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The study and practice of Interior Design is founded on a diverse Body of Knowledge. This expanded Body of Knowledge permits Interior Designers to recognize the designed and built environment as a form of cultural expression. To foster independent inquiry in the field, this assignment aims to develop the skills, knowledge and values required for interpreting material culture expression from the designer’s point of view. Students will be challenged to discover and develop a research topic that is meaningful to them; to research and analyze the material and cultural qualities of this topic; and to write an essay* discussing the relevance of this topic to contemporary discussions about interior design.
This assignment brings together design studio values with a study of design and material culture. Students will use descriptive and analytical skills to increase their understanding of an historical topic as a design problem and solution. Students are required to approach their topic initially as they would a studio project – analyze it from a designer’s point of view. This point of view is then expanded with knowledge of materials and techniques, historical context of use, lifestyle/occupancy expectations, stylistic paradigm, and preservation considerations.
Topic Selection: The topic selection is entirely open, providing that it has clear links with the chronological span of material culture covered in this course (pre-history to mid-1700). Start by brainstorming possible topics that are relevant to the study of design & material culture. Students should choose one that they find meaningful to their life experience and develop a strong research proposal to support it.
Proposal: Prepare a typed proposal for submission in week 2. Include the following six sections:
Topic Choice (full identification);
Topic Location + Original Date (pre-history – 1700, or later with instructor’s permission);
Main reasons for interest in this topic (thoughtful, insightful reasons);
Project planning (full project task list and schedule linked to calendar dates, weeks 1-6) See planning tips: https://library.humber.ca/research-process );
Preliminary Reference List (APA format, 3 sources incl. 2 scholarly articles) See search tips: https://youtu.be/KY6QV872KQ4 + APA format tips: https://library.humber.ca/APA-MLA;
Research Questions (should be specific and inquire into the topic’s relevance to contemporary discussions about design).
Research: Conduct research on the topic, giving special attention to DESIGN and MATERIAL CULTURE. Literature Research: Using the library catalogue and literature databases available at Humber
College Library, conduct an information search with the aim of answering the stated research questions. Be sure to evaluate the references in terms of their scholarly quality. Whenever possible, use peer- reviewed sources (scholarly journals, etc.) rather than grey literature or commercial websites. Record the bibliographic information for all publications using APA citation format.
Image Research: Using online image databases available at Humber College Library (ARTstor), source and study a diverse selection of contemporary photographs, archival prints and drawings, and analytic design diagrams. These visual resources can assist with the aim of fully understanding the material and design qualities of the topic. Be sure to keep careful note of any images used according to APA image citation format.
Initial Research Focus: Guiding Question = What is this topic/object all about?
Following the material culture method proposed by J. D. Prown in “Mind in Matter”, an initial research focus would be to understand the material object itself ( 2009: 225) by studying the literature and images. This is a three-stage process:
Description: recording the internal evidence of the object itself;
Deduction: interpreting the interaction between the object and the perceiver;
Speculation: framing hypotheses and questions which lead out from the object to external evidence for testing and resolution.
In this process, keep in mind that specialized description of material objects often requires both discovering and using specialized terms. Then, with a full understanding of the object, one can deduce relevant information about use and/or spatial interaction by using empathy. Finally, as Prown explains, the speculation phase of this initial study can be a creative moment when the researcher takes note of their own ideas of how the object might have been encountered (Prown,  2009: 227-228). This is when a designer may apply studio-based insight and evaluate the design decisions evident in the object.
Subsequent Program of Research: Guiding Question = What is the cultural context for this topic?
After fully understanding the topic in terms of its materiality, and by considering what is interesting about its “design”, subsequent research will answer questions about cultural context. While this question might produce a broad collection of content, focus on relevant aspects; such as, hHow might materiality and design relate to this cultural context? Focus on one strong argument and gather
supporting points. In general, aim to discuss the topic by focusing on aspects that will be of interest for contemporary designers. Your audience for this writing is your peers – What would your peers like to know about the topic?
APA Essay format (with cover page)
Essay* Length: 1500-2000 words (approx. 5 pages + References List + Images). *Alternate presentation format could be considered based on approved discussion with
APA format References
Use a two-part citation style that includes in-text citations and a References List
Required Images: minimum of 3 images labelled (Figure 1) with captions
Provide a title
Organization: Organize the project as you see fit – but do organize it!
This assignment is worth 20% of your final mark. It is graded out of 100.
There are four categories of Evaluation: Quality and Accuracy of Description (25); Quality and Accuracy of Research (25); Value of Analysis (25); and Effectiveness of Communication (25). There are five levels of Accomplishment: Novice (Below 50%); Below Average (50% – 65%); Competent (66% -79%); Proficient (80 – 89%); Expert (90% +). An Evaluation Rubric is provided.
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