Interior design undergoes name change to reflect technical emphasis

The name of the interior design major in the Department of Design and Merchandising has been changed to interior architecture and design. The new name recognizes both the program’s long history with interior design and the shift in the profession to include more knowledge of structural and building systems. “IAD” will more accurately reflect the curriculum content and support the program’s efforts to increase enrollment and student diversity.

National shiftColorado State University Design and Merchandising students work on a project in Stephanie Clemons' interior design class.

Around the country, 24 peer institutions with accredited interior design programs have renamed their programs to “interior architecture” or “interior architecture and design.” This national shift reflects the increasing responsibilities and accreditation standards from the Council for Interior Design Accreditation that require interior designers to have technical knowledge of building structures and systems.

“As times have changed, interior design has grown to include everything inside of a building’s exterior that affects human habitation,” said Laura Malinin, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising and director of the Richardson Design Center. “This includes walls, stairs, electrical requirements, plumbing, lighting, ventilation, materials and finishes, and furnishings and ergonomics. We emphasize the intelligent use of space to promote functionality, sustainability, health and wellbeing.”

CSU’s shift from “interior design” to “interior architecture and design” is a very natural one.

“Central to our curriculum is understanding the complexity of designing interiors for people of all ages and differing abilities as well as for safety, functionality and aesthetics,” said Stephanie Clemons, professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising and coordinator of the Interior Architecture and Design Program. “Using a global perspective and applying evidence-based design strategies, our students leave CSU ready to develop design solutions that address social, physical and psychological needs of individuals in their work, leisure and private places. Our rigorous coursework will continue to prepare our graduates to work on all public, commercial, residential and institutional design projects at a variety of scales.”

Advantages for students and alumni

Colorado State University Design and Merchandising professor Stephanie Clemons describes a project to students.

The program name change offers multiple advantages for students and alumni. It is expected that incoming students will better understand the rigor and content of the major. The vast majority of incoming freshmen are attracted to the major because of residential decorating television programs that have popularized services such as interior design. Yet more than 80 percent of graduates practice in commercial sectors that include hotels, schools, offices, restaurants and healthcare settings.

The interior design profession struggles with attracting diverse students; particularly gender diversity. Nationwide, many design faculty believe the major name change will attract more male students.

The name change has been found to shift public perception, including among parents, of the depth of education and career opportunities for graduates. In addition, the faculty and alumni of the program feel the name change will offer a competitive advantage in procuring positions in additional leading design firms nationally and internationally.

Changes in curriculum

The change in the program also includes new courses and requirements. A new freshman level course conceptualizes interior architecture as part of a broader interrelated system of spatial experiences, inviting students to develop practices and ways of thinking to facilitate critical engagement with designed environments. It will be open to students of all majors, will be an offering in CSU’s All-University Core Curriculum, and meets CIDA requirements to provide students opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

The other new courses are expected to increase student recruitment, improve sophomore retention, promote cross-disciplinary opportunities and focus on career preparation and competitiveness in the field.

In addition, another major change in the program is from a 3-credit internship to a semester-long professional internship.

The Interior Architecture and Design Program is in the Department of Design and Merchandising, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.