Royce Epstein, director of design segment at Mohawk Group, weighs in on design trends that are influencing today’s education interiors. Royce’s extensive professional career includes more than 20 years in interior design. In her role at Mohawk Group, Royce shares her passion and vision for design, cultural trends and the meaning of materials in a broad context. Constantly on the watch for new trends in all aspects of design and culture, Royce feeds this insight to all of the industry’s touch points.
With technology leading the forefront of cultural change, traditional modes of design are being challenged and designers are rethinking best practices. This couldn’t be truer in the education market, where K-12 schools are being overhauled and a new model is emerging. There is a huge desire for schools to move away from the typical square box that served as the classroom for generations, and to embrace more contemporary spaces that inspire new ways of learning. So where do school systems start?
We now live in a time of great personalization. Our homes, workplaces and mobile devices are becoming more tailored to the needs of the individual through the use of technology. This is the number one driver of change in the education market and has led to student-centered learning that has a personalized approach. Instructors are leading smaller groups for project work that is not based on age or skillset but rather interests and goals. Learning is both collaborative as well as focused. Students are also participating in the design of their own schools, contributing feedback on the types of environments they want to be in.
Interaction in schools is intended to mimic real-life settings, so that schools now resemble open plan offices or public collaborative spaces. Flexible, agile spaces that reconfigure with no fixed partitions are required to allow for diverse functions throughout the day; hence, the increasing popularity of open plan classrooms that flow from one space to another. Schools need to provide quiet zones for individual study as well as social interactive spaces that accommodate students working in groups or just socializing. The design of these new education spaces often shares more of the visuals of branded corporate projects than of traditional schools. Spaces tend to be more sophisticated with impactful use of color to support school spirit and a sense of community and place.
Of course, all of this is driven by the ease of connectivity, with access to power and data for all. Teachers are using web-based devices and resources to provide more interactive experiences for students. And any data gathered from teachers and students on their devices gets analyzed and allows for further tailoring and refinement of the student’s needs. Even the administration is able to move records to the cloud, allowing for a more seamless way to manage the student body. This shift to technology-based learning has allowed for a hybrid of real and virtual learning that is becoming more viable as students require learning solutions tailored to their needs.
Another trend we see in education is the gamification of learning. The video game model as well as point reward systems from more traditional games have helped to focus students on their studies. Tablets and PCs where students learn through self-discovery make this trend more of a reality. This technology tends to be more engaging than traditional classroom approaches.
Sustainability is still a major focus in schools, with even more desire for Red List-free materials that don’t give off harmful VOCs and contribute negatively to the indoor air quality. There has been a big push for the transparency of materials, so that both staff and students know what exactly is in their classrooms. Programs such as the SEED classroom allow for students to learn about sustainability and building performance from their own firsthand experiences. Access to daylight in new school designs and improved acoustics are also important in providing a sense of well-being and comfort.