The Age of Information Overload: Perceptive Filtering in an Interior Material’s Course

Presented by: Lyndsey Miller

According to Mitchell Kapor1, “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” Information overload has become commonplace. In higher education, the internet is a common tool used by students for information seeking. In fact, based on a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, teachers said that 94% of their students were likely to use Google as a form of research, while less than 20% would look to traditional resources such as textbooks, the library, and scholarly references. The trouble is that students are often unable to decipher between vital, credible resources and the alternative when using search engines. This holds true for the research of materials and products being used in interior design projects. Practitioners are constantly exposed to emerging products through lunch and learns, continuing education courses, trade shows, and constant interactions with product representatives. In contrast, a student’s typical exposure lies within a Google search. Students and emerging professionals alike should be knowledgeable on how and where to look for credible resources related to materials and products and be able to filter through them in order to make educated decisions on appropriate applications. These skills coupled with simple networking with product representatives and keeping up with emerging products is foreign in many academic settings. Students are tasked with developing projects within tight timelines focusing on a variety of market sectors, all while flying blindly to make material and FF&E selections. While many interior design programs have resource libraries, the contents are often discontinued or dated products. In short, students should be better prepared with the skills to locate resources, make material and product selections, communicate with product representatives and be versed in the related terminology. This presentation will discuss an assignment incorporated into an interior materials course, taught in the first semester of third year. The assignment promotes the development of the aforementioned skills. Termed “Weekly Product Presentations”, students are asked to research a product in the categories of floors, walls, ceilings, surfaces, and FF&E. Appendix A represents the project assignment sheet and displays the process that students go through to complete it. The entire project process is intended to prepare students with real-world skills and vocabulary, all while building a more immediate catalog of current materials and products that can be used on academic projects. This presentation will discuss more details about the process of the assignment, including information about the online database. In addition, it will disclose strategies on how to implement the assignment in either a lecture or studio course. The presentation will outline both the positive and negative aspects of the assignment, and the modifications that have been made in response since the assignment’s inception five years ago. Finally, it will highlight the many benefits that have been realized as an outcome to the project for the “materials” course and other studio related courses. This assignment has responded to the overwhelming amount of online information by preparing students to drink in information slowly and thoughtfully.


  • The Pew Research Center. (2012). The Pew Research Center’s internet & American life project online survey of teachers [Data File]. Retrieved from say-that-for-students-today-research-googling/
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