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Lisa Waxman

Interior design students at Florida State University learn to design functional and pleasing space everywhere from luxury yachts to low-income apartments.

Hotels, offices, restaurants and assisted living facilities — you name it — they've done it.

But the award-winning program's requirements go well beyond just making a space look good.

"It's all about creating spaces that enhance the human experience," said Lisa Waxman, chair of the Department of Interior Design in Florida State's College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance. "And doing that takes quite a bit of technical knowledge."

Students who graduate from the department's undergraduate and graduate programs are proficient in at least six kinds of sophisticated design software — some cutting-edge and all used by top interior and architectural design firms worldwide.

"It allows them to go into a firm and be ready for anything that comes at them," said Waxman of the program's requirements, which include proficiency in computer-aided design software programs such as AutoCAD, 3D Studio Max and Adobe Creative Suite.  Also essential is new software — Building Information Modeling (BIM) — in which students simultaneously build a two-dimensional interior space while also creating three-dimensional views and accounting for building materials and other requirements.  

In better economic times, designers could afford to excel at just one skill, Waxman said, leaving the software or drafting to another member of the firm.

But now it's crucial for students to have more arrows in their quiver. And, that means a much more integrated program.

"They learn the software in a stand-alone class and then use it in their studio courses where they might design anything from a high-end residential space to a health care facility," she said.

The program has about 225 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree, as well as a one-year Master of Science degree for students who already hold an undergraduate degree in interior design or architecture. It also offers a six-semester Master of Science for students with undergraduate degrees in other majors.

"We often see students with diverse undergraduate degrees looking for a more creative outlet for their skills," Waxman said. "Students from other fields add their distinctiveness to the discussion of design."

The Department of Interior Design's graduate program was recently named the most admired program of its kind in the country in a national survey of 122 deans and department chairs by Design Intelligence, a respected industry publication of the Design Futures Council. The program is accredited by the Council of Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

By Elizabeth Bettendorf
24 January 2013

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