From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.

Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.
Thomas More

Occasionally PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER gets a little negative about the state of the profession. So he makes himself feel better about his sarcasm and criticisms by offering suggestions for improvement. I like a little cheese with my whine- if you will. As an interior design instructor with lots of years of practical experience I have been watching the development of the profession from two vantage points. Let me explain- going from an agricultural to a nautical analogy.

We have the ship but I am not sure we have sailors who are properly trained to guide it.  It is going to take a monumental effort to put our professional ship on the right course. Destination- The preeminent profession for the design and creation of interior space. To that end it is the academy (educators) who must instill the knowledge and skills necessary to properly man (& woman) the professional ship.  While there is a lack of qualified instructors entering the field that problem is not as acute as the lack of resources to do our job properly. Interior Design is not an academic endeavor that is ripe with grant and funded research opportunities. It is not a traditional bench science yet it is not completely a creative art- it is a little of both. We exist in a funding gray area. Unfortunately given our profession’s dearth of respect and understanding there just aren’t a lot of opportunities for scholars and academics to position themselves at the trough of extra-mural financing. Consequently we are often relegated to second class or third class academic endeavors.  With state budgets being cut daily the state funding of higher education efforts is quickly drying up. It is imperative that the profession does something to help rectify this dilemma. We cannot attract qualified instructors if the economics do not work out. PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER accepted the vow of poverty to teach but he is most likely an exception…not exceptional just unique.

There is no question that the resources are out there. Our industry has the deep pockets to create funded research opportunities for interior design scholars. PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER knows that many of the larger corporate entities that rely on the expertise of interior designers to specify their products actually perform their research internally. That is their right and they do a good job of it. I personally have relied on that research as a practitioner.  However now that my foot is in a different shoe I wish that those corporate entities would realize the quid pro quo potential of shifting the research aspect of their R&D efforts to the academy. There are lots of opportunities to seed research in environmental behavior, material testing, environmental issues, and ergonomics etc. that would not compromise proprietary intellectual capital. Not only would this effort strengthen academic efforts it would benefit the industry in a number of short term and long term ways.

There are a few examples of industry academic collaboration but in my opinion, it certainly could be stronger. It is our professional organizations that are responsible to address this issue. This is not a new problem- but it is becoming acute. The ship needs wind to sail- (OK enough with the lame metaphors)

So all of you industry titans out there (and I know you are all fans;-)…..if you are not sowing what are you reaping?


  1. Chris Birkentall Avatar
    Chris Birkentall

    You are so right that academia and industry needs to work together on research for future products and methods, and they certainly aren’t doing that now. As you point out, the profession hasn’t been behind it and there is no money out there to fund it on the state university level. ( And frankly the payscale is shameful for professors, how in the world do they expect to recruit good experienced people when the pay is no better than a busdriver?)
    How is it being done in the architectural profession? Have there been associations with large manufacturers’ and academic institutions? I suspect so, as they view that profession as a BUILDING profession and ours, as the decorator profession. At least with our push behind sustainability, we are gaining some credibility.
    We have a lot of rough seas ahead ( to continue your metaphor) and we do need leadership to guide us. Problem is there are 2 ships in the water and no one knows which one will be successful. Back to one of your previous arguments, or blogs as you post them – the profession needs unification now more than ever, and until this FINALLY happens, we will continue adrift in the rough and tumble seas of academia, research, legislation and client respect.


    1. Agreed…interesting that bus drivers must be licensed….I guess having a license does not increase one’s financial status.


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