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MA Interior Design student Lukas on designing accessible interiors

MA Interior Design student Lukas on designing accessible interiors

Discover the world of accessible interiors with Lukas White, an MA Interior Design student at AUB Online. Follow Lukas's journey from theatrical design to a focus on neurodiversity and sustainability in permanent spaces. 

AUB Online’s MA Interior Design student Lukas White has a passion for creating accessible interiors. We spoke to Lukas about how the course is helping him design with neurodiversity in mind, how his professional network has expanded while studying, and his advice for others considering applying for an interior design postgraduate degree. 

Read on to find out more: 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. 

Lukas: Compelled by a love of space and story, I began my design journey in theatrical scenic design. After finishing my undergraduate degree and working off-Broadway in New York, I decided I was more interested in permanent environments than the temporary experiences that theatre provides.  

In addition, I became passionate about accessibility after seeing spaces and sets that are blatantly inaccessible to individuals with sensory needs. I’m interested in making the world more accessible and improving people’s daily lives through the design of permanent space.   

My current research for the online MA Interior Design course focuses on multisensory spaces, design for trauma, and design for neurodiversity.  

Why did you choose to study online with AUB? 

Lukas: I chose AUB because many of the postgraduate degrees in interior design I was looking at didn’t have a practical component. AUB Online’s course is a research degree, but there are many opportunities to tie your research into your design practice. 

I love the emphasis on evidence-based design that the master’s degree has, as well as the commitment to accessibility and sustainability that permeates throughout the course. 

AUB has an incredible reputation in the arts, and I felt confident I would receive a good quality of education here.  

I enjoy the self-paced aspect of studying online as well as the flexibility it affords. Having recorded lectures with transcripts allows me to take in the material better than with an in-person lecture. I’m able to work while I do my studies and complete my assignments in my own time. The weekly seminars help me feel connected to the cohort as a whole.  

What motivated you to study this course at master’s level? 

Lukas: I have a commitment to accessibility and sustainability that drives my practice. Studying at Master’s level allows me to pursue design for trauma and neurodiversity and study them in depth. I’ve discovered lots of ways to make design more neuro-inclusive, without even needing to pitch it as such to a client.  

I’m also potentially interested in teaching down the road, and I feel having the subject matter expertise that a master’s allows you to cultivate is important to being a good teacher.   

I’m making a career switch from an adjacent field, and I feel that allowing myself dedicated time to explore concepts in interior design that are unfamiliar to me enriches my practice.   

One of the most exciting and liberating things about studying at master's level is how self-directed it is. There’s freedom to explore the topics that interest you most without being micromanaged.  

Equally, that means that as an individual, you have a responsibility to go out there and find information for yourself. There’s lots of support through the tutors and the library if you have questions, but most of the onus is on you to seek out research gaps and explore them. I personally love having that kind of academic freedom.  

What are networking opportunities like for online students? 

Lukas: I don’t feel any less supported on this online degree than I did for my in-person BA. I’ve found that the lecturers on the course have been a rich source of ideas and information on how to go about networking in different communities.  

It was through a lecturer that I found out about the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), the latter of which was free to join.  

While I haven’t been able to go to BIID’s in-person networking events in the UK, I’ve found they offer a variety of continuing professional development courses that you can access from anywhere in the world. These have deepened my specialist knowledge.  

IIDA wasn’t free to join, but they have a huge presence in Seattle, USA, where I’m based. I’ve been able to network with working professionals and other students in the region through being on the student council. They offer lots of events for students including Design Charette competitions, mentorship, and portfolio reviews. I’m hoping to participate in their mentorship program this Spring.  

AUB also offers the AUB Futures Hub. It’s a good place to look for job postings and connect with other people. It’s a lot like LinkedIn. I’ve also used LinkedIn as a tool for networking, reaching out to designers who have philosophies that interest me and asking them questions about their career and design ideas.  

Networking with all the other interior design professionals on the course has been helpful as well. I’ve connected with a couple of people who have shared invaluable advice about how they got their positions and the kind of experience you need to land a job in a design firm. 

