Design History and Interior Design: Increasing Application and Relevancy Over Course Types

Presented by: Dr. Diane Al Shihabi, Joori Suh

In design education, precedents or previous knowledge and concepts provide foundational structures and schemes to facilitate the creative generation process (Eilouti 2009; Muller & Pasman 1996). Such prestructures serve as a basis in the creative problem-solving process, and can lead to exploratory, combinational, and transformational types of creativity as defined by Boden (1998). This study addresses how the application of design historical precedents can be coordinated over course types to facilitate creative generation in the interior design developmental process and to increase relevancy of the subject matter to students. It responds to the current state of design history as a core requirement in CIDA-accredited interior design programs, yet also as a subject matter that is not typically or purposely applied across course varieties, and as such, lacks optimal value and germaneness to students. The paper’s methodology examines the sequential integration and application of design historical knowledge in course types and levels across a CIDA accredited program. Specifically, the study evaluates 1) explorations in introductory lectures, 2) assignments and presentations in foundational history courses, 3) projects in intermediate-level studio classes, and 4) discussions and conceptualizations in advanced seminars and lecture courses. It evaluates how design history can function a means of creative production and as a vehicle for cultural inclusiveness. It evaluates how lecture content, discussions, assignments and projects were modified over time to help students better understand the past through gestural action and creatively address contemporary problems through study and application of historical concepts, ideologies, and forms. It appraises how thoughtful project descriptions can facilitate notions of cultural inclusiveness among diverse student populations. The study finds that coordinated, thoughtful, and purposeful integrations of design history in interior design lectures, studios, and seminars not only facilitates creativity and innovation in design solutions, but also enhances understanding of the relevance of design historical concepts in solving contemporary design problems. In addition, it illuminates and expands notions of career foci and opportunities for careers within the field of Interior Design. Further, when design history is used to address contemporary social issues in projects, including cultural identity and cultural diversity, it fosters an inclusive environment that improves tolerance and teamwork. Importantly, this study demonstrates a feasible developmental process for ideation based on design historical precedents that continues to evolve over the course of an interior design program. It broadens contemporary understanding of precedent studies that stimulate creativity in that it successfully reconnects design historical origin to innovation. It also demonstrates how the application of interior design history within and beyond core courses can increase the germaneness and value of the subject matter to today’s students. The information is useful for academicians seeking innovative ways to integrate design history over course types to better prepare students for global practice and multicultural teams. It also broadens Eilouti and Muller & Pasman’s idea of precedents in design education by extending them to design history. Further, it extends Boden’s development of creativity types to historical precedents and innovation in the design process.


  • Boden, M. 1998. “Creativity and Artificial Intelligence.” Artificial Intelligence, 103:1-2, 347–356. Accessed 12 Oct 2016.
  • Eilouti, B.H. 2009. “Design knowledge recycling using precedent-based analysis and synthesis models.” Design Studies 30:4, 340–368.
  • Muller, W. & G. Pasman. 1996. “Typology and the Organization of Design Knowledge.” Design Studies 17:2, 111–130.
  • Mumford, M.D. et al. 1996. “Process-based Measures of Creative Problem-Solving Skills: III. Category selection.” Creativity Research Journal 9, 395–406. Accessed 12 Oct 2016.