Interior Design

Program description

Interior design at WMU is a multi-disciplinary course of study that includes courses in art, business and interior design. This comprehensive program addresses the aesthetic, functional, historic, and social aspects of the interior design profession.

Graduates of the program are equipped to creatively design interior spaces that are functional and attractive. They are trained to meet all public health, safety, and welfare requirements including code, accessibility, environmental and sustainability standards. They are also prepared to enter the business of interior design.

Mission statement

The interior design program at Western Michigan University is a research based program that prepares students to enhance the quality of life through design.


The interior design program is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The accreditation assures the public that our graduates are prepared "to be responsible, well-informed, skilled professionals who make beautiful, safe and comfortable spaces that also respect the earth and its resources."

The interior design program is also included in WMU's Art and Design program accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Admission requirements

Admission to the pre-interior design program

Freshmen and transfer students may be admitted to the university as pre-interior design majors. The Office of Admissions and Orientation grants admission to Western Michigan University for undergraduate students.

Admission to the professional interior design program

In the fourth semester, students in the pre-interior design program will submit to a review, which is the basis for selective admission to the upper division of the curriculum. This review takes place annually toward the end of the spring semester. The purpose of the review is to encourage excellence in design and to recognize those students best prepared for the challenge of the upper level interior design sequence of courses.

To qualify for the upper design courses, students must submit an application, meet the minimum cumulative GPA in interior design courses of 3.0, and make a formal presentation of their work. The application will include a statement detailing why they are interested in the field of interior design and what they perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses as a student of design. Application materials may also include an essay (topic to be selected by the faculty). In a 20-minute presentation to the interior design faculty, each student will present examples of their work that showcase their abilities in design, drafting, perspective and free-hand drawing, and rendering.

Up to eighteen (18) students will be selected from the portfolio review applicants each year to continue in the upper level in the interior design program. Students who are denied advancement may retake courses or redo projects before reapplying for portfolio review the following spring semester.

Advisory board

Yvonne VanWormer, Interior Designer, Custer Office Environments, Kalamazoo
Diana Schimpf, Interior Designer, Custer Office Interiors, Kalamazoo
Craig Boeve, Sales Representative, Interface Inc., Grand Rapids
Debbie Patterson, Interior Designer, TMP Associates, Portage
Rick Wordell, Architect, Eckert-Wordell Architects, Kalamazoo
Kelly Timmermans, Maharam, Kalamazoo


A career in interior design is filled with creative challenges and constant learning opportunities. It involves a commitment to developing environments that support life, living and work in a positive way that not only contributes to the desired image, but also enhances performance and productivity. Graduate career opportunities include:

  • Residential designers developing the interiors of single family detached homes, apartments and condominiums.
  • Commercial designers developing the design of offices, financial institutions, retail, hospitality and entertainment establishments, recreational facilities, health care, public and government institutions and specialized areas such as set design for TV/theatre/film, exhibitions and kiosks.
  • Employment with architectural and design firms, in interior/facilities management divisions of large corporations, in retailing home furnishings and in marketing positions and showroom management.

What does an interior designer do?

Interior design is a multi-faceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive.

Responsibilities of the professional interior designer include:

  • Research and analysis of the client's goals and requirements.
  • Development of documents, drawings and diagrams that outline those needs.
  • Formulation of preliminary space plans and two and three dimensional design concept studies and sketches that integrate the client's program needs and are based on knowledge of the principles of interior design the theories of human behavior.
  • Confirmation of the preliminary plans and concepts are safe, functional, aesthetically appropriate and meet all public health, safety and welfare requirements, including code, accessibility, environmental and sustainability guidelines.
  • Selection of colors, materials and finishes to appropriately convey the design concept and to meet socio-psychological, functional, maintenance, life-cycle performance, environmental and safety requirements.
  • Selection and specification of furniture, fixtures, equipment and millwork, including layout drawings and detailed product description; also provide the contract documentation to facilitate pricing, procurement and installation of furniture.
  • Provide project management services, including preparation of project budgets and schedules.
  • Preparation of construction documents, consisting of plans, elevations, details and specification to illustrate non-structural and/or non-seismic partition layouts; power and communications locations; reflected ceiling plans and lighting designs; materials and finishes; and furniture layouts.
  • Preparation of construction documents to adhere to regional building and fire codes, municipal codes and any other jurisdictional statutes, regulations and guidelines applicable to the interior space.
  • Coordination and collaboration with other allied design professionals who may be retained to provide consulting services, including but not limited to architects, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers and various specialty consultants.
  • Confirmation that construction documents for non-structural and/or non-seismic construction are signed and sealed by the responsible interior designer, as applicable to jurisdictional requirements for filing with code enforcement officials.
  • Administration of contract documents, bids and negotiations as the client's agent.
  • Observation and reporting on the implementation of projects while in progress and upon completion as a representative of and on behalf of the client and conducting post-occupancy evaluation reports.

This definition is endorsed by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.


