Interior Design Education within a Human Ecological Framework

By Kaup, Migette L.; Anderson, Barbara G. et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Interior Design Education within a Human Ecological Framework


Kaup, Migette L., Anderson, Barbara G., Honey, Peggy, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


An education based in human ecology can greatly benefit interior designers as they work to understand and improve the human condition. Design programs housed in colleges focusing on human ecology can improve the interior design profession by taking advantage of their home base and emphasizing the human ecological framework in the design curricula. Accredited interior design programs with a human ecological focus offer great potential to positively affect the sustainability of life on earth and to improve the quality of life.

Interior design is generally understood to be an artistic field that uses creativity to design interiors that incorporate both aesthetics and function. Interior design can be done with knowledge of aesthetics and materials, skills in visual representation, and the personal and business acumen to bring these together in a finished project. The term interior designer describes a professional distinction that has developed through formalized education, professional organizations, and regulation of the interior design profession through examination and licensure in many states (Piotrowski, 2002). Within these measurable dimensions, interior design advances quality of life and promotes sustainability through holistic application of knowledge in human ecology. Thus, a background in human ecology can gready benefit interior designers as they work to understand and improve the human condition. Former colleges of home economics, now known by several names including human ecology, human sciences, family and consumer sciences (FCS), are multidisciplinary homes to scholars who study humans and their environments or human ecology. Interior design programs housed within colleges that focus on human ecology have the opportunity to improve the interior design profession by taking advantage of their home base and emphasizing the human ecological framework in the interior design curricula.

Human Ecology and its Relationship to Interior Design

Human ecology is generally understood to be the study of people and their relationships to the environment. Westney, Brabble, Edwards, and Cole define human ecology as:

. . . . the scientific study of human beings, their environments, and human-environment interactions and outcomes from a holistic perspective. More specifically, it is the study of individuals, families, and other human groups as physical, social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual beings in interactions with their biological, socio-cultural, and physical environments. As a discipline, human ecology is both a science and an art. As a science, it is interdisciplinary in nature consisting of a synthesis of scientific information from relevant disciplinary areas. As an art, from an interdisciplinary perspective, it seeks to identify the forces which enhance human development and human relations, actualize human potential, optimize human functioning, and improve family well-being and the quality of the environment. (1991, p. 47)

Several disciplines and professions study people-environment relationships including anthropology, archaeology, architecture, biology, demography, epidemiology, general ecology, geography, law, medicine, political science, psychology, sociology, and systems theory (Lawrence, 2005). In this listing, architecture is used as an overarching term for all design professions for the built environment including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and interior design. For many who study human ecology, it is both a way of thinking about the world as well as the context in which questions are defined and methods used to answer these questions (University of Oxford, n.d.).

Human ecology is about uncovering and understanding the connections between personal action, social systems, and the ecology of the planet (Pioneers of Change, n.d.). If we recognize both the art and the science of the interior design profession, we can clearly understand the appropriate context for educational programs of interior design within a human ecology framework. …

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