Mission + Philosophy Design Thinking with Integrity


The School of Interior Architecture facilitates learning that produces interior architecture professionals skilled as lifelong learners.

In our environment, you will develop your ability to apply design thinking with integrity resulting in creative and purposeful interior environments. Intellectual curiosity and acquisition of technical knowledge that informs the design and research of interior environments are essential aspects of learning.

Collaboration with programs in the College of Architecture and Design, disciplines at the University of Tennessee and regional and world communities is a foundation activity giving relevance and meaning to the practice of design. The Interior Architecture faculty provide excellence in teaching, learning, scholarship and service to the program, university, region and world communities.

We believe being involved in research and creative and engaged scholarship while working collaboratively alongside our students is an important component of informing the discipline and shaping the new generation of designers. This is evident in the recently awarded competitive research funding from organizations such as the Graham Foundation, U.S. Department of State, IDEC Foundation, AIA, Donghia Foundation and many internal funding sources.

students grouped together


The School of Interior Architecture provides a foundation for the practice of interior design/architecture, collaboration with the world community and growth as a professional.

Design thinking, a systematic method of producing tangible, measurable and implementable proposals for the future, is applied to the creation of interior environments. Students are prepared for the future by applying design-thinking methods to the interior context.

The educational experience is founded on practicing critical-thinking skills in the context of creating interior environments, objects and experiences. As unique learners, the students’ innovation, independent thinking and creativity are nurtured. The ability to learn from trial and error, to take risk and accept and learn from failure are essential elements in the creative process.

Collaboration at all levels with near disciplines, such as architecture and discrete disciplines as unique problems demand, is indispensable for discovering or creating the most potent design solutions.

Research and the application of knowledge are integrated in the design process that informs the project solution. Students learn from whole to part by creating project proposals that solve real-world problems within the context of interior environments.

A range of learning opportunities from theoretical investigations to hands-on design/build projects is encouraged to create a holistic educational experience. Educational and scholarly partnerships beyond the institution are highly valued, and learning opportunities outside the physical classroom are essential.

The context of interior architecture is presented in both a local and a global perspective. Ethics are valued in relation to the consumption of world resources, under-represented populations and how the creation of new environments impact human experience and cultural meaning. Interior environments are viewed as dynamic, with shifting points of relevance, utility and meaning. Scale is explored as a vital element that defines interiors. Students explore space, color, texture, pattern, time and form in a manner that recognizes the simultaneous and contradictory nature of interior environment as ephemeral and permanent.

Effective communication of design ideas is an integral aspect of reflective thinking and ideation, is essential in building collaborative relationships and inherent to the success of a project. Visual communication is viewed as a “second language” and is integrated in a developmentally appropriate manner across the educational experience. Effective communication requires the development of a sense-of-craft with emphasis on accuracy and precision. The selection of communication mediums require critical-thinking skills and differ based on the method of exploration and audience.

The program is created to provide students the ability to apply core competencies to the design-thinking process. These include the ability to engage in abstract and conceptual thinking, transform ideas, build on the ideas of others, create original ideas, apply knowledge, ideate and visualize ideas, evaluate design proposals and synthesize information.

The above competencies result in the creation of interior environments that are culturally significant, innovative and logical and provide beauty, meaning and utility to a world community.