Originally published in Interiors & Sources

10/01/2004

A New Paradigm

Anna Marshall-Baker, Ph.D

Shifting the way we view the world.

 


The topics of legitimacy and value of the interior design profession are
frequent conversations among design educators and practitioners. Various discussions and efforts regarding professional credibility have focused on credentials, degrees, titles, definitions, descriptions, comparisons and, recently, a defined body of knowledge. Yet Carol Burns ("An Approach to Alignment: Professional Education and Professional Practice in Architecture," Practices 5/6, 1996) writes that a profession is based on a perception by the public that the service provided by interior designers, for example, is valuable. In other words, what we say about ourselves does not matter as much as what the public says about us. We value our physicians and our engineers not because of their credentials or the body of knowledge that they might possess, but for the service provided by them. The quality of service is, of course, dependent upon an expertise acquired through study and practice. But study and practice do not equate to value. Thus, the question design professionals must address becomes: How do we get the public to value interior design?

Burns writes that a profession is valued by the public when the service it provides responds to a concern for the general good and fulfills identified social needs that relate specifically to health, safety and welfare. To design a space that does so, a professional
interior designer requires knowledge of the ". . . laws, rules and techniques that
constitute a discipline and a praxis . . ." In a paper presented at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, E.M. Grant describes this knowledge as learned; forming the discipline and the practice of design; requiring lengthy academic and practical experience; and, consequently, as inaccessible to laypersons. Further, the knowledge necessary to develop an expertise evolves over time; it is in constant flux; it has many contributors; it emerges, is not revealed; and is inclusive. Consequently, the knowledge base of a profession like interior design is emergent, convergent, dynamic, based on founding principles, and experiential. Grant also writes that the knowledge upon which a profession rests is the domain of institutes of higher learning, i.e., colleges and universities.

These institutions of higher education often now are focused on areas of specialty rather than on broad based liberal arts education. This trend is paralleled by that of professions which have become increasingly specialized during the 20th century and are now characterized by ". . . dualism, classification and neatly packaged disciplinary-based knowledge," noted Brian Sinclair in "A Canadian Perspective on Changing Design Education," which appeared in a 2003 edition of DesignIntelligence.

This is viewed by some such as Sinclair, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, as a mistake because specialization and technical focus require a system of education and practice that is increasingly prescriptive and rigid. He warns:

"It has become increasingly apparent . . . that many problems today, especially the
big ones, cannot be easily addressed using a unidisciplinary approach . . . such problems evade investigation, characterization and solution using the tools of a single field of study. Quite simply such problems fly under the radar of individual disciplines— disciplines whose boundaries seem outdated, and whose continued existence seems more related to managing the academy than to handling current problems or realizing significant change in the market."


Sinclair expresses a concern of many in interior design education who observe the
activity of narrow definitions of interior design for legislative purposes extend to provide the parameters of the interior design profession and the guidelines for interior design education. In contrast, Sinclair recognizes a need for shared knowledge and a ". . . grounding across the expansive landscape of knowledge" to address the complex issues facing those who design our environments. As a design discipline, interior design shares a knowledge base with architects, engineers, industrial designers, artists, graphic designers and others. Within this shared knowledge base, designers develop expertise necessary to become, for example, engineers, architects or interior designers. Their knowledge and expertise combines with a service to the public that is responsive to its health, safety and welfare, thereby fulfilling societal needs, contributing to the common good, and becoming valuable to the public.

A proposal that has the potential to alter the public perception of interior design was made at the annual meeting of the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) last March 2004: the possibility of adopting as an organization the cradle-to-cradle paradigm developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. This paradigm espouses environmental responsibility and ecological design, and embraces a shift in the way we, as human beings, view our place in and our use of the world. McDonough describes this new approach in the July 23, 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education as ". . . an ecologically intelligent framework in which the safe, regenerative productivity of nature provides models for wholly positive human designs. Within that framework, every material is designed to provide a wide spectrum of renewable assets . . . [enabling] . . . redesign [of] the very foundations of architecture and industry, creating systems that purify the air, land, and water; use current solar income and generate no toxic waste; and use only safe, regenerative materials." (See "Teaching Design that Goes from Cradle to Cradle" at http://chronicle.com.)

This approach is not only a necessity for 21st-century design, but an opportunity for interior design. As a profession that struggles for recognition and respect, we can make ourselves known as the design professionals who know how to create ecologically sound, healthy interior environments. In truth, knowing that 90 percent of our time is spent indoors (EPA, 1999), designing any interior space that is less than healthy, physically or psychologically, is irresponsible at least and unethical or illegal at worst. Adopting the paradigm as an organization of educators ensures that faculty will actively engage in teaching students cradle-to-cradle design. This assures a class of graduates in four years who are well-versed in ecological design that uses solar income and regenerative materials, and creates systems that purify rather than pollute. Clearly these designers will be recognized for their expertise, service to the common good and stewardship of the
public's health, safety and welfare. In my mind, this is an answer to the question: How do we get the public to value interior design?


Anna Marshall-Baker, Ph.D. is 2004 president of the Interior Design Educators' Council. IDEC can be contacted at (317) 328-4437; via e-mail: info@idec.org; or visit www.idec.org.


