Summer 2024
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Students in this unique interior design lab gain real-world skills By Joanna Nesbit

If you think interior design means matching paint colors to drapes, think again. In The STUDIO, George Fox’s interior design lab, students problem-solve for real clients that include nonprofits, schools and residential remodels. In many cases, they even get paid for their work.

In The STUDIO, design solutions go well beyond color palettes and exterior finishes. Students consider local building codes, ADA regulations and designs that promote the health and safety of a building’s users according to industry professional practices. For example, designers might incorporate color theory and a particular spatial layout to promote a sense of safety and security in accordance with trauma-informed design.

“People don’t generally understand the breadth of interior design,” says professor Casey Martin. “Most spaces we use every day have an interior designer on the project team.”

Students in the class gain hands-on experience on multiple projects – one paid and the remainder pro bono – that Martin lines up in advance. She assigns students to project teams based on strengths and skill sets. The program emphasizes empathy-driven initiatives, including solutions for housing issues and projects with small budgets for design work.

Photo of a hand picking color watches

For one such project, George Fox students worked with Portland State University architecture students and the Forest Grove Foundation, a nonprofit focused on vulnerable communities. The task: to create sleeping pod interiors incorporating trauma-informed design principles for people experiencing homelessness, while also sticking to a budget. The result earned a 2023 Changemaker Award and national recognition from the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) for outstanding student work.

For La Salle Preparatory High School in California, junior Taylor Ho and senior Tyra Hayashi created Revit (design software) models of campus buildings for future architects and designers to use as templates. And working with the Kingsley Field Military Base in Klamath Falls, Oregon, senior Ilanahe Beatty focused on sourcing U.S.-made products and creating a “typicals package” based on military and GSA contract standards for the base to use now or later.

As students in The STUDIO collaborate with clients and professionals in the industry, they develop tangible skills that help them hit the ground running after graduation. The program connects students to the Portland design industry, facilitates professional relationships with industry mentors, and prepares them for taking the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED Green Associate exams. In addition, the class broadens their network of clients and designers that they’ll work with in future jobs while still in school.

It all builds toward a single goal, says Martin: “Students feel like, when they graduate, they can walk into a firm and be prepared to do the work.”

Watch video: How Students Get Career Ready at an Interior Design School
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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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