Education is At The Heart of Design
Education is more than a timely topic.It is probably one of the most critical issues, not just for teachers, schools, or even students but for everyone. In the next three articles, we’ll discuss why knowledge and communication skills are essential tools every designer needs to have for a successful project. The designer who believes that they will learn everything they need to know in school will not be as successful as the designer who believes what they have learned in school is just the beginning of what they will learn during their entire career.
Interior design is the profession of knowledge. There I said it! What I mean is that to be an interior designer is to be knowledgeable and aware not only of what is hip and trending in colors, fabric choices, or the latest furniture style but how design affects our environments and, most importantly, our daily lives.
When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I am a commercial interior designer, and then I follow that up with I create environments with a purpose for people. This statement sums up what we all should be doing. Whether or not you are a commercial or residential designer, the meaning of purpose is why we do what we do.
Purpose can be anything from helping a client be more productive, sell a product, do a specific job, be healthy, have a safe place to live, or have fun! These things require a knowledge that goes beyond what color to paint the walls or what cool chair to use. Every space we design involves knowledge that comes from understanding how that particular environment should work and why. We need to really understand who will be using this particular space because it will ultimately lead to the best design solution.
Designers need to be aware of everything that is going on around them. A lifelong learner is someone who is curious about everything, not just one idea or topic. Good designers need to be lifelong learners. They need to see what is going on now and what will be ahead in the near future. Many things that don’t necessarily relate directly to design should be understood because you never know if that particular subject or idea is important to your client. It may be something they feel so strongly about that they are hiring you to create an environment that incorporates that idea or topic.
Let’s take a subject like wellness. Wellness in all of its forms has been interwoven into the design aesthetic for several years. It has been a hot topic in industries like hospitality and workplace. In the healthcare industry, evidence-based design has been driving this concept that healthy environments don’t need to look completely sterile to promote health. Instead, the finishes, fabrics, and even furniture that are used need to be able to help keep pathogens and other harmful entities from interfering with the patients’ or caregivers’ health. This is wellness in its purest form. This is what I mean when I say that a subject that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to interior design on the surface suddenly becomes important.
If you haven’t been learning how wellness works into a design concept, now is the time to start. What I mean is that this is the new knowledge base for interior designers. We will be tasked with educating our clients and even our design team members on why we need to be super diligent on what we specify for anything related to the interior of that space. This is a direct result of the pandemic- we are changing our focus on design to be more in tune with our clients’ needs.
For example, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, education is at the forefront of everyone’s minds NOW. Whether you have kids in school, are a student, a teacher, administrator, or even just a concerned citizen, we are all thinking about schools. The pandemic has made us all hypersensitive about each other, especially while we are inside a building. School design has always been about how we learn- what kind of furniture, lighting, and even colors work well in learning environments to keep students engaged in what is being taught by the instructor. But now we see that what we thought we knew about educational design is not what we need. We need to have spaces that are built around flexibility and technology. We will also be tasked to design educational spaces that seriously address health and wellness. Not by creating healthcare like spaces, but spaces that still encourage learning that are now also addressing a new kind of safety- our health. Our new goal will be to design educational environments on all levels to meet all the occupants’ health and wellness needs, not just the teachers or the students but anyone who enters a school.
This is not just about adhering to the CDC guidelines or how to design remote (home)classrooms; our design work will need to focus on more than just the latest trends. We will need to focus on how we design a space to accommodate the unknown.
Interior designers will need to be more cognizant of what changes are happening in building and health codes and the attitudes of the general public. We will need to be more knowledgeable than ever before when it comes to what we specify, draw, or suggest to our clients as a design solution. We will need to have design solutions that meet these new and ever-changing demands.
Most importantly, we will need to adapt the way we communicate this knowledge to our clients so that they understand what we are doing is not just creating a beautiful space, but that we have considered all of those unknown conditions that may affect the health and wellbeing of the people using our well-designed space.