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Back to School

Interior design programs are equipping future professionals with the tools they need to stay afloat in an ever-changing industry.

09.01.2017
By Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA

Back to school

As we head into fall and the back-to-school sales flyers clutter up our mailboxes, I’m thinking about how my definition of education has changed over the years. I used to think of education as a means to an end—a diploma, a particular program in a chosen field, some initials to add to my name. But now, I realize that true education is a lifelong commitment; earning a degree is only the beginning, and some of the best lessons are often learned outside of the classroom. 

Interior design programs are stronger than ever, and new grads now hit the ground running, armed with a terrific foundation in the principles of design. And like many other professions, ours relies on lots of on-the-job training. It’s during our earliest jobs when most of us first visited a construction site, learned how to specify furniture, and gained solid experience drawing construction details.  

To be truly successful, designers must keep up with an industry that is constantly evolving. Now add in the increasingly complex projects we are working on and the multidisciplinary approach they require. Design teams often include MEP engineers, architects, and contractors, so we’ve always had to be versed in the language and scope of each of those design partners. But we’re now often working side-by-side with A/V consultants, landscape architects, acousticians, ADA experts, structural engineers, and parking consultants, among others. We need to understand how interior design intersects with each of these disciplines.

We’re busier than ever, and in our limited time we rely on interiors+sources and other design industry publications, online resources, blogs/e-newsletters, and our sales reps to supplement our knowledge. Yet it’s still not enough.

That’s where professional associations such as ASID are crucial, supplementing designers’ knowledge in a multitude of ways. One is simply to connect people with each other, both through local chapters and at national industry events. As Trisha Poole, president of NEWH shared during a recent panel on multidisciplinary design during METROCON, sometimes it is much simpler—and always more gratifying—to pick up the phone and ask a question of someone you know than it is to Google ad infinitum, then wade through thickets of irrelevant search results. 

ASID offers learning opportunities locally, nationally, and online. We publish white papers, such as the industry-specific Sector Briefs that came out earlier this year, and apply research funded by the ASID Foundation Transform Grants every year. This year, the winning research focuses on designing homes to support active aging among low-income seniors, and learning spaces to help those with low-functioning Autism and other behavioral challenges.

Interior design is an industry that thrives on progress and change. As such, our education as design professionals must keep pace. Let’s never stop reading, connecting, and questioning, and let’s continue to share our knowledge freely and openly. 

Charrisse Johnston, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Associate AIA, is the chair of the Board of Directors of ASID and a principal and the firm-wide interior design practice leader at Steinberg Architects. Learn more about ASID at asid.org.