Designing from the Inside Out

Embrace internal change and ensure your spaces accommodate all occupants.


Approaching a project with an inside-out perspective demands cognizance of a multiplicity of needs—spatial, technical, cultural, and functional. The interior evolves as each of these concerns is defined and integrated into a holistic solution. Also central to a successful outcome is recognizing and incorporating larger, critical concepts such as sustainability and resiliency from the start, versus addressing them later.

Has this made our job as designers more difficult? Yes, our role is more complex, but in many ways it is also filled with greater opportunity. We are now required to embrace skills beyond planning, creative, and execution. We must seek and understand demographic and psychographic trends. What is driving urban/rural migration? What shifts are occurring due to the tsunami-like influence of millennials and aging boomers?

The U.S. Census Bureau tells us our elderly population will more than double by the year 2050, growing to some 80 million. Roughly one in five U.S. adults will be over the age of 65.  While generations born after 1980 have driven demand for apartments in recent years, aging generations will be the next wave, pushing up rents and spurring construction of more multifamily housing. Aging in place is the growing preference with this group, which is already making an impact. One of our greatest challenges as designers will be how to meet the demand for quality living/working environments for a rapidly growing population of older adults.

It’s not only about residential living challenges, but how we will accommodate their needs across every sector of the interior environment—private, commercial, and public. From hospitality to workplace and healthcare to retail, the demand for innovative multi-disciplinary solutions is formidable. Principles such as universal design and design for longevity give designers the skills and knowledge to address these needs. And who is more uniquely qualified to create supportive, responsive environments that are functional, healthy, and safe than we, as designers?

The opportunities exist at the lower end of the age spectrum as well. Look no further than the millennials—that often discussed group that is raising the bar by how they access design services and information, and what they want when they get there. They have a unique perspective on life and how it should be lived, something that is without question reshaping space design and development. At ASID, we’re not only studying these trends, we’re shaping them and the generation with initiatives like GoPro, Design to Lead, and this month’s Student Summit.
And, as you well know, there are other significant considerations. What do sociologists and healthcare experts tell us about our interior spaces that impact productivity and well-being? What principles must we rethink to create truly life-changing environments?

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