A Look Inside the Interior Design Body of Knowledge
Does interior design help people lead healthier, happier lives? What is the relationship between interior design and people’s health, safety and welfare? Do interior designers have expertise related to these qualities that other built-environment professionals don’t?
These are just some of the questions that Professors Denise A. Guerin, PhD, and Caren S. Martin, PhD, of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, took on in 2010 as part of a comprehensive update of the interior design profession’s Body of Knowledge. Their report, which builds upon a 2005 study, was recently released as The Interior Design Profession’s Body of Knowledge and Its Relationship to People’s Health, Safety and Welfare.
The study asked a sample of 1,578 experienced interior designers to rate their potential contribution to health, safety and welfare across 65 knowledge areas, including daylighting, indoor air quality, ergonomics, and material, equipment and product specifying. Those knowledge areas were grouped, for purposes of comparison, into six categories: Human Environment Needs; Interior Construction, Codes and Regulations; Products and Materials; Design Theory and Process; Communication; and Professional Practice.
Research highlights include:
• The highest contributions to health, safety and welfare were found in the Human Environment Needs, Interior Construction and Products and Materials categories.
• Human Environment Needs contributes the highest to health and welfare, whereas Interior Construction contributes highest to safety.
• All categories contribute at the substantial level to health, safety and welfare.
• Overall, contributions to welfare are higher than to health and safety.
Guerin and Martin also conducted an extensive review of the literature on health, safety and welfare, including how those terms are defined and understood in related professions. Based on their analysis, they propose new definitions that they encourage the profession to adopt.
Definition of Health as Related to Interior Design Practice: Interior designers create interior environments that support people’s soundness of body and mind; protect their physical, mental and social well-being; and prevent disease, injury, illness or pain that could be caused by occupancy of interior environments. Design knowledge related to health includes, but is not limited to, ergonomics, indoor air quality, light, and acoustics.
Definition of Safety as Related to Interior Design Practice: Interior designers create interior environments that protect people against actual or perceived danger; protect against risk from crime, accidents or physical hazards; and prevent injury, loss or death that could be caused by occupancy of interior environments. Design knowledge related to safety includes, but is not limited to, building systems; specification of equipment, materials and products; and space planning/organization.
Definition of Welfare as Related to Interior Design Practice: Interior designers create interior environments that support people’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being; and assist with or contribute to their financial or economic management, success and responsibility. Design knowledge related to welfare includes, but is not limited to, occupant well-being and performance, human factors and human behavior, cultural context, social context, natural light and nature, and color principles.
In a series of twelve recommendations, the authors conclude by offering a roadmap for moving the profession forward, including a forceful call to practitioners and industry leaders to identify, document and measure health, safety and welfare performance standards, thus providing clients with meaningful benchmarks.
To download a copy of the Executive Summary or the full report, go to www.idbok.org. You will also find there a comments box and a link to an online survey to provide feedback and suggestions for future studies.