Concept Design for Students and for Clients

Julia Mack

by Julia Mack (BS ’85), NYC-based interior designer for residential and commercial spaces and owner of Julia Mack Design, LLC

It was second semester of my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and I was suddenly bit by the design bug.

Winter hangs on in the Mid-West making spring slow to arrive but I was ready to declare a major that would permanently change all aspects of my life.

Interior Design is a far reaching, all-encompassing major that balances the creative side of the brain with the analytic side in perfect harmony. Technical drawing at a drafting table with a t-square and triangle was taught in the engineering department and textile science was with the fashion merchandise majors. Art history was taught with an eye to interior design, beginning with a discussion of a Yurt; time-traveling week by week up to present day architecture and its all-encompassing impact on society.

So, how do they really teach beginning design? “It starts with a concept”, said Joy Dohr, my Design 101 teacher. Hmmm, I thought. With a copy of a floor plan of a kitchen she effortlessly explained the logic of space planning, basic lighting, color and material selections and, most importantly, how to present these ideas to a client.

Still practicing what I learned then, I consistently rely upon these fundamentals of design that the University of Wisconsin-Madison taught me. Clients, colleagues and friends all know that not a single project of mine proceeds without a strong design concept and I proudly repeat Joy’s words regularly: “It’s a mind’s eye view of what your project will look like when it is complete.” Easy, vital to the success of a project, and so true.

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