A thin veneer: Interior design's social compact

Khan, Zakkiya and Konigk, Raymund (2018) A thin veneer: Interior design's social compact. In: Standing Items: Critical pedagogies in South African art, design & architecture. Jacana Media, Johannesburg, pp. 46-48. ISBN 978-1-928440-21-5

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Interior design’s struggle to develop a sufficient social compact is considered in the context of the discipline’s nascent professionalisation. After interior design developed out of interior decoration it acquired some characteristics of a true profession (mainly a technical knowledge base, associations with higher education, and a public focus). However, its ontological origin as an arts-based practice remains. This practice is reliant on ‘good taste’, in which an essentially amateur activity is used as an instrument of class distinction. This renders the discipline unable to state its greater social contribution which is required to sustain a compact in which the privileges of professionalisation are counterbalanced by an endeavour to act in the public good. Subsequently, an attempt is made by academia to assert the discipline’s social contribution as a precursor to professionalisation. In a diversion from taste-making and decoration, a tacit compact is expressed by the introduction of topics such as human-centred design, well-being, and environmental sustainability. However, the pedagogic underpinnings which support the realities of commercial practice are diminished and the needs of the client and the end-user may be placed in opposition. We suggest that currently the social compact in interior design’s academic focus, although well-intentioned, is incompatible with the commercial realities of practice. The failure to resolve these contradictions results in graduates who are not able to apply the compact in conventional practice. This is counterproductive to professionalisation efforts since the discipline is unable to deliver its claimed expertise.

Our aim is to consider the origins of this conflict and its implications on interior design as an academic and professional discipline. This is in order to provide a mediated position in which the discipline may assert a credible social compact which is constructed on the basis of its ontology. In our self-identification as interior designers (who approach the discipline as students, practitioners, and academics) we undertake a heuristic enquiry. We generate novel insights by relating the self to our context. Our insights and opinions are supported and illustrated with empirical data, literature, and pertinent examples.

We argue that the constituent elements of interior design, namely taste-making, decoration and consumption, must be embraced and that the social compact be developed and applied in this realm. This would enable the identification of the compatibility between interior design’s ontological origins, its contribution to society, and its commercial value. This would effect an appropriate pedagogy, while contributing to interior design as a profession

Keywords:interior design, professionalisation, social compact, critical pedagogy
Subjects:X Education > X300 Academic studies in Education
W Creative Arts and Design > W250 Interior Design
W Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Design)
ID Code:35221
Deposited On:28 Feb 2019 14:03

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