8 minute read
Design School Diaries -Post 3
All aboard, Baddies. We’re taking a trip.
History of Interior Design was one of my favorite units in my interior design course, and that is actually saying a lot!
As a ‘designer-type‘ or even possibly hopeful future designer, you might not think about history as being that useful to the practice of design.
After all, if you skipped learning about the history of interior design, you’d still be able to design stuff. Am I right?
We actually know this to be true, because plenty of people do it successfully all the time (I’m looking at you, game designers).
However, I’ll let you in on a secret.
All of the very best interior designers out there know their architectural, art and design history – well!
The Only Thing We Learn from History is that No One Likes to Learn History
Okay, I’m paraphrasing. That’s not how it goes. Arnold Toynbee (a famous British historian) was supposed to have said: “The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history.”
I believe he was referring to humankind’s inability to keep getting into wars with one another.
Luckily what we’re going to learn about is a little bit more fun.
When it came to my understanding of history in the broad sense, I felt pretty confident about my knowledge base when I started my course.
I remember when I first looked over the contents of this history unit and the assignments that would be due. I was a little underwhelmed.
It was all essays.
Of course it, was, this was history and that meant we’d be looking through musty encyclopedias and cobweb-covered books and trying to make out things we recognised in them!
Not gonna lie. I was fairly well convinced that this wasn’t going to be any fun.
In our previous materials unit we learned about material properties, applications and safety, which was the “dry” stuff, but we also got to do some early actual “design” work.
Now going into the second unit it looked like the history unit was only going to be dates and facts.
Looking back on this unit, I’m happy to say that this is not how it ended up.
It turned out that getting up and personal with history using the very different lens of interior design (rather than, say, politics) was actually fascinating and despite myself, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The Benefits of Learning Your Interior Design History
Okay, you say, ‘So what’s so great about interior design history and why do we want to know about it?’
What follows are five reasons why you should absolutely want a free pass on my interior design machine.
Once you see the places we’re going, you might decide that you need your own time machine!
At the very least, if you stick with this for a little while you’ll be having more interesting conversations at house parties, guaranteed.
5 Reasons You Should Want an Interior Design Time Machine
- There is wisdom hidden in the past for those who are willing to find it
- If you don’t know a lot about history in general, learning interior design history will give you a colorful viewpoint for learning about many important world events that have shaped our lives
- The history of interior design, art and architecture are important humanities subjects with many applications
- Knowledge of interior design history helps you to understand styles in architecture, interiors, furniture, decor and art
- Knowing some interior design history allows you to see things that other people often don’t see in movies
Here are the five reasons in greater detail:
1. Glean the Wisdom of the Past
The first reason you will want an interior design time machine is because, basically, human history is a goldmine.
The past is chock-full of Easter eggs and treasure. There are tons of surprises for you to dig up along the way!
If you have the idea that human beings of the past were somehow inferior to the NBA playing, NFL draft-picking and NHL goal-scoring humans we look up to today, you’d be wrong.
Try Alexander the Great, Brunalesci and Napoleon on for size. And we haven’t even gotten to the artists, yet.
2. Brush Up Your General History Knowledge
I realize that there are people who enjoy history. For many people, however, this may be one of those subjects that never really grabbed you in school.
Likely, you didn’t have a way of relating it to your life at the time, so it just wasn’t interesting to you.
Not only is the history of interior design so much more enjoyable for some of us artistic types than, say, the history of gunpowder, but if you totally snoozed during history class, you have the chance to make some of those lost points up now.
History is all intertwined.
Focus on what you are interested in history, and in my experience , you will pick the rest of it up along the way.
Interior design is mixed in with the history of empires, civilizations, kings, queens, peasants, industries and a bunch of social movements down the line.
There’s plenty of variety to keep you entertained and learning valuable information that you can apply in the real world.
3. Get a Leg Up on a Creative Career
When it comes to my first name, I have my mom’s art history major to thank. Saskia was the wife of the Dutch renaissance artist Rembrandt, and the subject of many of his oil paintings.
If you have heard of the Dutch Golden Age artist Rembrandt van Rijn, your art history recall ability is above average.
If, on the other hand, you have never heard of Vincent van Gogh and the impressionist movement, you need an art history crash course, now!
It would be hard to understand what is happening in art right now, and in the world of NFTs, if you don’t know anything about the art world.
Knowing some basic art history helps to set you up to understand current day events and the value behind objects which may not seem to have inherent value, and yet do.
If you’d like to work in the interior design field, the chances that you will come in contact with art and antique dealers, estate auctions, flea markets and private collectors, is high. You will also frequenty work with architects.
The great thing about interior design history is how it is woven in with other important stories. Most notable are the histories of art and architecture.
Interior design could not really exist without industry, craftspeople, art and architecture. While interior design tells its own unique story, you will learn a ton about these neighboring fields.
I should add that the history of graphic design is an important and useful segway, too.
Should you later decide that pursuing a careeer in interior design is not for you, you will still have some incredibly valuable knowledge tucked under your belt.
Want to be a consultant, a curator or a guide? Interior design history could be a steppingstone to several other interesting positions in the creative fields.
4. Understand Home and Furniture Styles
Interior design has a rich history that is hard to appreciate if you only ever barely scratch the surface.
There is so much to learn and to know, and for that reason alone, it is worth our time to investigate.
A very concrete reason to get interested in the aesthetics and fashions of the past is so that you can understand what you’re looking at right now, today.
You will have much better context for all of the layers in interiors in these modern times when you are familiar with the items’ evolution and where it came from originally.
It can even help you avoid making rookie mistakes, like calling something by the wrong name or confusing it’s cultural heritage.
Know the rules before you break them, my friends.
Breaking the rules and coming off successful by accident is a stroke of luck, but when you have done it deliberately it can be a stroke of pure genius.
5. Impress People with Your Movie Insights
Use this one in moderation. It really is mostly for fun, but you might just be amazed what you’ll notice when you watch movies after taking up interior design history.
Once you start learning about the origins of interior design styles you’ll literally be seeing them everywhere!
I got really excited the first time I recognised something from a history class in a period movie I was watching.
I haven’t taken movie sets as much for granted since learning interior design.
Imagine being in charge of getting those elaborate sets right – not to mention the cosutme design, the opening graphic sequences and the choreography. How about them storyboard artists?
Yes, people, designers of every variety are amazing.
They are what make our world as interesting and as beautiful as it is.
There is also so much wisdom in the past, as well as plenty of interesting stories on the way.
A lot of interior design’s most influential history is recent enough for us to visit many of the places we learn about, or at very least, to be able to find amazing pictures and websites for.
What stories will you discover on this trip on our interior design time machine?
I hope that they empower you to start telling your own design story.
In our next installment of Design School Diaries we will be moving laterally to the first article on the third unit I studied in interior design school, Drafting.
Our next history article will be an overview of the periods covered in the History of Interior Design.
Happy design learning, Baddies.
If you missed our first “Materials” unit post, you can catch up here: