PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER does not get personal on this forum. or at least I try to keep it “professional” but this post is spatial.

I just returned from a trip to Tallahassee, Florida, home of Florida State University where I attended a retirement celebration for Professor Peter Munton. Peter has been teaching interior design and inspiring students at FSU for the past 34 years. I was lucky enough to be a student for two of those years and a friend for the last 32 years (which is astonishing given that I am only 35).

Peter and I could not be more different on the surface. I won’t go into details here but suffice it to say that I am a Midwestern chowderhead and Peter is a brilliant and charismatic British expat.  Thankfully Peter is not one to judge a person by their appearance and we eventually discovered that we shared a passion for the power of design.

Peter has been teaching a class called Creative Problem Solving in which he inspired 35+ years of students that there is not a problem that cannot be solved with a bit of creativity and ingenuity. He instilled in me an appreciation for bad design, good design and truly magical design.  When presented in that framework it was obvious which level of design we were to aspire to.  Why would anyone intentionally aim for “good” designer?  In that sense Peter was also a leader.

Ultimately Peter was teaching DESIGN THINKING before the current crop of design thinkers was even thinking of design.  He was also one not to get hung up in the trappings of titles, credentials, regulations and legalities (yeah I know…but suspend your judgement for a minute here). Of course Peter takes design education seriously but he also respects innate abilities. If you can’t walk the walk it does not matter how well you can talk.

In the end we are designers.  We solve problems creatively and elegantly. We make clients happy. That is what we do. It does not matter how many acronyms one can display after their name or whether you have a permit to pull a permit time permitting…….what matters is your ability to identify the problem and solve it creatively.  Your most important credential is carried in your cranium.

So with that perspective I dove into a career focused on the design of interior space.  Over the years and many a spent neuron pondering our professional identity issues I can say that we spend far too much of our collective energy trying to validate our value by way of titles, credentials and licenses. Are those things important? Well yes that is why I am here (and hopefully you are too) but they are not what defines us.  If we prove ourselves as creative problem solvers with the ability to inspire then the titles, credentials and professional trappings will come. I am afraid we have it the other way around.

Admittedly throughout my 32 year career I created many good designs but I never stopped aspiring to create magic.  Thanks to Peter I can honestly say I was able to experience the real power of design.

6 responses to “PROUD TO BE A DESIGNER”

  1. this is wonderful. “)


  2. Very elegant Mike. I have gained greatly from the creative energy of both you and Peter over the last 32 years. Thank you both.


  3. Beautifully written and so true for any field. Congratulations to you both.


  4. Great job capturing the essence of Peter. Thanks so much for coming to Tally for the event!


  5. This is a great tribute to an amazing design educator. Thanks, Mike!


  6. I do not know Peter- guess I graduated from FSU just before he came 😦
    I did have the serendipitous opportunity to gain insight into his thinking when I took my daughter on the admissions tour in early August, and ducked out while in the Johnson Building to tour the fabulous new Interior Design facilities. Posted on the corridors were over-sized witticisms of Peter’s, obviously enjoyed by the students in the classroom. Example: “We use rubber flooring in outdoor playgrounds because we’re not allowed to hurt children anymore.” I laughed out loud! Thanks Mike for honoring Peter and sharing your experiences with us.


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