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What is the Difference between a Degree in Interior Design and Interior Architecture?

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Interior Architect

Interior architects share a lot with interior designers in the services they provide for clients. Interior architecture focuses on the actual architecture of the building and its construction. You may choose furnishings for interior space, as well as design windows, molding and other decorative finishes. Students will also learn technical issues like making old buildings safe from environmental hazards. Essentially this means that students of interior architecture will learn how to design indoor spaces that are both functional and attractive.

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Interior Designer

Interior Design developed from within Architecture and really began, as a distinct discipline, around the 14th – 16th centuries when the Renaissance gained prominence and spread across Europe. Today’s Interior Designers do more than help clients choose color palettes, furniture, and textiles in order to decorate a space. The modern-day Interior Designer is a much more complex job role. The profession has evolved as a discipline that interacts with almost all other areas of the design industry (for example, Architects, Furniture Designers/Makers, Surface Pattern and Textile Designers, Product Designers, and Graphic Designers).

Responsibilities

In order to be successful as an IA, you should be ready to learn about how to preserve and restore old buildings. This field requires extensive knowledge of architectural design and style throughout history and today. It is imperative that you understand building codes and safety regulations. A student will be able to build both physical and virtual models and draw plans of their own designs to scale. Perseverance and determination are important characteristics for graduates. You may need to draw and redraw interior plans to suit the desires of a client.

Interior designers, as with IAs, must be able must be able to read blueprints, understand building and fire codes, and know how to make space accessible to people who are disabled. Similarly, designers frequently collaborate with architects, electricians, and building contractors to ensure that designs are safe and meet construction requirements/codes.

Education

A major in Interior Design will study light, color, form, space, furnishings, and various aspects of built environments. You’ll study the basics of three-dimensional design, space planning, and perspective. In addition, you will study color theory, different kinds of materials and patterns, and computer-aided design. Some students in interior design programs choose classes in barrier-free design or sustainable design, anticipating careers in which they can create accessible structures for people with disabilities or minimize a building’s environmental impact. Core classes might cover problem-solving skills, two- and three-dimensional communication, and professional conduct, as well as building systems and interior finish materials.

A sampling of typical courses for a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design:

  • Rendering and Illustration
  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Programming & Space Planning
  • Textiles
  • Lighting
  • Residential Design
  • Human Factors and Psychology of Design
  • Materials and Resources
  • Advanced Computer-Aided Design

A sampling of courses in a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Architecture:

  • Structures (concrete)
  • Elements of Interior Architecture: Theory of design principles, aesthetics, and concepts
  • Environmental Controls: Design of Environmentally Buildings
  • General Physics
  • Materials and Methods of Construction
  • History of Interior Architecture

Despite the overall differences in the coursework, there is one area of study that IA and ID share a similarity. The IA programs that include coursework in Interior Design impart much the same knowledge. For example, an IA bachelor’s degree studies the design of residential interiors including space planning, lighting design, selections of materials and furniture. As in interior design coursework, the emphasis is on the aesthetic and functional needs of the family and residents with special needs.

Another similarity between the two is in the study of color. The IA program makes color sound scientific. For example, a course titled Color Theory and Technology: Color technology and its impact on a variety of scientific and design-oriented fields are discussed. Emphasis is on the spectrophotometric measurement of color and the use of computer technology to create, analyze, and match color.

In an Interior Design bachelor’s degree, the curriculum might integrate the study of color with other elements affecting the decor. For example, a course titled Light Color Design Lag examines the experience of light and its influence on color. Through a series of cumulative exercises, students explore how color and design are interlinked. The skills and concepts mastered in this course allow students to conceive and create work that applies color and design with purpose.

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not recognize the occupation of the interior architect, only the interior designer. This latter profession has a median income of $51,500 (May 2017) with a Bachelor’s degree. Salaries for interior architects fluctuate greatly depending on the location and firm you work in and the education you possess. According to 2018 data posted on PayScale.com, the median salary for design architects was $59,000. However, a design architect requires a degree in architecture. Therefore, the median salary for an interior designer and interior architect will be similar.

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