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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Bridging the gap between graduation and registered professional practice in interior design Klinkhamer, Sooz


Graduates of interior design programs need a sound understanding of the Common Body of Knowledge of the Interior Design profession followed by careful nurturing and guidance during their first years of practice. These two factors, an understanding of the Common Body of Knowledge and careful nurturing and guidance, assist new designers to attain professional registration. The Common Body of Knowledge, previously developed jointly through research by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER) and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCJDQ), was used as a point of departure for this study. The officially published "Common Body of Knowledge of Interior Design" (1989) has not changed significantly in over thirteen years. On the other hand, interior design practice has changed considerably. Prudence indicates that college and university interior design programs should strive to keep curricula current with professional practice in order to adequately prepare graduates for transition from school to work. This study asked registered professional interior designers their opinions regarding the importance of 56 topics drawn from the Common Body of Knowledge of Interior Design. The designers were asked two questions about each topic. The first question asked "how critical was that topic for your own professional success as a new graduate seeking professional registration" and the second "how critical is this topic in 2002 for new interior design graduates seeking professional registration?". Since the recession of the early 1980s, design firms in British Columbia have remained small in size with four to five people comprising a medium sized firm. Interior design graduates must accumulate a minimum of two years work experience in a variety of subject areas (building on the Common Body of Knowledge for Interior Design) in order to be eligible for the North American minimum competency examination for the profession of interior design. However, graduates leave school and commonly begin work as independent contractors, meaning they may have contracts with one, two or several design firms to fill their workweek. Often they are working on a number of projects simultaneously and are not always located within the firms' premises while doing their contract work. Accruing appropriate work experience is sometimes problematic and, to make matters worse, these new designers are left precariously alone and removed from valuable relationships provided in larger offices. Once sufficient work experience has been gained, and the examination is completed successfully, designers achieve certification, registration, or licensure, depending on their residency and work; they have arrived at registered professional status. The path between graduation and registration is frequently fraught with insecurity, insufficient practical experience, and solitary work situations. Mentoring allegedly improves workplace learning and assists careers. Dozens of manuscripts delineate theories of mentorship, while less review the practice of mentorship. Given the notion that new graduates are often working 'virtually', the potential for a mentor working side by side with a new designer is much reduced in a new workplace model. Therefore, a road map in the form of a written document, or one retrievable from a website would provide a measure of support and assurance for new designers. This study focused on advice from professional senior interior design practitioners in the form of a written guide. The purposes of this study were to: • Revise and propose a new Common Body of Knowledge for Interior Design for 2003, and • Create and offer a Guide for New Interior Design Graduates, especially those in virtual work environments, to assist them through the initial years of practice. Both deductive and inductive approaches were deployed. Existing literature was reviewed and provided an understanding of education and examination, two components of interior design career paths. Bloom's taxonomy provided theoretical underpinnings and structure to the study, helped create the questionnaire and telephone interview questions, and imparted clearer descriptions for the levels of knowledge required in the proposed new Common Body of Knowledge of Interior Design. Practicing designers who held sound understanding and mastery of the profession's Common Body of Knowledge were most likely to successfully make the journey to registered professional status. Availability of support and guidance (by a person, advisor, or written guide) assisted a smooth transition from novice designer to registered professional interior design practitioner. Factors such as events, influences and circumstances also contributed to a successful journey. Graduates job-searching in healthy economic times experienced less delay and frustration in finding initial employment; and those who had identified a career path target (for example, a position with a furniture dealer as a corporate space-planner, or with an architectural firm as a member of the interior design team) also experienced early success in locating themselves in design positions. The study began in response to reports of new designers having trouble gaining initial work experience or, in some cases, leaving the field of interior design during their first several years of practice. High levels of attrition signaled a warning that problems existed and required immediate attention. The results of the study were presented as: • A revised and proposed Common Body of Knowledge for Interior Design 2003, and • A Guide for Graduates seeking encouragement and guidance, and for professional interior designers interested in nurturing and supporting new designers. Several other potential research projects presented themselves as this work proceeded. Handbooks on "How to Mentor Interior Design Graduates" and "The Benefits of Nurturing Graduates for the Interior Design Profession" would provide an advantage to individual designers and the profession, as would articles in design journals promoting these activities. Finally, further research is invited to continue refining and developing the two sets of findings - the proposed Common Body of Knowledge 2003, and a Guide for New Interior Designers.

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