By Owen Wood
Whenever fourth-year student Wojciech Faber thinks of Panasonic, he thinks about the latest technology. But when the interior design student went to Panasonic’s offices, he found their working space didn’t look like anything he imagined.
“I saw a conflict between what they were claiming to be and what they were and how they work, as far as their office was concerned,” says Faber.
Faber researched how the facilities could be updated to reflect Panasonic’s desired image as a major competitor in technology development. He made this problem the focus of his thesis — the final project all Ryerson interior design students must complete in their final year.
Faber is one of the organizers of Interior Dimension<./em>, the annual year-end show put on by the program.
The show’s purpose is to reinforce the relationship the school has with design industry professionals, to introduce the curriculum to potential future students and, of course, to celebrate the creative efforts of students from all years of the program.
Since the show is free to attend, organizers must raise the $10,000 cost of the show through student events and donations from sponsors.
“A lot of them are interior designers and a lot of them are graduates of this school,” says Dave Chu, a fourth-year student and one of the organizers of Interior Dimension.
Students get to exhibit their work to people in fields related to interior design and architecture. About 3,000 people attended last year’s show, including nearly 800 industry professionals. The number is expected to be higher this year.
This year marks the first graduating class with the program’s new curriculum. It includes the these project which graduating students start in September. A similar assignment existed before, however, the thesis project now focuses on solving a problem in interior design rather than simply leaving the students free to do what they want.
“It’s taking all the education that you’ve learned over the years and putting it together in one research project,” ays Noush Chahinian, a fourth-year student.
For her thesis, Chahinian designed a dentist’s office that doesn’t make patients feel uncomfortable the moment they walked in.
“The first thing that overrides you is fear and anxiety — the smell of the air, the atmosphere, the lighting,” says Chahinian. “My whole perspective is, ‘How can I create a space where a person feels relaxed and anxiety is reduced?’”
Faber took the idea of user-friendly space in a different direction for his Panasonic project.
Faber used large, informal meeting spaces, a cappuccino bar with Internet access and lounge areas where people can sit on couches while they work on their laptop or talk on the phone. He says changes in design can be made because people aren’t restricted to traditional, designated office stations anymore.
Based on an Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) report released last week, Ontario’s interior design industry’s direct and spinoff economic activity generated $4 billion in 1998.
But Doug Bullock, who teaches interior design part-time at Ryerson, says the economic impact is much larger because the study only includes professionals registered with ARIDO — which totals about 1,450 — and not Ontario’s estimated 4,000 interior designers who are not members.
“I don’t think any of the interior design graduates this year have to worry about finding a job,” says Bullock. “I always tell my students it’s never a question of whether they’ll get a job, but where they want to work.”
Bullock runs his own design consultant firm, though his title on business cards reads “Head Coach and Cheerleader.” He is just one of the interior design professionals brought into the classroom to give students practical training.
Many of the fourth-year students work with advisors from the industry or business people with an interior design challenge. The students get feedback on how they’re doing and their projects are marked by a jury of interior designers and architects.
Many businesses in need of design work are interested in working with students even though they don’t have the money to do everything in the students’ designs (students don’t have to worry about budgets in their designs).
Faber’s project is continuing after Interior Dimension because Panasonic wants to try to incorporate parts of his design into their existing office.
“When the year-end show is over, I’ll go back there and try to apply the ideas I used in the school project, revising them in the sense of a budget, and apply them to a real-case scenario,” says Faber.