The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) administers an exam that tests designers’ knowledge and skill. Designers must have a combination of six years of education and experience to sit for the exam. Interior designers who pass the exam show that they meet standards for professional competency in the interior design profession. Some states require this certification to use the title "Interior Designer." Many interior designers also earn LEED accreditation through professional experience and an exam administered by the Green Building Council.


For class listings, program guides and other resources, visit the advising page for the interior design major.


Field experience

FCS 2020 field experience (three credits)

Interior design majors are required to earn three semester credits by completing 300 hours of supervised field experience with interior design, architectural, facilities management and retail firms. Field experience offers students the opportunity to apply theories and principles from their academic program to real world situations, as well as gain valuable work experience. Field experience may be completed during the fall, spring or summer sessions.

To plan a field experience, contact Dr. Barbara Frazier.

Frequently asked questions

  1. My goal is to be an interior decorator. Is this the right major for me?
    No. Western Michigan University does not offer a major in interior decoration; only an interior design program. It is quite common for people to be confused about the difference between these two professions. An interior decorator may or may not have a formal education in interior design. Their jobs usually involve the recommendation of finishes and furnishings within an existing space. For example, they may recommend fabric for a piece of furniture or the replacement of a floorcovering. An interior designer is qualified by education, experience, and examination to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces for the purpose of improving the quality of life, increasing productivity and protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.
  2. Once I have started the interior design program, how long will it take me to complete my degree?
    The interior design program is a four-year degree. The coursework is sequential and most classes are taught only once a year. Students accepted into the program must begin the program during the fall term.
  3. What are the performance expectations?
    The interior design program at Western Michigan University is a professional program. Many interior design courses are in a laboratory or studio format and are very labor intensive. They each require between three and seven hours of weekly in-class time, plus a minimum of twice that or six to fourteen hours outside of class time per week.

    The interior design program has an attendance policy which states that attendance is expected at all class meetings. Grade reductions may be given for more than three absences in excess in a semester.

    Students who wish to continue in the professional interior design program are required to participate in portfolio review at the end of the fourth semester. In order to do this, the student must have completed specified classes with a minimum 3.0 GPA and achieved a WMU overall grade point average of 2.5 or greater. See the portfolio review policy for a complete explanation.
  4. What else should I expect in this program?
    As explained above, interior design is a time intensive major. Current full time students report having very limited time for work and social or extracurricular activities. They do develop close relationships with other students in the program.

    Also, students must budget resources for tools and supplies in addition to textbooks. This can be costly. Students should understand that they are making an investment in their future careers as well as their success as students.
  5. Will I need a computer?
    Interior design students use computers frequently for their course work. Computer labs are available in the department as well as at other locations in the university. If you are planning to purchase a computer, use the specifications below to guide your decisions:
    • Intel® Pentium® 4 1.4 GHz or equivalent
    • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
    • 2 GB swap space (4 GB recommended)
    • 3 GB free hard drive space
    • Direct3D® 10 technology, Direct3D 9, or OpenGL-capable graphics card
    • 512 MB or higher video card memory (1 GB or higher recommended)
    • Three-button mouse with mouse driver software
    • DVD-ROM drive
    • Internet connection
  6. Are there high school courses that I should take that would contribute to my success in the ITD program?
    Yes. A solid college preparatory background of high school courses that includes math and the sciences is important and helpful. Also, courses such as architectural drawing, art drawing and computer-aided design (CAD) involve skills that take time to develop. Students usually find prior coursework in these areas enhances their progress through the interior design program.
  7. Must I start the program during fall semester?
    Yes. Admission to interior design is for fall semester only. The program is a highly sequenced one and most classes involve prerequisites. Since many courses are only offered once a year, it is important that students begin in the fall semester. This applies to incoming freshmen and transfer students.
  8. I am a Western Michigan University student. Can I transfer into the interior design program?
    Yes. WMU students desiring to transfer into the interior design program may transfer as pre-interior design majors. They only need to declare interior design as a major and meet with a College of Education and Human Development academic advisor. Transfer students should anticipate that additional semesters of study will be required.
  9. Can I transfer into the interior design program from another school?
    Students desiring to transfer into the interior design program must have a transferable grade point average (GPA) of 2.8 (on a 4.0 scale) or higher as computed by WMU Admissions. A student transferring from another school must be accepted by the University Transfer students should anticipate that it will take them four years at WMU to complete the required sequence of courses.
  10. Can I transfer coursework from another interior design program at another university or community college?
    Interior design coursework from another school or university is not always directly comparable. It is possible that coursework will transfer. Check a list of equivalents from Michigan Community Colleges. To determine if other interior design coursework will transfer as an exact equivalent, please contact the interior design program coordinator at Western Michigan University. Usually you will be asked to supply a course syllabus and project work as well as a transcript for review before a particular interior design course will be considered as an exact equivalent of an Interior Design course at WMU.

Portfolio review

During the fourth semester in the program, students in the pre-interior design program will then submit to a portfolio review which is the basis for selective admission to the upper division of the curriculum. The purpose of the review is to encourage excellence in design and recognize those students best prepared for the challenges of the upper level sequence of courses.

Note: Admission to the pre-interior design program does not guarantee the student will be admitted to the upper division of the curriculum.

Student work

View student work