Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Art and Design

First Advisor

Cigdem Akkurt


Over the years the profession of interior design has struggled with its identity and place in the professional world of design. Practitioners and educators have conscientiously worked to distance themselves from the seemingly unattractive and `unprofessional' parts of the field, namely decoration and ornamentation. It seems, however, that no matter what steps are taken to redefine the profession and separate out these unwanted elements their implicit association continues to linger. The late 19th and early 20th century Western origins of the field are undeniably rooted in the feminine. Interior design at that time was seen as a leisurely activity to keep housewives, who were unwelcome in the professional working world, entertained. This practice was in complete opposition to the field of designs' earlier European predecessors who utilized architecture and interior design as a non-verbal extension and explanation of themselves.

Present day design exists as a flawed combination of both of these practices. Modern media and popular culture perpetuate the professions' feminine affiliation while a consumerist society covets the ideals presented to them on the glossy pages of magazines and catalogues. The professional body of interior design attempts to change the position of the field from within, trying to convince (themselves) that it is not concerned with is ornamentation.1 The endless refusal to acknowledge it's actual and marginal position in the world of design/architecture hinders any progression towards changing the overall public awareness and recognition of the field. This thesis is concerned with understanding and accepting the position of `other' as a place of deliverance and creative freedom which can advance the profession beyond its current conventional and restrictive placement.

1. Lucinda Kaukas Havenhand, "A View from the Margin: Interior Design," Design Issues 20, no. 4 (2004): 33, accessed June 15, 2010, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1512000.

The professional bodies refer to ASID (American Society of Interior Designers), FIDER (Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research), and NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification); In the 1930s and '40s, activities were centered on differentiating interior design from interior decoration through the creation of educational programs and criteria for competency and knowledge. Professional organizations such as the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research (FIDER), and the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) were formed to oversee the development and maintenance of these criteria both in education and practice. These groups crafted legal definitions of interior design and constructed a unified body of knowledge that included its own history and theory.



Copyright Owner

Sarah Elizabeth Zenti



Date Available


File Format


File Size

187 pages