Getting the public to value interior design may require a shift in the way we, as both human beings and interior designers, view our place in and our use of the world.

By Anna Marshall-Baker, Ph.D

The topics of legitimacy and value of the interior design profession are
frequent conversations among design educators and practitioners. Various discussions and efforts regarding professional credibility have focused on credentials, degrees, titles, definitions, descriptions, comparisons and, recently, a defined body of knowledge. Yet Carol Burns ("An Approach to Alignment: Professional Education and Professional Practice in Architecture," Practices 5/6, 1996) writes that a profession is based on a perception by the public that the service provided by interior designers, for example, is valuable. In other words, what we say about ourselves does not matter as much as what the public says about us. We value our physicians and our engineers not because of their credentials or the body of knowledge that they might possess, but for the service provided by them. The quality of service is, of course, dependent upon an expertise acquired through study and practice. But study and practice do not equate to value. Thus, the question design professionals must address becomes: How do we get the public to value interior design?

Burns writes that a profession is valued by the public when the service it provides responds to a concern for the general good and fulfills identified social needs that relate specifically to health, safety and welfare. To design a space that does so, a professional
interior designer requires knowledge of the ". . . laws, rules and techniques that
constitute a discipline and a praxis . . ." In a paper presented at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, E.M. Grant describes this knowledge as learned; forming the discipline and the practice of design; requiring lengthy academic and practical experience; and, consequently, as inaccessible to laypersons. Further, the knowledge necessary to develop an expertise evolves over time; it is in constant flux; it has many contributors; it emerges, is not revealed; and is inclusive. Consequently, the knowledge base of a profession like interior design is emergent, convergent, dynamic, based on founding principles, and experiential. Grant also writes that the knowledge upon which a profession rests is the domain of institutes of higher learning, i.e., colleges and universities.

These institutions of higher education often now are focused on areas of specialty rather than on broad based liberal arts education. This trend is paralleled by that of professions which have become increasingly specialized during the 20th century and are now characterized by ". . . dualism, classification and neatly packaged disciplinary-based knowledge," noted Brian Sinclair in "A Canadian Perspective on Changing Design Education," which appeared in a 2003 edition of DesignIntelligence.

This is viewed by some such as Sinclair, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, as a mistake because specialization and technical focus require a system of education and practice that is increasingly prescriptive and rigid. He warns:

"It has become increasingly apparent . . . that many problems today, especially the
big ones, cannot be easily addressed using a unidisciplinary approach . . . such problems evade investigation, characterization and solution using the tools of a single field of study. Quite simply such problems fly under the radar of individual disciplines— disciplines whose boundaries seem outdated, and whose continued existence seems more related to managing the academy than to handling current problems or realizing significant change in the market."


Sinclair expresses a concern of many in interior design education who observe the
activity of narrow definitions of interior design for legislative purposes extend to provide the parameters of the interior design profession and the guidelines for interior design education. In contrast, Sinclair recognizes a need for shared knowledge and a ". . . grounding across the expansive landscape of knowledge" to address the complex issues facing those who design our environments. As a design discipline, interior design shares a knowledge base with architects, engineers, industrial designers, artists, graphic designers and others. Within this shared knowledge base, designers develop expertise necessary to become, for example, engineers, architects or interior designers. Their knowledge and expertise combines with a service to the public that is responsive to its health, safety and welfare, thereby fulfilling societal needs, contributing to the common good, and becoming valuable to the public.

A proposal that has the potential to alter the public perception of interior design was made at the annual meeting of the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) last March 2004: the possibility of adopting as an organization the cradle-to-cradle paradigm developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. This paradigm espouses environmental responsibility and ecological design, and embraces a shift in the way we, as human beings, view our place in and our use of the world. McDonough describes this new approach in the July 23, 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education as ". . . an ecologically intelligent framework in which the safe, regenerative productivity of nature provides models for wholly positive human designs. Within that framework, every material is designed to provide a wide spectrum of renewable assets . . . [enabling] . . . redesign [of] the very foundations of architecture and industry, creating systems that purify the air, land, and water; use current solar income and generate no toxic waste; and use only safe, regenerative materials." (See "Teaching Design that Goes from Cradle to Cradle" at http://chronicle.com.)

This approach is not only a necessity for 21st-century design, but an opportunity for interior design. As a profession that struggles for recognition and respect, we can make ourselves known as the design professionals who know how to create ecologically sound, healthy interior environments. In truth, knowing that 90 percent of our time is spent indoors (EPA, 1999), designing any interior space that is less than healthy, physically or psychologically, is irresponsible at least and unethical or illegal at worst. Adopting the paradigm as an organization of educators ensures that faculty will actively engage in teaching students cradle-to-cradle design. This assures a class of graduates in four years who are well-versed in ecological design that uses solar income and regenerative materials, and creates systems that purify rather than pollute. Clearly these designers will be recognized for their expertise, service to the common good and stewardship of the
public's health, safety and welfare. In my mind, this is an answer to the question: How do we get the public to value interior design?


Anna Marshall-Baker, Ph.D. is 2004 president of the Interior Design Educators' Council. IDEC can be contacted at (317) 328-4437; via e-mail: info@idec.org; or visit www.idec.org.


 


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
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