Developing Creative Minds: Lessons from First-Year University Students

Presented by: Jae Hwa Lee, Dr. Margaret Portillo

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (2017) declared that “Interior designers employ all aspects of the design process to creatively solve a design problem. The ability to create fresh insights and solutions is a valuable commodity within the field of interior design; therefore, it should come as no surprise that the latest generation of CIDA Professional Standards 2017 highlights the central role of creativity in interior design. The purpose of this study is to describe first-year students’ perceptions and worldviews on creativity and explore the development of creative confidence through participation in a set of paired creativity courses. There are three research questions: 1) To what degree might students have changed their perceptions and worldviews on creativity including creative personal identity and creative confidence; 2) Is there any evidence that the course has influenced the development of creative personal identity and creative confidence; and 3) What implications of these findings for interior design education? A total of 85 first-year-in-college students, who enrolled in a paired set of creativity courses required for the university’s innovation minor in 2016, completed pre and post surveys on creativity, at the beginning of the first course and at the end of the second course. The sample consisted of 50 (58.8%) male and 35 (41.2%) female students. The first introductory course introduced the fundamentals of creativity theory and also presents experiential learning opportunities to cultivate a set of creative skills including design thinking. The following companion course was more project-based and required the application of design thinking to address real-world problem solving using teamwork, the development of prototypes, and the presentation of proof of concept displays at a juried showcase. The creative personal identity which refers to the perception of creativity as an important aspect of the self were reported with 3 questions. Moreover, areas of creative confidence were measured by fifty questions using the Kaufman Domains of Creativity Scale (K-DOCS), which is a standardized test assessing self-perceptions of creative behaviors within Self/Everyday creativity, Scholarly creativity, Performance-based creativity, Mechanical/Scientific creativity, and Artistic creativity. Finally, student written reflections also revealed the most impactful learning experiences relating to creativity and design thinking. The findings showed a statistically significant growth in creative personal identity throughout the courses, based on the results from a set of paired samples t-tests. While levels of creative confidence within five domains did not significantly change from the beginning to the end of the second course, but they did show high levels of confidence in most of the domains. Among five domains of creative confidence, performance-based creativity and artistic creativity were mostly correlated with the creative personal identity. Valuing creativity in teamwork also emerged later in the course as a means to spur creative ideas, the students also appeared to value prototyping as a means to facilitate their creative thinking as well as learning from failures and successes. The results of this study can be applied to interior design education to study how creativity cannot only be fostered in the individuals but in groups. These findings also call for additional research and application of how to cultivate creativity and design thinking to deliberately improve student development in the field of interior design. Development of creativity as a fundamental life-long skill can and should be encouraged in interior design students. Design thinking as a best way to experience trial-and-error processes and to implement their creativity explicitly should be encouraged as opportunities for interior design students that can position them well for professional success and personal fulfillment.


  • CIDA. (2016, January 1). Council for Interior Design Accreditation Professional Standards 2017. Retrieved from
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