A theoretical framework for research in interior design: implications for post-secondary interior design education in Canada and the United States

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Karpan, Cynthia M.
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A growing number of interior design stakeholders believe that increased levels of research will lead to the legitimization of the profession, an expanded and specialized body of knowledge, professional recognition, disciplinary status, and sustainability of the profession. Despite the potential importance of research in the profession, few strategies exist for how research can have a more effective role within interior design. The main purposes of this study were to provide a strategy for incorporating research into interior design, and provide educators with information about how interior design programs could utilize the strategy. The qualitative study was based on a triangulated research design that included: (a) semi-structured telephone interviews with 29 participants (11 from educational institutions, 14 from professional practice, and 5 from professional organizations); (b) the collection of documents from all study participants; and (c) a case study, conducted over a five day period, within a professional practice firm in the United States. The study findings provide insight into the perceptions held by educators, practitioners, and members of professional organizations about research, and research in interior design specifically. These perceptions, combined with other information, led to the Theoretical Framework for Research in Interior Design. Consisting of three distinct, but interconnected, cultures: (a) design, (b) research, and (c) knowledge management, the Framework explains who, what, when, where, why, how, and with what consequences research is conducted, translated, used, and disseminated in interior design. The implications of the Framework for post-secondary interior design education programs suggest that first-professional undergraduate programs could focus on interior design, first-professional masters programs could focus on knowledge management, and post-professional masters and Ph.D. programs could focus on research. This arrangement would provide each level of post-secondary education and each program type with a specific focus, and would provide the discipline with a range of graduates capable of taking on a variety of roles within professional firms, educational institutions, professional organizations, industry, or government. Overall, the Framework provides a strategy for ensuring that the interior design profession retains its design identity, and expands and capitalizes on its research identity. At the same time, the Framework introduces a new identity that can bring designers and researchers together in more productive and beneficial ways.
Interior Design, Interior Design Research, Interior Design Post-Secondary Education