Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interior Designers Create More Than Just A Pretty Place

These Interior Design students from The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire helped the ABC network television show Extreme Makeover transform a home in Phelan, including the dream bedroom of the owners' teen-age daughter.
Marissa Louden, Jamie Young and Paige Petersen, now graduates of The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire, created emergency shelters as part of a second-year class project in the Interior Design program.

Interior Design students from The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire volunteered with Habitat for Humanity of Riverside to build a home there.

Students at The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire create plans for fantasy clients in a t.second-year class project.

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) They have helped transform a dull old kitchen for the Boys & Girls Club into a cheerful place where kids can learn about food and nutrition. They have built small, portable shelters that can keep everyone from a homeless person to a firefighter safe from the elements of weather. And they’ve helped several non-profit organizations build dream homes. All of this, and more, before graduating from college.

By the end of their studies, students in the Interior Design program at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire will be capable of designing any kind of interior space, from floor to ceiling. They will do it with a lot more than cosmetic touches.

“We’re not teaching HGTV (Home and Garden Television) here,” said Sara Sandoval, academic director for the Art Institute of California-Inland Empire. “Designers have an education and must be state certified.”

The education offered at the Art Institute of California-Inland Empire is a bachelor’s degree program that will qualify graduates to work with architects or other designers to create aesthetically pleasing yet efficient places for people to work and live, Sandoval said.

“Interior designers change lives,” Sandoval said. “They affect change in a positive way by changing interiors.”

For instance, if an office employee must work in a small, windowless room, he or she may feel depressed, and productivity will suffer, Sandoval said. An interior designer can transform that small, windowless office into a place where the worker likes to be.

At the Art Institute, the curriculum begins with basics. First-quarter students, regardless of major, take “foundation” courses in art and design. Interior designers also take two courses in drafting.

In their first Interior Design course, 3D Design Basics, students get an opportunity to build cardboard furniture. Some of these Spartan but functional pieces occupy a corner of The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire’s lobby, just as comfortable and almost as attractive as the rest of the sofas and chairs

That course not only gives students an early opportunity to design something practical (office furniture), but also teaches them many design principals. One is the lesson that just as layers of cardboard are weak individually but strong when working together, people are stronger when they work as a team.

Another lesson Interior Design students learn in their 3D Design Basics course is that environments without color or texture are boring. The Art Institute staff will readily admit that while it adds character to the school’s lobby, the first year students’ durable but Spartan furniture isn’t likely to ever show up in fine home furnishings stores.

On the other hand, the talents and creations of more than 100 students who are well on their way to completing the program are highly marketable. In fact, the most advanced students already have designed projects for their campus, the Riverside Habitat for Humanity, the San Bernardino Boys & Girls Club and local businesses.

Last year, the advanced Interior Design students built temporary emergency shelters as a class project. These look and function so well the school’s administration invited community leaders, media, emergency service workers and homeless advocates to the school, to view the shelters that might actually be put to good use off campus.

These students have already studied courses in construction, architecture and computer-assisted drafting. They have learned how to create interior spaces, and how to present their concepts to clients.

They have become familiar with all necessary documents for a building project, studied business management, art history and environmental science. The most advanced students are now writing theses, and finishing preparation of the detailed portfolios they were working on throughout their education at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire.

Usually, interior designers create spaces for commercial or industrial use, according to Sandoval. This could include, among others, schools, government buildings, offices, health care facilities, and places offering hospitality services, such as hotels and restaurants. Interior designers also help create or remodel large public places like Los Angeles’ Staples Center.

Homeowners, even if they have the budget to do so, aren’t often inclined to pay interior designers a sustainable living wage, Sandoval said. However, both contemporary residential design and historical restoration are specializations within interior design.

Interior designers who work within these residential specialties will most likely work with an architect, Sandoval said. So, if a homebuilder hires an architect to help with the design phase, chances are good an interior designer will also have an influence on the project.

The Art Institute of California-Inland Empire Interior Design program began in 2006 when the school opened, and its first graduates completed their bachelor’s degrees in March 2009. A year-round schedule allows students to finish what would normally be a four-year program in just three years.

Ten instructors who have a rich and varied experience in the industry teach the courses. Some own their own interior design firms, others work for prominent design firms or architects.
The Interior Design program shares some of its faculty with other departments. These instructors might have industry experience in architecture or interior design, but also have worked in fine arts, animation and graphic design.

In addition to their interior design studies, they will have a well-rounded general education, studying electives in the other design-oriented majors offered by the Arts Institute, and will likely have completed internships in the trade.

“Our goal is for them to be hired immediately after they graduate,” Sandoval said, “so they have a seamless transition between the school and the profession of interior design.

After graduation, these students will be required to work under close supervision for three years. After this they’re required to pass an exam on California building codes, and three other exams on design issues, before they can work on their own as a certified interior designer.

After that, they will be revolutionizing interior design in the Inland Empire.

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Game Art & Design, Graphic Design, Web Design & Interactive Media, Interior Design, Fashion and Retail Management and Media Arts & Animation. A Bachelor of Fine Arts is offered in Fashion Design. There are also Associate of Science degrees in Graphic Design. Each program is offered on a year-round basis, allowing students to work uninterrupted toward their degrees.

The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire offers an Associate of Science degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Management. Each program is offered on a year-round basis, allowing students to work uninterrupted toward their degrees.

It’s not too late to enroll at The Art Institute of California-Inland Empire. Courses begin July 13, with offerings in the days, evenings and on weekends for new and reentry students. For details or a tour of the campus call (909) 915-2100, or go on line to

The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire is one of The Art Institutes ( a system of over 40 education institutions throughout North America providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals.