Interior Architecture (BFA)
In Columbia College Chicago's Interior Architecture program, you'll develop a professional portfolio and a skill set that will prepare you to design interior space. Our program integrates the worlds of manual and digital project work, and the conceptual with the practical. You'll develop an understanding of the creative design process, including research and analysis. Your learning is focused in the design studio, where you'll develop solutions to a variety of project types and gain an understanding of your eventual professional focus.
You'll learn how to design spaces for safety, functionality, and aesthetics. You'll develop a deep working knowledge of human needs, materials, structures, planning, building systems, and building codes. After you graduate, you'll qualify to take the required National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam for licensure.
The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is an international non-profit organization that accredits postsecondary interior design education programs in the United States and Canada. A rigorous evaluation process demonstrated that Columbia College Chicago's program meets standards set by industry experts. It's a stamp of approval indicating that we'll prepare you for the current industry.
In the Classroom
In addition to shared art and design foundation courses, you'll spend your first year exploring the practice of interior architecture. Introductory courses on the industry, design thinking, and human-centered design will help you understand the role of interior architecture in society through case studies, guest speakers, and interactive exercises.
You'll take specialized courses that will give you hands-on experience with research, materials, construction, lighting, building codes, drafting, and documentation.
Our studio design courses are the heart of the program. These hands-on experiences are designed to reflect a professional interior architecture/design studio, in which you'll research, plan, and prototype projects in a variety of contexts.
You'll take courses on professional practices and portfolio development specifically designed for the field. You'll learn about developing creative solutions for a client's spatial requirements, business structures, project management, and communication. Your faculty mentors will prepare you for the licensure process and help you organize your body of work around your specific career goals and areas of expertise.
In your final studio course during your last semester, you’ll apply all the skills, knowledge, and experience to a real-world project. You'll select a client, a building, and a site—real clients, often—and develop a professional project proposal. Your final presentation in front of guests from the Chicago architecture and design community will give you the chance to experience how critique works in the real world.
Chicago: An Architecture Icon
Chicago is one of the most iconic cities in the world for architecture and design. Chicago is home to the Chicago Architecture Center, the Merchandise Mart, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, along with prominent professional organizations and lecture series. Many of your courses will bring professionals into the classroom from this vibrant community. And, you'll often have opportunities to visit and tour architecture firms and design studios throughout the city.
Internships are required and critically important to eventual professional success. During your fifth semester, you’ll take a course to prepare your portfolio for internships, and you’ll likely be interning with firms during your last three semesters in the program.
Companies employing Columbia interns have consistently been pleased with our students’ approach to projects and the skills and abilities brought to bear in project development. Faculty connections lead to many internship opportunities, and listings are shared through the department’s social media; there are typically more internship opportunities than available interns.
Students have interned at firms such as:
- RGLA, one of the top 15 retail design firms in America
- Perkins + Will Global, an award-winning firm known for its legacy of design excellence
- GREC Architects, a firm that is known for its collaborative team environment
- Designs 4 Dignity, a pro-bono firm that uses donated materials to transform nonprofit spaces
Interior Architecture faculty members are professional architects and designers in addition to passionate educators. They conduct important research for the field on topics such as sustainability and experimental design.
Tim Cozzens has nearly 30 years of professional experience and is president of workshop/Cozzens, a design-build studio specializing in custom spaces and objects. He has taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, Penland School of Crafts, and Northern Illinois University. Previous professional design experience includes positions at Perkins + Will, Swanke Hayden Connell, DesignBridge, The Environments Group, and ISD Incorporated.
Rene King is president of the board of directors of the Illinois chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). She has professional experience with nationally-recognized firms including BOX Studios.
Joclyn Oats is the owner of Joclyn Oats/Architecture & Interiors, a practice specializing in residential and commercial architecture and interior design. She is co-founder of Architecture Studio Camp, an urban creative classroom program for Chicago middle and high school students.
Petra Probstner has worked as an architect and designer in Glasgow, Kecskemet, London, Buffalo, and Chicago focusing on experimental, human-centered design both in built projects as well as award-winning competition entries. She has been a visiting lecturer/juror at many prestigious universities such as Royal College of Art, Metropolitan University of London, Parsons School of Design, and Pratt Institute.
“The fact that my professors worked in the field was critical for me. And because the professors were practitioners, it led to a deep network.”
Michelle McMinn MFA ’06
Columbia Interior Architecture alumni frequently join interior design or architectural firms across the metropolitan region. Our graduates work at firms such as:
- Aria Group Architects
- Perkins + Will
- Designs 4 Dignity
- Susan Fredman Design
- Studio Gang Architects
- Studio O+A
- Crate and Barrel
Other alumni do entrepreneurial or sales work, and some pursue advanced education and graduate school.
Jordyn Hunter ’16 is design and logistics coordinator at Designs For Dignity, a Chicago-based firm that works with nonprofits to provide pro-bono design solutions.
Brian Wiley ’16 is a lighting designer at Schuler Shook, a firm specializing in theatre and architectural lighting projects such as the Chicago Riverwalk and Hyatt’s global headquarters.
Kelai Diebel ’12 is design manager at MOSS, an Amsterdam-based sustainable design firm specializing on rooftop landscapes, greenhouses, and urban farming concepts.
Michael Bonomo ’99 is principal and director of global workplace for CannonDesign, a global design firm that unites architects, engineers, industry experts, and builders around the world.
Chris Bennett ’09 is a design team member at Studio Gang Architects, legendary architect Jeanne Gang’s studio, where he works on urban design practice.
Student Achievement Data
84 percent of the students who graduated between May 2016 and December 2016 were employed within six months of graduation in interior design or a related field.
Acceptance to Graduate Programs
One student applied and was accepted into graduate school between May 2016 and December 2016.
51 percent of the students who completed the program in 2016 graduated in four years.
71 percent of the students enrolled in fall 2015 semester returned in fall 2016, with an attrition rate of 29 percent.