Feel-good home environments

Materials, samples and opinions: Students on the continuing education course “Interior Design Development Programme” discussing possible alternatives. Photograph: ZHdK

Show me how you live, and I will tell you who you are. For many Swiss people, their living style expresses their personality. The demand for beautiful, sustainable and functional living is attracting new professionals to the market. The continuing education programme “Atmospheric Design” will launch at ZHdK in the 2020 autumn semester. Those involved are hoping to provide the furniture industry, which is facing manifold challenges, with fresh impetus.


Do you have a favourite room? If you do, do you know why you like this room so much? Would you even say it has a special atmosphere? If it does, someone has done a good job. Because no atmosphere simply exists, but has been consciously designed. Furniture stores present living environments that visitors ought to leave feeling positive. Ideally, they want to take this world home. Furniture stores have thus recognised something important: we long for stories and atmospheres. But doesn’t this realisation come somewhat late? “It’s no secret that the furniture industry is changing,” explains Michael Krohn, head of ZHdK’s “Atmospheric Design” programme. Surviving in this market requires investing more in services than in products because: “If you just want to sell a sofa, you haven’t really understood that much.”

Furniture store meets arts university

As early as 2018, ZHdK launched the “Interior Design Development Programme” jointly with IKEA Switzerland. In the summer of 2019, all nine participants successfully completed their one-year training and took up a full-time position in a Swiss IKEA store. The aim was to closely link training and a professional career in interior design. “There were also critical voices,” recalls Krohn, who also served as head of programme at the time. “There was talk of education being economised. Although IKEA had covered the tuition fees and overseen programme development, ZHdK was completely free in designing the curriculum,” says Krohn.

Based on those positive experiences, the Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in “Atmospheric Design” will launch at ZHdK in the autumn semester. Renowned furniture stores such as de Sede and Teo Jakob will also be participating. Cooperation benefits both sides: at the university, companies will find well-trained talents and faculty with broad and interdisciplinary expertise. In return, ZHdK can offer attractive and forward-looking continuing education with a strong practical focus.

Making a housecall with an atmospheric designer

Krohn is aware that a six-month CAS will not produce interior designers. “An interior designer knows how thick a wall needs to be or where a water connection is needed. But that’s not what we’ll be teaching,” explains Krohn. Rather, participants will explore emotions, storytelling and spatial dramaturgy, do needs analyses, and learn about perceptual and behavioural psychology. Today, many people are happy to spend money on living well. They value sustainable furnishings and want to know something about their history. Krohn gives the example of an expat family which, after moving to Switzerland, would like its home to be completely furnished. Atmospheric designers meet the family members and the apartment and design a fitting living environment based on their findings. If the family has a dog, this should be taken into account when choosing a carpet. If the mother is a trained Japonologist, it is barely accidental that Yoko Tawada’s latest novel will be lying on the bedside table. However, atmospheres will be created not only for private apartments or furniture stores, but also for offices, doctors’ surgeries or restaurants: wherever people feel comfortable, they like to stay longer.

The many livings blogs prove: looking into other rooms is appealing and the desire to furnish is publicly shared. Almost 35 million images can be found on social media under the hashtag #homesweethome. There is great interest in designing living, working or adventure spheres. Michael Krohn finds it difficult to predict who and how many people will register for the CAS “Atmospheric Design.” What matters in his eyes is what happens after graduation: “We are looking for people able to transpose their learnings into the professional world.”

The CAS Atmospheric Design is a continuing education programme that transcends the boundaries of traditional interior design. Coursework focuses on designing experiences, emotions and atmospheres. The programme is aimed at individuals already active in the field of interior design, or who have gained experience in creative and/or media contexts or genres and are seeking to develop professionally in the field. The programme will launch in the autumn semester of 2020. Programme duration is six months from the end of August 2020 to February 2021. Tuition fees: CHF 7,800. The application deadline is 31 May 2020.
Further information and registration: zhdk.ch/cas-atmospheric-design

Information event
Thu, 19 March 2020, 6.30 pm, Kaskadenfoyer, 5.K04, Level 5, Toni Campus, Zurich

Lea Dahinden is a project manager at ZHdK University Communications. Her favourite space is her living room. Nowhere is lounging around more congenial than on her grey fabric sofa.


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