How do you balance studying with work and other commitments?  

Lukas: I’m still doing some freelance drafting for theatrical scenic designers, interning at the National Nordic Museum in their exhibit design department, and serving on the student council for IIDA in my region.  

It can be tricky to balance studying with all those commitments, but I find what can be helpful is creating a plan for the module during week one. The plan does sometimes change, but laying out a rough timeline of when I expect things to be done is useful.   

It's helpful that you only have one assignment to hand in per module. If you know that you’re going to have a busy week with work you can plan to get a lot done the week before, so you don’t fall behind.  

Each module is six weeks long, so the lecturers don’t expect a flawless, fully drafted and realised design in that time. The expectations are quite reasonable.  

What has the support been like, both during the application process and your studies so far?  

Lukas: The support has been largely awesome. The tutors are fantastic and accessible for any questions you might have. You can show them sketches or pitch ideas and they’re more than happy to give you feedback. I find that I usually get a response within 24 hours.  

The student adviser team is also readily available. They often send emails during the module to check in – they’ve been very responsive and helpful the times I’ve needed them.  

I also have a mood disorder and have had contact with the disability team at AUB. They’re very accommodating and helpful – don’t be afraid to reach out to them if you need to! We came up with a concrete plan for what I can do if I have a mood episode, as well as ideas for how I can manage my mental health as I go through the course. I felt they took me seriously and treated me like a human being, not an inconvenience.  

Have you been able to apply what you’re learning within your current job? 

Lukas: I’m in the middle of a career switch so I’m hopping around freelance gigs at the moment.  I’ve applied what I’m learning while interning at the National Nordic in the exhibit design department. I’ve been able to have conversations with the exhibit designer about things I’m learning, including LRV values and acoustic qualities of spaces. He’s found this helpful and taken it into consideration for designs of future traveling exhibits.  

I’ve recently been applying for internships in Seattle and can confidently say that one firm I’m talking to is quite serious about me because of the specialist knowledge I’ve been able to pick up on studying neuro-inclusivity while on the course. I’ve been networking with other professionals in Seattle and I’ve found that design for neuro-inclusion and design for trauma are both topics that people are interested in getting more involved with.  

How do you feel the course will help you with your future career plans? 

Lukas: The course will help me with my future career plans on many levels. I’m hoping to make the career switch from theatrical design into interior design and being on this course is already helping me do that. I’m deepening my practice, have access to lots of good resources, and being a postgraduate student carries quite a lot of weight.  

Again, developing specialist knowledge particularly in design for trauma and neurodiversity has been invaluable, as these are topics that lots of firms and designers care about, but often aren’t sure where to start.  

Having a master's degree shows a certain level of commitment and specialist knowledge. I didn’t want to complete another BA, as I already have a lot of ‘hard skills’ in interior design, like drafting down. I wanted to understand design concepts and ideas in a deeper, more meaningful way. This course has definitely prepared me for that.  

I’ve also found that being able to talk to my tutors about their career paths, doing portfolio reviews with them, and generally just asking questions has helped me prepare for applying for full-time positions at design firms.  

Any advice for someone thinking of studying this course? 

Lukas: I have a few pieces of advice: 

  • Make a note of the deadlines and plan for when you need to get things done. The assignment hand-ins are not something you can do the night before. The more time you give yourself the better.  
  • Don’t be afraid to contact the subject librarian! I’ve reached out to ours on multiple occasions, and they’ve been not only knowledgeable but offered new ideas and resources.  
  • If it’s relevant to you, reach out to the disability team. The AUB disability team is competent, friendly, and helpful, in my experience. They’ll treat you with empathy and respect and will make your life a lot easier.  
  • Be open minded about new topics and subjects you may not know about! It’s a master’s course, but that doesn’t mean you have to get siloed. Allow yourself to be influenced by your course mates’ interests.  

Thank you to Lukas for telling us about your experience on the course!  

Research how to create evidence-based solutions to current and future design challenges with AUB Online’s MA Interior Design. Choose to start in January, May or September: 

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