SOUTHFIELD–Lawrence Technological University has revised its interior design program, and this fall will begin offering a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design degree.
The new degree is a reorganization of an interior architecture program LTU has offered for nearly 40 years, according to Philip Plowright, chair and professor of the university’s Department of Art and Design.
“We needed to revision the program because we understood the changes going on in the industry and how to align our students to those needs,” Plowright said.
The focus of the interior design profession has expanded in recent years to move into diverse niches within the built environment, to encompass different aspects of how people use and occupy interior spaces, from furniture to materials and spatial design.
“As a fundamental aspect of sustainability, interior design as a practice engages the existing building stock that we have as a primary focus,” Plowright said. “We have billions of square footage in this country that we are looking to keep current with how we live and work and occupy space, now and in the future.”
The new program is directed by Jenna Walker, who joined the university in 2019 after a 15-year career in the interior design industry. She earned a Bachelor of Science in interior design from Western Michigan University and a Master of Science in historic preservation planning with an emphasis on community revitalization from Eastern Michigan University. In addition to her role at LTU, Walker continues to practice through both her design consultancy, PLACE, and a residential design firm, Lake + Pine Design. Prior to joining LTU, she developed extensive experience in a diverse range of project types and sizes, with positions including workplace strategy and design manager for furniture brand Knoll Inc., and as a designer with Detroit-based Olympia Development.
Walker said interior design is often perceived as mere decorating. However, the practice of interior design goes far beyond this, applying scientific study of what makes interior spaces pleasant, efficient, and healthy for people, using ergonomics, advanced technology, and data analysis. “We also study how buildings impact human health,” she said. “People spend so much time inside, and many of the building materials we currently use are not good for people’s health.”
The program’s new curriculum starts first-year students with introductory design courses, along with foundational courses in writing, mathematics, and physics. Sophomore courses include design history, ergonomics, graphic design, and fabrication. Junior year courses include sustainability, furniture, human comfort, and a multidisciplinary studio. The senior year is capped by a design project. Students benefit from dedicated studio space and access to material, lighting, digital, wood and metal fabrication labs. Internship opportunities are widely available.
Graduates of the program may wind up in traditional design roles at architectural or interior design firms. Others may specialize in materials or lighting design, while others may work for furniture manufacturers and dealerships. In addition, there are paths toward non-building interiors, including exhibition and theatrical set design, or transportation interiors, such as cruise ships or RVs. The new LTU program is accredited by both the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Plowright said LTU has seen “a significant increase in interest, applications, and students enrolled” in the new program.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers nearly 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.