contributed by Jan Bast, ASID, IIDA, IDEC [interior design program director, Design Institute of San Diego / president-elect 2006, NCIDQ / chairman, ASID Education and Training Advisory Council]
Tired of frigid winters or steamy, humid summers” San Diego’s near-perfect weather is just one of the many reasons to consider attending Design Institute of San Diego. Not only will you receive a top-notch education in interior design, but you will also learn in a city that is bursting with recreational and cultural opportunities. If you can tear yourself away from your rigorous course of study, you can spend weekends at the beach (studying, of course), nightclubbing in the Gaslamp Quarter (after a hard day studying), hanging out in Balboa Park (studying the art and architecture there), or visiting the San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park (where you can study animal behavior or the collection of rare plant species).
A Little Background
Founded in 1977, Design Institute of San Diego is a private, independent college devoted to a single purpose — a professional education in interior design. The curriculum and methods of instruction are intended to provide the student with a broad understanding of the interior design profession; to develop the student’s creative, technical, and analytical skills; to provide an understanding of the historical and social foundations of design; and to develop in students a keen awareness of the professional responsibilities of an interior designer.
Over 500 students attend classes in state-of-the-art classrooms and are taught by a faculty of practicing interior designers, architects, and artists, all of who hold bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, or PhD’s in their fields. The enthusiasm of the instructors for their professions and their commitment to the students create a unique and supportive learning environment that connects students to the profession of interior design. Student chapters of ASID and IIDA give members the opportunity to become involved in the local design community and interact with interior designers from a variety of specialties and working environments.
Location, Location, Location
The campus is located just miles from the ocean (those beaches, again!) and is convenient to such architectural classics as the Hotel del Coronado and Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute (Did we mention the drive-through Starbucks less than a block away”). Students live off-campus, which gives them the opportunity to immerse themselves in San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods — downtown urban living, an apartment near the beach, or the historic mid-city area. The student body is also diverse: students from Mexico (which is less than an hour south of San Diego) mingle with students from across the country and throughout the world. Some have just graduated from high school, while others are changing careers or transferring from another college or university.
Staying The Course
Design Institute has been FIDER-accredited for 20 years, and the FIDER standards form the backbone of the course of study that culminates in a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design. Tired of being on waiting lists for overcrowded classes” Or waiting to take required classes that aren’t being offered the semester you need them” That won’t happen at Design Institute. Students take a prescribed course of study consisting of 15 units per semester — the number of sections offered is based on the number of students who need the class.
We start with the basics — Drawing & Composition, Two- and Three-Dimensional Design, Color Theory, History of Interiors — then progress into more specialized classes such as Textiles, Quick Sketching, and Perspective & Rendering After two semesters of hand drafting, students spend three semesters learning AutoCAD in our new, well-equipped computer classrooms, each of which contain individual student computers with internet access, LED projectors for the instructor, and color laser printers and plotters. The technical skills that are so necessary for our profession are taught in classes such as Building Systems, Lighting, Building Codes & Standards, and Materials & Application.
Five semesters of interior design studio classes lead to Senior Project, a capstone class in the final semester in which students design their own semester-long thesis project. All of the classes combine to prepare our graduates for rewarding careers in interior design and in a variety of design specialties.
Laura Lisauskas is a recent graduate who hails from Lithuania. In high school, Laura was interested in art and math, which led her to an interest in architecture. But, after taking several classes and working on floor plans and simple foam-core models, she realized there was something missing — color! Her need to express herself by creating spaces and the desire to see them in color led her to the field of interior design. Design Institute of San Diego was Laura’s first choice for training because she appreciated the fact that the one and only educational focus of the college is interior design. During her time at DI, Laura found space planning to be one of the disciplines she liked most — and, of course, color theory. Laura did part of her internship with Graham Downes, a trendy local architect specializing in hospitality design, and was hired by the firm before she graduated.
Viveca Bissionnette, another recent graduate, was named one of IIDA’s national “Ten to Watch” last year. Two years after graduation, she is a project designer and job captain at Carrier Johnson, one of San Diego’s largest architectural / interior design firms. Viveca recently passed the NCIDQ exam and is San Diego City Center co-director of IIDA. Viveca’s first career was in the airline industry, but she realized it was time for a change. With an architect father and urban planner mother, Viveca says “I was surrounded by design my entire childhood, and it seemed natural to return to what had always been second nature to me.”
When looking for a design school to attend, Viveca “did not want to mess around.” After doing extensive research and touring DI’s campus, she knew she had found the right college. “It was important that the school I attended was FIDER-accredited, since my goal was to become a certified interior designer and I was able to dive head first into the many disciplines.” Her advice to someone considering a career in interior design: “Find out what you are passionate about and go for it; it is never too late.”
Troy Zimmerman, another DI graduate, is living the interior design reality that other designers only dream of. He designs mostly high-end residential projects, his work has been featured in numerous design magazines, and he has even had an appearance on HGTV. To top it off, he lives in one of California’s most exclusive cities — Palm Springs.
Troy was always interested in art and its creation, but did not necessarily consider pursuing a career in interior design until he heard about Design Institute of San Diego. One day, while attending junior college, he met a representative from DI. “I was both impressed and intrigued, and felt this was a place I could enhance my artistic abilities and turn them into a practical and marketable career,” Troy told us. When asked what challenged him most during his education at DI, Troy admits “drafting, primarily because I was a free-form artist.” But now that his projects require extensive cabinet renderings and space plans, he is thankful for the training and proudly says “it is one of my strong points.”
Recognized And Prized
Design Institute students not only gain recognition as interior design professionals after they graduate, but are also recognized for their talents while they are still in school. Two DI students were winners in the national ASID Access Design Challenge in 2003 and 2004, and DI students were given first place local ASID Design Excellence Awards in 1999, 2002, and 2003.
IIDA has awarded DI students tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, at both local and regional levels, based on the quality of students’ work. Two teams from Design Institute won first and second place regional awards in the 2003 IDEC Student Competition.
Each year, the AIA / LA Interior Architecture Committee holds an intense 8-hour design charette; in 2003, the two-person team from DI placed third — a very prestigious accomplishment! Information on local and national design competitions and scholarships is prominently displayed where students can see it, and we encourage them to participate whenever possible.
Find Out More
We invite you to join the ranks of Design Institute’s award-winning student body! You can find out more about DI’s outstanding alumni featured in this article by downloading the Summer 2005 issue of our newsletter here.
For more information about the school and coursework, go to our website: www.disd.edu or contact our admissions office at (858) 566–1200. Our address is 8555 Commerce Avenue, San Diego, CA 92121.