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K-State Today

April 5, 2012

Going global: Professor's new book earns honors for promoting diversity in design education

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

An award-winning book by a Kansas State University faculty member is being lauded for its emphasis on the benefits of exposing interior architecture students to non-Western design styles.

"Diversity in Design: Perspectives from the Non-Western World," written by Vibhavari Jani, associate professor of interior architecture and product design, received top honors at the annual conference of the Interior Design Educators Council.

The council's annual Book Award recognizes and honors significant books that exhibit excellence in addressing the issues of the interior design profession, including practice, scholarship and education. The Interior Design Educators Council gives out one award each year. Katherine Ankerson, professor and head of the department of interior architecture and product design, says the competition is stiff and the attention on Jani's book is particularly timely.

"In the midst of dynamic growth and change within the interior design profession, educational resources specific to designing interiors, helping educators bring their students to an understanding of the interwoven complexities and diverse influences resulting from geography, culture, history, religion and available materials, are crucial," Ankerson said. "The study of Western culture, especially from a Eurocentric perspective, has been the norm in most architectural and interior design programs. Professor Jani's book is poised to play a significant role in educating our students to be global citizens, respectful of both Western and non-Western cultures and prepared to face a world increasingly dependent upon an understanding of non-Western cultures."

Jani got the idea for the book while undertaking a research project to understand how educators are incorporating non-Western design into their teaching. Her research found that many educators were not providing non-Western precedents for their students because the information was not readily available. While presenting her research at a conference, a publisher offered her the opportunity to create a resource guide on non-Western design.

"I wanted students to learn and understand how climate, religion, culture and social traditions all have influence on how built form is shaped. I proposed that we work with native scholars who specialize in their own countries' design traditions to develop an authentic book on non-Western design traditions," Jani said.

"We strategically selected the seven countries to highlight -- India, China, Turkey, Egypt, UAE, Algeria and Nigeria -- based on their contributions in the development of world architecture and design, their population and economic growth, and their current design needs," she said. "Some of these countries, India and China especially, are places where our students could be finding jobs over the next several decades, so there' s a need to understand the people, their diverse cultures, and their design traditions to do work in those places."