Interior Design is not considered a STEM career, but it does rely on some Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. For example, math and geometry skills are helpful in calculating measurements, understanding 3-dimensional spaces, and computer-aided drafting. Technology has brought about a variety of software programs for sketching, drawing and modeling. Science and engineering are extremely valuable in creating the materials, products, and building systems that interior designers use.
The interior design industry is always looking for innovative new products to solve problems such as making buildings more space-efficient, durable, energy-efficient, green and sustainable. Savvy interior designers aim for environmental sensitivity and healthy interior environments with access to daylight, natural views, and clean indoor air. In all these ways, STEM careers can be involved in interior design.
STEM Lab Design
Interior design definitely comes into play when designing STEM classrooms and labs. These dynamic learning spaces are adaptable, flexible, mobile and ergonomic. STEM interior design involves careful planning of layout and furniture to accommodate technology workstations that allow for flexibility as activities change, with accessibility to power and data.
STEM teacher Dennis Meyers of Hillcrest Middle School in Glendale, Arizona, said the addition of a new STEM lab and classroom made a significant difference in his teaching. “The layout of the room really allows for extensive research, computer designs, collaboration, and construction,” he explained. “The open space allows me to facilitate learning and still allow for students to critically think and be creative.”
According to school furniture manufacturer SmithSystem, many designers prefer the “three room” approach: “Room One” is the classroom where students focus primarily on math and engineering. “Room Two” is the lab, where the focus is science and technology. “Room Three” is the commons, where students freely collaborate and learn from each other.
STEM Classroom Goals
A main goal of STEM is to inspire students to inquire, investigate, and innovate in teams. Anne Jolly, author of STEM By Design, wrote that it’s important to energize students into becoming innovative thinkers and collaborators with the following skills:
- Creative Thinking
- Productive Teamwork
- Generating Multiple Ideas
Interior Concepts lists the common components of STEM classrooms that support the focus on collaboration and innovation:
- A traditional lecture space
- A workshop/hands-on area
- Areas for students to charge electronic devices, typically standing or stool height
- Perimeter computer workstations
- Mobile workstations
- Separate areas for lectures, computer, and group work
- Modular furniture that can be arranged in various ways
- Unique shape tables
- Tables with white board tops
- Comfortable, sturdy seating
- Space to safely leave or store in-progress projects
- Access to the outdoors
Future of STEM Interior Design
STEM has become a major component of classroom design as more schools construct new areas, or renovate existing areas, to better educate and train 21st century students.
The best architects and designers of STEM spaces understand what real-life STEM programs are like. So if you like STEM and interior design, you may be able to combine your favorite subjects into a fulfilling career designing STEM environments.
Below are some examples of STEM interior design to inspire you. Can you spot the unique STEM-related elements? How would you design and decorate a STEM room?
The Zaniac Asheville STEM education center engages children in grades K-8 through interactive learning modules, game-based curriculum, and hands-on instruction to foster interest in technology and engineering principles at an early age.
When Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wisconsin, wanted to create a cutting-edge STEM learning facility on campus, they hired an innovative interior designer with expertise in higher education. Laura Witbro, senior interior designer with Systems Furniture, created a space plan that fit the furniture requirements, chose wall finishes and accent colors with an upbeat energy, as well as a carpet pattern and chair textiles that picked up the vibe.
For the new Math and Science Building at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California, HMC Architects set out to create engaging and flexible spaces geared to the latest pedagogical concepts focused on interdisciplinary problem solving.
Lesson Plans and Resources
Home Design-Inspired Activities for Kids – Home design is more than just color schemes and fabric swatches — it’s the blending of art and science, architecture and engineering, creativity and practicality. What better way to learn about geometry and how to think like a designer than designing a room or even a whole home!
Bedroom Design Challenge – This STEM project is fun for aspiring interior designers and architects of all ages while reinforcing key concepts in math, engineering, and technology. The mathematical areas include measurement, ratio and proportion, geometric reasoning, and percents.
KidsThinkDesign.org – Educational website developed by Kids Design Collaborative introduces young people age 9-14 to the world of design. It engages students in the creative process and captures their interest in architecture, interior design, product design, environmental design, and more. Put your own chair design ideas into action! Kids Think Design invites young designers to share their projects.
Scientific Explorer Young Architect Building Kit – Designing your own rooms can be a fun and fulfilling experience. With this kit you can design a floor plan using room templates, furnish the floor plan using the furniture guide and colored pencils, then build a 3-dimensional model on top of the floor plan.
Room and Furniture Layout Kit – It’s like paper dolls, for furniture! This kit contains everything you need to create the room of your dreams! You can lay out a full eight rooms of furnishings with 215 punch-out shapes: beds, chairs, sofas, tables, cabinets, pianos, bookcases, and more. Plus, eight sheets of graph paper are included for your floor plans.