About Interior Design

Interior design is the total creative solution for a programmed interior. It encompasses the conceptual planning, aesthetic and technical solutions applied to achieve the desired result. By “programmed interior” is meant a specific intended purpose or use of the built environment.

Interior design concerns itself with more than just the visual or ambient enhancement of an interior space, it seeks to optimize and harmonize the uses to which the built environment will be put to use. Thus, in the words of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is “practical, aesthetic and conductive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity, selling merchandise, or improving life style”.

For more information, watch the ASID “Impact of Design” video on ASID’s Vimeo Channel and read the definition of interior design developed by the Council for Interior Design Qualification.

Many factors come into play in formulating the design solution. There is the space itself – its dimensions and construction – with its potential and its limitations. There is how the space will be used – for work or leisure, entertainment or worship, healing or learning. There is the meaning of the space, what it signifies, be it power, authority, security, wisdom, achievement, playfulness or serenity. There are practical considerations, like ease of access, amount of light, acoustics, seating and places to store or set things down. There are health and safety considerations, attention to special needs, and more.

The elements of design range from the visual (color, lighting, form) to the tactile (surface, shape, texture) to the auditory (noise, echo). The designer must have an aesthetic, practical and technical appreciation for these elements. He or she must understand how people use and respond to these elements, not just individually but as the elements interact with one another.

In addition to the functional and aesthetic benefits derived from well designed spaces, interior design also contributes to quality of life and well being. It supports and enhances our ability to work, learn, communicate, interact, reflect and heal.

For more than a decade, interior design has been evolving as our appreciation of the reciprocal relationship between us and our environment has expanded. Sick building syndrome, the green movement and ergonomic concerns have raised awareness that how we design and furnish our environments matters. At the same time, research into cognition and the nature of consciousness has deepened our understanding of the link between behavior and environment. Go here to access case studies that illustrate some of the many ways interior design can be employed to address specific physical, psychological, social and economic needs, thus meeting both practical and strategic requirements of clients and occupants.


Designers often specialize in one or more specific types of interior design. Some designers specialize in only residential or commercial (or, contract) projects, but many designers do both residential and commercial projects of various kinds.

Residential interior design focuses on the design, professional design team coordination, planning, budgeting, specifying/purchasing and furnishings installation of private homes, including the specialty areas of the kitchen, bath, home theater, home office, and custom product design. Interior projects include new construction, renovation, historic renovation and model homes, with expertise in universal and sustainable design.

Commercial / Contract
Commercial, sometimes also referred to as contract, design focuses on the design, professional design team coordination, planning, budgeting, specifying/purchasing and furnishings installation of interior environments used for commercial, government or educational purposes. Many designers specialize in one or more of the following areas of commercial design:

Entertainment design brings together the use of interiors, lighting, sound and other technologies for movies, television, videos, dramatic and musical theater, clubs, concerts, theme parks and industrial projects.

Facilities Management
A facilities manager develops schedules for building upkeep and maintenance, addressing safety and health issues and lighting and acoustics needs. A facilities manager also plans and coordinates office moves or expansions, and serves as project manager during construction or renovation.

Government / Institutional
A government designer is familiar with the very specific needs and requirements associated with working with government agencies, such as military bases, federal buildings or government offices. An institutional designer focuses on projects such as child care, educational, religious, correctional and recreational facilities, fire and police stations, courts, embassies, libraries, auditoriums, museums and transportation terminals.

Health Care
Health care designers create environments for hospitals; clinics; examination rooms; surgical suites; mobile units; hospice care homes; nursing, assisted living or long term care facilities; or any other health care environment.

Hospitality / Restaurant
Hospitality design focuses on environments that entertain or host the public, including nightclubs, restaurants, theaters, hotels, city and country clubs, golf facilities, cruise ships and conference facilities.

Office design focuses on the public and private areas utilized by corporate and professional service firms.

Retail / Store Planning
Retail design and store planning concentrate on retail venues, including boutiques, department stores, outlets, showrooms, food retailing centers and shopping malls.

The following are not design specialties, but rather approaches to design that cut across design specialties.

Sustainable Design
Also referred to as “green” design or “eco-design,” sustainable design is concerned with the environmental/ecological, economic, ethical and social aspects and impacts of design. Go here to find out more about Sustainable Design.

Universal Design
An extension of “barrier-free” design, universal design employs products and solutions originally developed for individuals with disabilities to increase ease of use, access, safety and comfort for all users. Go here to find out more about Universal Design.

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