Introduction to Harding’s Interior Design Program

My name is Amy Cox, and I’m the director of the Interior Design program at Harding University. Our program has been in existence for about 30 years, and we’ve been accredited for about 10 years of that. I started working at Harding 17 years ago, and my background is actually in healthcare design as well as corporate commercial design. Most people don’t realize that that’s part of interior design, as well. Interior design is a multi-faceted profession that includes technical and creative skills, including things that lean more towards architecture but also aspects that are more decorative– so it’s kind of a combination between declaration and architecture. Our students come out of school wanting to do lots of different things– everything from running their own business and having a residential firm where they help people with their homes all the way to going to grad school for architecture. People spend the majority of their time indoors and so if you can affect the interior space of a building you’re actually having an enormous impact on society and quality of life for people in their homes, in their offices, and healthcare and hospitals, and schools– all of those spaces are impacted by what interior designers can do to improve those spaces. I think there’s a misconception in interiors, sometimes, that it’s a very materialistic type of major because people do spend a lot of money on their homes or on their businesses. But we look at it as a way of being a servant and helping them to best invest that money and to create a space that maybe creates an environment where their family can become closer to each other by the way that we lay out a kitchen and in a way we’re at a living room. Or in a business, helping them to improve communication or collaboration, and also helping them to really realize their vision for their for their company. And then in cases like education or health care, those are vulnerable people that were designing for– people who be susceptible to illness or disease. We have to think about the finishes we use and that they’re not going to spread disease or illness. We have to think about the nurses who are working long hours and how can we make their job better. So we really take this very seriously and feel right that we have a great opportunity to improve the world through design and through good design. Throughout everything that we design, we actually come at it from what we call an “empathetic” position. So we want our students to design with the feelings and the thoughts and the needs of the person they’re designing for– not just I think “this looks pretty” or “I like how this feels” or “I think this is the right way to do it.” We ask them to put themselves in the place of that user and really to just be Christ-like in that sense to put other people first and fill those needs and having a higher expectation of what they didn’t even know they needed–be a good steward of their space and their money and their time. Our program is now a bachelor’s of Fine Arts and so it’s a BFA. It’s 128-hour degree, and it is an accredited degree so what it means to be an accredited program, we meet a certain set of standards for Interior design education, and other schools that are accredited meet those same standards. So if you look at an art school or a large state school that if they’re accredited, they’re meeting the same standards we are– they have the same high-quality work. It does mean that the classes are rigorous, but we feel like that that’s important if you’re going to have a program that you say you have a high standards, and we’ve got to hold students to a high standard. And our students perform really well and do great, and they get amazing feedback when they go out into the profession and go to work and start working in in these places that have seen lots of students from different schools, and ours always perform really really well. It’s a degree that is really complex in that you have to learn a lot of different skills and knowledge. And so we start in the first couple of years building those skills and knowledge. So, basic design understanding with art classes in design– elements and principles of design and just understanding. Kind of what we call the “Big D,” the big overall design concepts, as well as art history, history of architecture, and then technical skills like drafting for plans and working on the computer and learning how to create building programs and buildings on the computer, as well. And then we move into the basic knowledge of space planning– how big should rooms be? How should they function? What are the codes that apply to those different spaces so that you’re creating space that not only looks really good, but also is practical and functional and safe for anybody whose using it. So that’s kind of the structure. And then, the second two years of the program, you’re applying all of that that you’ve learned. So you have upper level studio courses that include residential projects, houses, apartments, lofts, and then we go into commercial projects which would be office spaces, for corporations, retail spaces, hospitality, and we do a branding project that combines graphic design interior design and marketing majors to help build an environment that fits a certain brand. And then we also have health care projects, and then a senior capstone project– which is a project that’s focused on a particular social justice or social need that the students get to do the research and really just find something that they’re passionate about and creative space that they think will help to solve that issue. We have about 40 majors right now and those majors are working in the space on the third floor of the Ollen Hendrick’s, and the space allows them to just work almost as if they had their own office space. And we have classes, but we also have collaborative areas, we have work spaces for them to keep their work up so that they can come in between classes or after after hours and be able to just keep their work going and work with people in the classroom, as well. And we’re very blessed to be able to have that space. So if Interior design sounds interesting to you, I can tell you that students who are successful are students who really have a passion for creativity but also like to balance that with the parameters of technical skill. So for me, when I came out of school, I knew I wanted to do something in the arts– I knew that was my passion and interest, but I really liked that other side of using my brain to solve more practical problems. So combining a functional problem with a creative problem to come up with a solution that does both– that’s a way of thinking that really makes for successful designer. Some students are really good at the technical side, and drawing and working in a computer, and they find jobs in those areas. And some students really like the creative side and want to just kind of come up with the ideas and do the concept or do the finishes– and there are jobs out there for that, too. So usually the most successful student likes both. They kind of like the business side, but they also really like the artistic side, as well. It does take a good amount of time management, and so that’s what you’re going to experience in the profession, as well. You’re viewing something created one hour, and then you’re sitting at computer and working another hour, and then you’re out meeting people and giving a presentation in the next hour. So if you don’t like to sit behind a desk, this is probably pretty good option. But also being flexible to be able to work in an environment where you’re doing a lot of different things. Communication skills are actually really important, and that goes just beyond verbal communication being able to write technical documents, as well as doing graphics that will explain to the client what you’re presenting or proposing, and of course, getting up and presenting to the client or communicating with a contractor on a job site– and you’re communicating all day long visually and orally, written, and that kind of thing– so communication skills would also be a really good option.

Leave a Reply