Nailing the Creative Concept Statement

Presented by: Darla Green, Dr. Diana Allison

Concept Statements are crucial for interior design students to understand and one of the most difficult to teach. A concept is the over-arching idea that drives a project creating an explanation for each design decision (Eakins, 2005). There are many types of concept statements from thematic to functional. Sometimes the functional project statements are called concept statements. However, the strongest concept statements are creative, relate to the context, evoke emotion, and are used to guide the project. There are several established methods to help the student understand how to create concept statements. Eakins’ (2005) description of the basic elements in a design statement, idea generators, form-givers, and application, has proven useful. While in agreement with Eakins’ process, it is still too abstract for students to understand. Often, when the written concept is turned in, it is descriptive, but is not a refined meaningful concept. The student’s concept is a string of ideas that do not connect with the project. Research has shown students actively engaged, hands on, with their learning tend to understand the information in a deeper manner than those who are passive (Ankerson & Pable, 2008; Wlodkowski, 2008). A tangible, “hands on” activity was needed to allow these students a path to understand the creation of an abstract idea and then processes by which to relate it back to a project. The challenge was to create a concrete example of an abstract idea, from beginning to end, without being intimidating and then to implement it. A parallel method to Eakins’ (2005) basic steps was employed along with an in-class activity to make it meaningful. The three components of the concept statement were described as finding something inspirational, determining the tools (found within the principles and elements of design), and determining what feelings and emotions were to be evoked from the design. The developed activity pushes students out of their comfort zone to help them think beyond their limitations and to show them how to employ similes, metaphors, and analogies in communicating their vision as expressed in a strong concept statement. After a brief lecture about concept statements, students divide a paper into 4 quadrants using a black marker. They draw a plan view, elevation view, and perspective of an object provided by the instructor. They are instructed to draw an abstract of this object and to use adjectives to describe the line, shape, form, and texture. While only considering the adjectives, students considered what else this could describe that is NOT design-related. Once they had identified this something else, they were told to create a metaphor. After massaging the metaphor, the abstract idea emerged from a tangible object. While some students still struggle with concept generation, this activity helps connect abstract ideas with the tangible. It gives them a mind loosening technique to use as they begin the concept exploration process. The final step that can bring this abstraction to life occurs when a tangible product has to be created. In a course covering building systems, students were to create a dog house to be entered into a local organization’s fundraiser. After explaining the concept statement and taking the students through the concept statement exercise, students were put into teams and told to determine their concept statement for the project. As the students found their own key inspirational piece, determined the form givers (Eakins, 2005) and the emotions to be evoked, they created concept statements that were stronger and more over-arching than before the exercises. The students were able to stay focused on the specific style and the finished dog houses were true to their original concept. The physical space they built created the connection that drove home the point of the concept statement.


  • Ankerson, K., & Pable, J. (2008). Interior Design: Practical Strategies for teaching and learning. New York: Fairchild Publishing.
  • Eakins, P. (2005). Writing for Interior Design. New York: Fairchild Publishing.
  • Wlodkowski, R.(2008). Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn, 3rd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass a Wiley Imprint.