Interior design students connect Chicago conference to classroom learning

"Students need to make connections between what we learn here in the classroom to the real, working world."

Anna Janke, interior design instructor

Interior design students from the Residential Interior Design 2 class recently traveled to Chicago to participate in the Chicago Residential Design Summit, the largest conference of its kind in the Midwest.

This year, the summit hosted over 30 featured design presentations, 50 open showrooms, and 56 new product debuts at TheMART, the immense Merchandise Mart, well recognized as a design mecca. While touring, the students discovered trending design features like the silky finish of Benjamin Moore paints and the artistry of Brazilian wall coverings.

“This event is all about practice,” said instructor Anna Janke. “Students need to make connections between what we learn here in the classroom to the real, working world.”

A bustling design metropolis, the conference is so large it takes up a whole city block, even getting assigned its own ZIP Code. Every application and example can be found there, giving students a whole design universe to be immersed in. “There is so much to take in, one day didn’t even cover it,” said Jordan Green, a sophomore in Mount Mary’s Interior Design Program.

Part of the students’ introduction with the professional industry included a private workshop with Wood-Mode Kitchens and Cabinets. The class was covering kitchen interiors the following week, so Janke took advantage of the meeting to transition into their next unit.

“Meeting with Wood-Mode was eye-opening,” said sophomore Olivia Sparks. “There are so many options out there for custom work; it makes me think about a higher quality I can bring to my designs.”

While at the conference, students were required to collect at least two business cards from other interior design professionals there.

“Our industry is rather small,” Janke explained. “Everyone knows one another so you have to be able to make lasting connections.”

“I got a ton of business cards,” Sparks said, “it was so personable to visit each show room and meet each vendor. It feels like everyone was easy to talk to.”

“(The conference) makes me re-evaluate what kind of effort I put into my designs. There needs to be more than just a nice surface, I want my products to have a history and an investment to them,” said Jordan Green, a sophomore in the design program.

“I would totally go again next year!”