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Concept and Visualization in Interior Design

Design concept in interior design, often viewed as solely an aesthetic or artistic concern, is actually capable of serving a much broader purpose in societies. Not only does design concept function on the artistic level of decoration, it can also serve to reflect changing attitudes and beliefs in a culture.

In the mid-1990's, researchers at the University of Southern California studied the changing design of hospitals in the United States, noting not only design changes, but possible connections in political and cultural changes. What they found was indicative of not just a style change in interior design, but of the changing beliefs and attitudes towards the medical profession in the U.S.

From the 1880's through the 1960's, hospitals underwent one of their most profound changes as they moved towards becoming more acceptable and common places for people to go to receive treatment and stopped being viewed solely as places associated with mortality. With this change in attitude came the classic, sterile hospital look that maximized the role of the physician and other medical professionals, while unwittingly minimizing patient comfort. In this model, technological and medical advances were of high importance, as were the needs of hospital staff, but patient care and comfort remained somewhat ignored in favor of the "clinical" design concept.

This design style began to change in the 1970's as healthcare became more competitive. During this time, the "shopping mall" hospital evolved to address patient demands and to make hospital stays more comfortable. These design changes also took into account the increase in outpatient services that came along with certain medical advances as well as changing attitudes surrounding issues of death and illness.

In the 1990's, a significant change again occurred, this time with hospitals treating patients and their families less as "clients" and more as "guests." In this newer model, spatial relationships became important in order to de-emphasize segregation between staff and patient and to provide community meeting areas.

While the effects of these changing design concepts on patient care remains unknown, what is clear is that changing interior design concepts in the hospital reflect changing attitudes and views in society as a whole. And what is even more interesting is that this phenomenon is not limited to the medical field either. As political and social views and norms change over time, these changes are often reflected in the physical world, making the interior design concept and its change over time not just an "artistic" study, but also a cultural one.

Conceptualization and Visualization

Conceptualization is the development of the philosophy and concepts that lead to a concrete design idea. It includes the process of inventing or contriving an idea or explanation and formulating it in your mind. Visualization is any technique for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate that idea. The concept of conceptualization and visualization go hand-in-hand in the design process; one leads to the other.

The Process

The design process begins with the ability to think, create, develop, and communicate ideas on the conceptual level. You will often employ the basics of designing, using your knowledge of color, light, fabrics, etc. to formulate an idea. Emphasis is placed on idea-making techniques through conceptual sketching and analysis. Well-developed drawing and visualization tools will enable an idea to come to fruition. You will use your skills to communicate a design idea through visual media. This might include using the following steps:

1. Strategic Planning - Gathering the necessary information and facts.
2. Conceptual Design - Devising an initial design concept.
3. Visualization - Developing detailed plans, sketches or drawings.


Software has evolved to aid in the visualization process. Visualization software has become a key tool for interior designers, and other design professionals, for bringing conceptualized ideas to life.

Computer programs used to exist in a two-dimensional world. CAD users were consequently pleased when the first commercially available systems were introduced that allowed them to display wireframe isometrics. Soon the wireframes grew into shades and shadows. Architects and designers began taking advantage of animation, simulation and photorealistic technologies. This led to virtual reality software, which allowed users to navigate, in real-time, around a virtual space.

The latest technology is collaborative engineering software that allows users to "meet" in a virtual conference room, and while looking at the same 3D model, make notes, take measurements and in some cases, even make changes. Education


As a design student, you will explore design-related principles and applications. You will gain the skills and knowledge to resolve design problems and effectively communicate concepts and solutions. You will gain a thorough understanding of research methods, design processes, elements and principles of design, conceptualization and visualization, creative problem solving, materials and media.

Schools to consider: