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Design school profile: NYSID's evolving curriculum

Posted on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

With so many options to choose from, how do future interior design students select the right school? Editor at Large has introduced a series of profiles to help answer that question. With the series, we hope to offer a better understanding of what makes each school unique. The first in our series was the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in downtown Manhattan, and now we’ve headed uptown to the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID).



The NYSID is one of the most popular, yet competitive, design schools in the tri-state area. For the 2013 fall semester, the school received over 600 applicants and was able to accept 270 students to the program.

The school focuses strictly on interior design and offers programs that include a one-year certificate in Basic Interior Design; an Associate in Applied Science; a BFA in Interior Design; and a BA in the History of the Interior and the Decorative Arts. At the graduate level, an MFA in Interior Design program (MFA-1), a post-professional MFA (MFA-2) and three one-year Master of Professional Studies programs in Healthcare Interior Design, Sustainable Interior Environments, and Interior Lighting Design are offered.

David Sprouls was appointed president of the school in January 2012, after service as vice president of enrollment management and director of admissions for 12 years. This reporter chatted with him about what makes the NYSID programs unique.



What are some key elements of your interior design program?

We take a comprehensive approach to our curriculum covering both residential and contract design, and we have many different kinds of programs: four under graduate and five graduate programs, as well as our Institute for Continuing and Professional Studies, which offers over 50 courses each semester. It is important to us at NYSID to offer a flexible and personalized learning experience with a variety of programs that suit individual needs and grow with students.

What makes your program different from other competitive design schools?

I am extremely confident when I say that no other institution that teaches interior design does what we do. The breadth and depth of NYSID’s offerings, the small class sizes, and a curriculum that balances theory and practice make NYSID unique. Our location, facilities, faculty and staff, alumni network and industry connections just cannot be beat. Remember we’ve been doing this for almost 100 years!

There is an institutional history and understanding of the profession that comes with a century of preparing designers. For example, the college’s curriculum emphasizes hand drawing and drafting as well as the latest computer-aided design programs. While programs like our BFA make up our core curriculum, covering both residential and contract design, our most recent programs, such MPS in Healthcare Interior Design reflect a changing profession. With a deep understanding of the past we are educating designers of the future.

How has the program evolved over time?

We have essentially grown with the profession, changing and leading as necessary. What began as a profession associated closely with residential interiors is now leading the charge with sustainable materials and green lighting, and concepts like evidence-based design and biophilia have entered the vocabulary. While residential is still an essential part of what we teach (and we are proud of that) we are leading the way into the future with new graduate programs in such areas as sustainability and healthcare design.

How has the school evolved?

NYSID has grown tremendously in the last five years. This is due in large part to the launch of a number of new graduate degree programs. And in 2010 we opened our Graduate Center at 401 Park Avenue South at 28th Street. This has been a fabulous facility and learning environment for our 150+ graduate students.

What are your efforts/marketing strategies to attract students to your school?

We recently launched a new website with an updated design, functionality, and content to speak to the designers of the future. We maintain a robust social media presence, and engage in both print and digital advertising. Our admissions counselors also go on the road and meet prospective students at portfolio reviews across the country, along with our Open Houses, both in the fall and spring semesters. Our public programs offer an interface and forum for the interior design, architecture and decorative arts community, and feature a range of notable designers and thought leaders.

What are some of the "big name" faculty members?

Because New York City is a world-class design center, NYSID has access to the best design professionals and experts to serve as instructors and guest lecturers in their areas of specialization. Some of our “big name” faculty members are Patricia Barbis, associate at Rockwell Group; Kate Hanenberg, senior associate at Perkins Eastman, and Peter Brandt, former vice president at Gensler, all are committed and beloved faculty members. A full list of faculty can be found here.

Are there any famous or notable alumni that graduated from the school?

NYSID graduates go on to work at such prestigious commercial and private firms as Gensler; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Michael Graves & Associates; Bunny Williams Inc.; Jeffrey Beers International; and Bentel & Bentel to name just a few. Many even establish their own firms, such as alumni Mariette Himes Gomez, Marie Aiello, Gideon Mendelson, and David Scott. The work of our alumni is regularly featured in Interior Design, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Metropolis, and other well-known publications. Some of our alumni even return to NYSID as faculty.

What are some of the most popular classes that students choose to take?

The most popular classes for students at the beginning of their studies are Color for Interiors, Historical Styles, Textiles for Interiors, and then the Residential Design studios. As they progress, students love our study abroad trips (our students had the opportunity to travel to Paris and China last May), digital and hand drawing, and studio classes in healthcare, retail, and hospitality design.

The graduate programs, especially the professional-level MFA-1 and the one-year MPS degrees are hugely popular, and are growing every year.

Are students required to do internships or field work with designers and industry professionals?

Many of our students leverage their connections to faculty, guest designers, and alumni to find internships in a wide range of residential, commercial, and architectural design firms.  While internships are not a required aspect of our programs, NYSID's career services coordinator posts many jobs at every level, reviews and guides students in preparing resumes, cover letters, and winning portfolios. There is a career services event every month, including presentations on becoming a licensed interior design or earning LEED certification.

Is there anything new you're rolling out for the fall semester, or the future?

NYSID's big news this year is our rollout of online courses. We currently offer Introduction to Interior Design and Historical Styles I online. Many students need flexibility in their schedules, and offering online courses gives them the option to learn on their own time, while still getting access to our rigorous curriculum and interaction with NYSID instructors.

And we are very excited to launch two distance-learning programs next year. The Basic Interior Design certificate and the MPS in Healthcare Interior Design will be available online in fall 2014. This is just the beginning.