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College of Health and Human Sciences

K-State Professors envision the role of Interior Designers in a sustainable future

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University's interior design professors focus on sustainability in teaching and research so they can influence both the future of the interior design profession and the creation of a sustainable future.

Barbara Anderson, associate professor in the department of apparel, textiles and interior design, said she and others in her department have been teaching the principles and practices of sustainability in their classes for years. Recently, she and colleagues Peggy Honey and Michael Dudek published a paper describing the need for a social compact related to sustainability for the interior design profession. In December 2007, "Interior Design's Social Compact: Key to the Quest for Professional Status" was published in the Journal of Interior Design.

"While many professions achieved professional status in the 19th century, interior design was just beginning to form in the early 20th century," Anderson said. "The professions that took shape early on recognized a need to contribute to social interdependence. In fact, this was the basis for each profession's social compact. In exchange for the right to control access to professional membership and to police ethical behaviors of the profession's members, each profession would provide a specific benefit for society," she said.

By the middle of the 20th century most professions were not focused on how they contributed to social interdependence, Anderson said, but by then were focused on the expertise they brought to their field and the financial rewards they created for their professional members and clients.

"The timing of interior design's professionalization effort was unfortunate. Interior designers sought professional recognition at a time when the professions were focused on proving expertise and few were concerned with social compacts. As a result, the interior design profession has never articulated a social compact."

In the social compact article, Anderson, Honey and Dudek described the most important benefit interior designers bring to society-- what could be their social compact.

"It is our opinion that interior design's social compact grows from the profession's focus on meeting the needs of human users of interior environments and an ecological approach that will make sustainability possible," Anderson said.

The societal obligation Anderson and her colleagues propose for interior design is that above all else interior designers focus on designing physiologically and psychologically supportive interior environments that enhance quality of life.

"Design educators play an important role in helping interior designers recognize and infuse an ethic of professional responsibility through a social compact," Anderson said, "because they impart the professions ethical priorities to students."

When those priorities are environmental and social responsibility that contribute to societal interdependence it advances the profession as a whole, she said.

Anderson said the interior design program at K-State already is recognized for infusing sustainability content across the curriculum.

This fall, Anderson said she will teach the first interior design class solely devoted to issues of sustainability. "Topics in Advanced Interior Design Theory will look at sustainability through four lenses: history, science and technology, culture and applications in interior design," Anderson said.

"It's a course that takes a deep and broad approach," she said. "We're not just preparing students for jobs in interior design. It's more than that from the start. We are educating people who can be agents of change toward a sustainable future. We hope they will transform the world of interior design -- or who knows? Maybe they'll transform the world."

Source: Barbara Anderson, 785-532-1304, barbara@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Megan Moser

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 1, 2008, and is filed under College News, Interior Design and Fashion Studies.