functional. The Design Library gives design students a chance to stay up to date on these new materials and how they can use them in their projects for a modern and innovative feel.

“This interactive, creative space is run like a true design firm library where we are constantly editing the existing collection to keep it up-to-date,” says Morgan Sehi, a senior in the Interior Architecture and Design Program and communications specialist of the Design Library. “Product representatives send us their company’s new materials and products and we return the old products they might have sent us so everything is updated and students get a glimpse of what the material market looks like at that very moment, rather than 2-10 years ago.”

Student looking at sample in the Design Library
Liberty Atencio looking at sample in the Design Library.

The library also hosts events featuring representatives from material firms in Colorado. Industry consultants and product reps are invited to connect over Zoom and can talk with students about the products they are developing or have released and how this can change the interiors lighting, cleaning, or sound.

“I hope that students will take away inspiration from the Design Library that will influence them not only as students, but as future designers in the field,” said Nicole Jackson, a graduate of the Interior Architecture and Design Program. “Materials are the foundation of our interior environments, and the Design Library will get to be a part of student engagement and the community for many years to come.”

About the Design Library

The Design Library is located on the second floor of the Nancy Richardson Design Center. It is open on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. by appointment only to all students, staff, and faculty interested in looking at the product samples. To abide by health protocols, the department is scheduling visits to the Design Library via an appointment system on the website.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.