Interior designers are much more than 'decorators'

At UNI, the Interior Design program is about more than just putting a new layer of paint on the walls and picking out a new rug. It's a field in which you can make a difference in the world while enjoying what you do.

Interior Design
Matrasa Phillips, Cathy Koch, Zoe Browning and Karly Evans, all interior design majors, share some of their recent projects.

Students in the program get a wide range of living experiences such as navigating campus in wheelchairs, or wearing dark sunglasses smeared with Vaseline. These experiences help students understand how they can improve interior designs for people with disabilities.

The program also has a strong foundation in balancing people's desires and the planet's needs through sustainably "green" designs. The interior design faculty are LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Students learn how to find the fine balance between the needs of the client and needs of the design. They question if it's long lasting, how it impacts the Earth, whether there's a health impact on people, and many other factors. The goal is to make the design flexible and useful for people with different needs.

A portfolio review process is held every spring. There's a strong emphasis on business skills to provide students an entrepreneurial perspective.

A variety of field trips such as visits to housing constructions sites complement the program. Also, students intern anywhere from the West Coast to the East Coast and between, and can travel to London during a study abroad experience. There are also study tours available in many cities such as New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Kansas City and more. Interior design professor Gowri Betrabet states that, "When you're in these cities you get to see design at it's best, and you sometimes get to meet the designers." The impact of these trips can be seen in studio in the student's work.

In the studio, students learn team dynamics. In the design world, working with others can't be avoided. You never know how paths might cross someday, so UNI students learn how to make "meaningful connections that last a lifetime," says Betrabet.

UNI's interior design students and faculty shine in national competitions. At the Durkan Design Competition, recent UNI grads took special mentions and a national award for their projects. However, Betrabet says, "Each student is an achievement no matter what. They are wonderful assets and contributors."