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Learning How to Design

Sarah Grace Tatum presents her team's plan to the ASPIRE Clinic representative .
Sarah Grace Tatum presents her team's plan to the ASPIRE Clinic representative. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

What is design? How do you brainstorm and come up with ideas? How do you execute those ideas?

Helping students figure out the answers to those questions is Lilia Gomez-Lanier, associate professor of textiles, merchandising, and interiors in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS). “Even though you might have a different area of design where you’re designing products for home or for apparel, it’s the same process,” she says. “You have to understand the client, what are they asking for, and where are they coming from, and then explore and finalize your ideas.”

Her students work on practical projects that prepare them to jump right into the design world after graduation. On one recent project, students worked in teams to develop of a variety of redesigns for UGA’s ASPIRE Clinic, a holistic counseling and education service for the UGA and Athens communities.

After meeting with ASPIRE Clinic coordinator Megan Ford, students developed new layouts, determined color palettes, and sourced furniture and accessories to optimize the clinic’s floorplan and maximize functionality.

FACS isn’t the only option for budding interior designers at UGA.

The Lamar Dodd School of Art also boasts an interior design program, with a heavy focus on creativity and fine arts knowledge.

“We try very hard to communicate to students that what we’re doing is creating experiences,” says Tad Gloeckler, interior design chair and professor of art. “To do that, you need to understand natural and artificial light, proportion, movement through space, construction, color, materials. That’s what it takes to be a very good designer. You need to work with the details and understand how materials go together, and you must have a vision for what the experience of the building will be.”

The program is also focused on practicality, incorporating the business side of design into its coursework and requiring an internship for graduation.

“The art of design is applied art,” says Saral Surakul, interior design co-chair and associate professor of art. “Beginning with art creates a very good foundation for students to understand aesthetics. Our students are required to take studio art classes, and those help expand their creative horizons.”

Graduates from both programs go on to work in commercial design, found their own firms, or even go into urban planning. The possibilities are really endless.

“There’s a misconception of what interior design is all about,” says Surakul. “We have HGTV and it’s nice to watch that on TV, but that’s not all that we do. When you hire a designer, you’re not just hiring a decorator. You’re getting someone to come in and really improve your quality of life, whether it’s residential or commercial.”