Teen Spirit - Attracting the Next Generation of Interior Designers
Teen Spirit ” Attracting the Next Generation of Interior Designers
Education 12 years ago No Comments


contributed by Tamie Glass [interior designer / interior design educator]

“I’m taking this class so when I become rich, I can design my own house and won’t have to hire an interior designer.” This was my introduction to a high school student this past summer at a program sponsored by the University of Texas called The Honors Colloquium. teenspirit-title.gifEvery year, exceptional high-school students from across the state of Texas are invited to a three-day summer program to discover and explore the scholastic offerings at the university across all disciplines. When I signed up to teach the introductory course on interior design, I anticipated that I would have to field all sorts of misguided questions; but that didn’t quite prepare me for what happened next.

The student responses that followed revealed that not a single student present in the lecture hall had actually enrolled for my Signature Class. Instead, they had registered for the program late, and my class was a default assignment. I had come prepared to expose myths about the profession – my PowerPoint presentation loaded with the “truth” about interior designers – only to realize I had a much bigger job ahead of me. Being a passionate practitioner and a bright-eyed educator, in that greenhorn sort of way, I left the lecture feeling completely deflated.

Later that evening, I reflected on the student luncheon preceding my interior design session hosted by the School of Architecture. I remembered seeing a full conference table of interested and engaged (albeit shy and timid) high school students discussing 3-D modeling and Photoshop skills and asking whether they should double major in architecture and business or take the route of architectural engineering. One student even brought up her interest in interior design, and I had seen a glimmer of hope.

So, where had all those students gone, and why had they not attended my class” Why was I left for a moment feeling like there was no enthusiasm, or even a sense of awareness – however false – from the next generation for the industry to which I have dedicated my life and career” It left me wondering: How do we attract them”

Teens And Interior Design

According to Stephanie Clemons, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University, teens learn about interior design from three primary sources: architecture (AIA Foundation programs), design reality shows, and Family and Consumer Science (FCS) courses at the secondary education level. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but her research that focuses on infusing interior design education into K-12 classrooms, had just become personal.

I am all too aware of the impact design reality shows have had on the interior design profession, and I can imagine the limitations that FCS classes in high schools may have in disseminating information on the evolving field of interior design. I was surprised though, for some reason, at the influence that architecture has at the pre-university level. Having been both an architecture and interior design student myself and practiced in multi-disciplinary firms, I have first-hand knowledge of the push and pull of the two professions at the post-secondary and professional levels, but high school, too”

Learning From Architecture

A greater level of exposure to the architecture discipline in primary and secondary education has been increasingly orchestrated over the past decade. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) national initiative Architecture in Schools supports programs across the spectrum. They do so with a call to volunteers at the local chapter levels, including downloadable instructor course content for various grade levels along with other resources such as a promotional publication titled The Architect’s Journey: Exploring a Future in Architecture.

The AIA national website offers a list with links to over 50 summer architecture programs at universities across the country geared toward learning about a career in architecture. Furthering the mission to advance public interest and education in design and architecture, the AIA joined forces with the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) to establish the Architecture+Design Education Network (A+DEN) in 2005. Their website offers shared lesson plans and resources promoting learning about architecture and the built environment in K-12 at a national level.

What Is Interior Design Doing To Promote Education”

So, there is nothing new about interior design lagging behind architecture in terms of education, licensing, and general awareness. Seeing the progress we have made, this is nothing to be ashamed of – but as our field grows and expands, so does the ownership we have over our knowledge base and the need to further disseminate an accurate description of our profession.

Hand in hand with this is the importance of educating others on the benefits and role of interior design in society, as well as attracting future generations to continue this mission. Clemons points out that educating youth about a career path in interior design is a topic that has reached national recognition, and it is on the current agendas of leading interior design organizations.

Concurrently, it has been identified that career and technical classes in high schools could be in jeopardy in tough economic times to which the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) has responded by developing a design examination and certificate that could help secure funding and the continuation of interior design classes in schools.

In the summer of 2009, the ASID Foundation announced in its semi-annual report its partnership with the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), and 27 states to develop a national interior design Junior Certificate for high school students. ASID explains that the certificate of achievement will be awarded to those students who complete interior design courses and pass a national exam prior to completing their secondary education. Interior design leaders are joining forces in order to help develop the exam in way that truly mirrors the diversity and complexity of the field of interior design.

Pros And Cons Of The Junior Certificate

Critics may claim, according to Clemons, that this program could create confusion by labeling it as a certificate. With current legislative battles over interior design at the professional level and mass misperception of the field among the general public, could this initiative bewilder outsiders even more” Should we take better notes from the AIA on raising public awareness” Even advertising campaigns, such as a new series of advertisements by the Decorative Furnishings Association (DFA) set to launch at the beginning of 2011 have to explain why to hire a designer. Will the Junior Certificate help or hurt”

Clemson raises questions that some may of you have. For example, will students leave high school with their certificate in hand and try to set up shop, taking on clients” You expect any new initiative to face skepticism, but there are also clearly some benefits that the interior design profession stands to gain from the Junior Certificate program. Included, but not limited to, are an enhanced understanding of the profession, potential college credits for students, support for interior design courses as part of the standard curriculum at high schools, and assistance to high school students in deciding to major in interior design before entering college.

It is my hope, and I am sure I am not alone, that the Junior Certificate will be a step in the right direction to attracting future interior designers to the profession. Perhaps in a few years, I can follow up with stories of standing room only, but I think we are still a long way from that.

To find out more, please refer to the following article [PDF download] by Stephanie Clemons, Ph.D. titled “Junior Certificate in Interior Design: Rationale, Development, Status,” which was recently published in the 2010 IDEC proceedings: ARTICLE DOWNLOAD.