We recently sat down for a Q&A with Liza Kuhn, a lecturer for our Interior Design Certificate. After receiving her MFA in Interior Design from the Parsons School of Design and her BA in Architecture from Princeton University, Kuhn worked at a boutique design-build studio in Princeton, New Jersey, before designing for AD100 interior design firms including Victoria Hagan and Pembrooke & Ives. She is part-time faculty at the Parsons School of Design, teaching interior design studios, professional practice courses, and design research seminars.
Why is Parsons the best place to study interior design?
Parsons is special for a lot of reasons. Almost all of the part-time faculty also practice as well, and many have their own firms, whether they’re big or small and many are based out of New York as well. So it’s a great network to be able to connect to potential internships or future employers, and wonderful people to learn from for research and kind of building your own education wherever you are.
Could you give us an overview of the Interior Design Certificate and its approach? Who does it serve?
The Parsons Interior Design Certificate is a set of eight core classes that gives students a fundamental overview of interior design, everything from basic drafting and space planning all the way down to color theory and client psychology.
How is the structure of the certificate program suitable for working professionals?
The structure of the interior design certificate is really suitable for working individuals because the online courses allow students to go at their own pace and to fulfill the assignments and go through the course lectures, at whatever pace they need. If their workload’s super heavy they can lighten from one week to the next.
How will this certificate enhance students' careers?
The interior design certificate really gives students those fundamentals that they need to start in the interior design industry. Things like knowing how to draw to scale, how to start to draft, how to put their ideas onto paper to present to a potential client, or to join a firm that’s already on its own.
What are the specifics of the technical skills and aesthetic building that students will learn in the certificate?
The core classes in the interior design certificate start around space planning and basic drafting. There are also possible electives to hone their skills in digital software modeling, things like AutoCad and SketchUp. Then the other side of that too is learning how to hone your aesthetic and artistic representation. So courses like color theory really help with that, plus some projects where you’re able to start to put together material palette and mood boards and things like that.
How much faculty interaction do the courses involve?
I think the beauty of the interior design certificate is that courses are really small. Each faculty has their own set of expertise. You have some from the residential design world, some from commercial.
In addition to having these online lectures, you often also have one-on-one critiques, often times over Zoom now. But there’s also opportunity to review with your peers and there’s digital review set-ups now that offer that collaboration that is very similar to a studio setting. The benefit of being able to have that one on one collaboration with the faculty and the peer is that it does simulate a studio. So you’re able to collaborate with your own team and then you also gain the skills to present your ideas, which you would do to pitch your own idea within your own company, or to also present your ideas to a client.
What takeaways are your students leaving with?
One big goal for our students is to have them have a really beautiful robust portfolio that they can take with them into the world. On top of that, the faculty really pride themselves on being great resources, and recommendations or reference points for students as they move into the industry. A lot of the Parsons faculty also practice locally which can provide a lot of design opportunities in the Manhattan area.
What sort of evolution do you tend to see in your students, when it comes to not only their technical abilities but their confidence?
One of the biggest intangibles that students really hone when they’re here is learning how to talk about design. It’s really hard, as individuals, we don’t typically, naturally have the right vocabulary to be able to articulate our ideas. So of course you can draw your ideas and that’s one really important method of representation. And that’s one of the biggest points of growth for our students. When a student, potential employee, or designer is confident in articulating their ideas, they’re that much more likely to to get the job, or to get that client, and to really start their way on their own career path.
Watch our interview with Liza Kuhn and student Kelly Donaghue
Could you give us a sense of the landscape of the interior design field right now?
Given the current climate I think it’s a perfect time to come into the interior design industry. People are spending a lot of time at home these days, we’re spending a lot of time with family and loved ones. There’s more attention than ever put on the time spent in our home. The interior design industry is really kind of at the forefront. On the flip side, commercial interiors are undergoing a kind of a revolution of their own. Office spaces are changing, academic spaces are changing. So for those designers that are interested in the commercial side as well, there’s a ton of opportunity to really make a mark there.
The industry’s always changing in response to technological advancements, which is something that Parsons does really well. We are always learning new software, whether it’s SketchUp or Revit or something that’s not even invented yet.
Interior design is at a position right now where we’re challenging the norms. Office spaces are also becoming educational facilities and retail spaces are spilling onto sidewalks, which puts us at really a wonderful opportunity as the designer to start thinking outside the box.
Is this a scary time? Is it a hopeful time, an exciting time?
I think it’s the most magical time to enter the interior design industry. It’s a little bit unknown, which is daunting and potentially scary. But at the same time we’re entering into an untapped world of potential, which means that we as designers have an opportunity to create some things that have never been done before.
What drew you to interior design? How do you frame that knowledge and experience in the classroom?
I fell in love with interiors because I love working with people. I love homes. I love what it means to design a home, and to really take families on this journey of creating a space that’s perfect and safe for them, while also representing their aesthetic beliefs. So in my own teaching as well, what I try to do with my students is to really get them to understand the process of actually having a project built. How do you take a client on that journey with you? How do you educate them? How do you let them know what’s coming down the road, while also making it as enjoyable and stress-free as possible? Being able to combine that real-world practical experience with the technical side and the design development creative side helps students have a well-rounded approach to presenting their own design ideas.
What is the Parsons ethos that is present in the Certificate Program?
The Parsons Interior Design ethos is really doing good design, meaning doing good for the community, doing good for the environment, and also making sure that it’s beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as well and really marrying those two together. Parsons is really at the forefront of environmental sustainability, material health, and as a student coming to the program you’re really able to tap into those opportunities.
If you are an aspiring interior designer looking to build foundational skills in interior design concepts, enroll now in our Interior Design Certificate. This certificate program develops your understanding of spatial and structural design through two- and three-dimensional drawing and sketching, hand drafting, and computer modeling.