Saying it Hot: A Graphic Design Primer for Interior Design Presentations

Presented by: Susie Tibbitts and Robert Ventura

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot. D.H. Lawrence

In interior design student presentations, good visual communication will not save an undeveloped project. However, a great project supported with strong graphic composition absolutely sings; that work says it “hot.”

Surveying CIDA accredited undergraduate programs revealed that less than half have a graphic design department or program in the same division or institution. Searching the Journal of Interior Design for scholarship on the integration of interior design and graphic design yields only one result (Budd, 2011).

Communicating sound principles of graphic design to our students poses a dilemma. In many cases our students do not have access to graphic design mentors and models for guidance. Additionally, since as educators we are often products of that same educational legacy, we have neither formal instruction in graphic design nor do we have exposure to interior design scholarship that addresses it.

To this end, we propose a primer, a set of universal guides dedicated to helping students (and educators) to communicate their work graphically with as much heat as possible. 

This “hot primer” introduces good graphic design practices to the interior design discipline. Content will be divided into these five headings: Typeface and Text; Hierarchy; Professionalism; Layout; and Presentation. 

Typeface and Text
Fonts have different flavors and profiles, so using them requires attention to concept, audience and emotional potential. Organizing, structuring and coordinating text well adds graphic “hot sauce” to visual communication.

Just as spaces demand hierarchy, visual communication requires it as well. Navigating two-dimensional space requires choreography to build the heat of the message from a simmer to a to a boil.

A flame needs air, so graphic design that trims out gradients, linework, shadows and other extraneous elements is allowed to burn hot. With software like the Adobe Creative Cloud apps readily available, the temptation to overuse graphics is high. Recognizing the effectiveness of space and clarity stokes the creative fire; overuse of unnecessary elements chokes it.

A well-structured campfire burns hot. Organizing tinder and kindling intelligently allows oxygen to fuel the fire. Graphic presentations require thoughtfully designed structure as well. 

Designers need to be prepared to handle hot presentations. Hot graphic design practice requires extra pairs of eyes to proof text, layout, and image quality. Familiarity breeds complacency, and complacent designers get burnt.

To illustrate the primer categories, rules of thumb will be be augmented with work volunteered by the professional, academic, and student design communities.

Some of these contributions will be HOT; they will demonstrate how good graphic design heats up the communication of interior design work.

Some these examples will NOT be hot. The entire design community can empathize with the presentation that could have been proofread one last time, or the time they thought using Comic Sans was a good idea…

(For the record, it is NEVER a good idea to use Comic Sans.)

“Saying it Hot” provides best practices for interior designers who wish to improve the graphic design of their visual communication. In this Pecha Kucha format, this primer is not only intended to be an informative and irreverent discussion of graphic design but also a package that could be shared after its presentation as a learning tool for students and educators wishing to heat up their understanding and communication of design.


  • Budd, Christopher. (2011). Valuing the Intuitive: Reintroducing Design Into Interior Design Education. Journal of Interior Design.  36(3), v–xi.

Appendix File 1
Appendix File 2
Appendix File 3
Appendix File 4
Appendix File 5

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