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About the Research

Robust Production of New Knowledge

celebrating 19 years of continuous research

21 M.A. theses 

11  practice type studies 

4    element studies

85  intypes 

600+ photographs

3    refereed academic articles 

1    book citation

10  popular articles

25  presentations to industry, firms & universities

1   free & open web site


Project Description

The Intypes (Interior Archetypes) Research and Teaching Project, initiated in 1997 at Cornell University, creates a typology of contemporary interior design practices that are derived from reiterative historical designs that span time and style and cross cultural boundaries. An Intype represents an ideal example of a historical and culturally determined practice of design.

The project produces a new knowledge base from practice-led research by creating the first typology of contemporary design practices that are derived from historical sequences.

The research identifies design traits that have not been named, generates a design-specific vocabulary and publishes a digital database of interior architectural photographs.

The project also offers an innovative approach to further design criticism and design sustainability.

It is the first project of its kind to assemble contemporary design theory in a digital database using interior architecture photographs.

Project Time Line

1997 initiated research at Cornell University 

2007-2010 awarded Faculty Innovation in Teaching Grants

2007 enlisted founding partners | IIDA & Interior Design 

2009 launched free & open web site


Intypes Research Group

Research for the Intypes Study at Cornell is generated by an interdisciplinary research group comprised of four graduate faculty representing three colleges and a cadre of Master of Arts graduate students in interior design. (See the Scholars Page.) The research from 21 M.A. theses has contributed to this project.


Research Approaches

Premise. Interior Design is temporally limited. In contract design an installation remains approximately seven years, less for hospitality design in a good economy. It is vitally important for interior designers to understand our body of work. The creative dimension of design has become a knowledge base. 

Method. To Aldo Rossi (1982) “type is the very idea of architecture, closest to its essence”. The Intypes Project’s methodological structure produces the first typology of interior design (a grouping of design productions in which some inherent characteristics make them similar). Initially, the project derives types from the published work of designers

Theory. The project's theoretical framework is based on George Kubler’s model, The Shape of Time. A sequence of design iterations by designers can be traced through time—as a continuum, or a series of replications—marked by linked and similar solutions. In the long run, a sequence may serve as scaffolding for new design. This theory allows faculty to formally teach contemporary design as part of historical studies.

Protocol. Research begins with tracing a series of design practices in approximately 1,200 issues of design trade magazines, such as Interior Design and Architectural Record.  When types begin to take shape, researchers conduct site visits in order to compare printed images with built works.

The Importance of Trade Magazines to the Research. Interior Design is temporally limited. In contract design an installation remains approximately seven years, less for hospitality design in a good economy. Therefore, design and architectural trade magazines provide a longitudinal record of contract work. For example, Interior Design began publishing in 1932; Architectural Record has been in continuous publication since 1891. Other design trade periodicals are also surveyed, including those in areas of specialization, such as hospitality design, as well as international titles.

Categories of Study. Studies have been completed for Apartment, Artificial Light, Bar & Club, Hotel, House, Material, Resort and Spa, Restaurant, Retail, School K-12, Showroom, Spatial Graphic Design, Theme Dining, Transformative Interior, and Workplace. 

Naming Practices. With 85 intypes identified to date, each Intype name and icon must mean something to those who recollect them. Terms are mnemonic. The processes of naming Intypes, visual representation and definition are about reduction.

Naming also represents a translation of design practices into a formalized language that stems from research, but with the intent to be accessible to a diversified group of users.

When an Intype term is used without explanation or translation or gloss, it is considered an accepted part of design language. The diverse ways in which Intypes will be put to use makes it a language. If the language is engaged by the public, then Intypes become a productive language.


Dissemination & Impact 

Digital is how we work

New knowledge is visualized in 85 icons and over 500 photographs.

Groundbreaking Paradigm Shift

The project "invigorates the education process." Cindy Allen, Editor-in-Chief, Interior Design

The vocabulary aids in describing & criticizing built work.

The "strength of the methodology is its relationship to studio." Journal of Interior Design reviewers

Designers come to understand their work as part of a historical reiterative process.

"The breadth, depth & scope of this project represent a boundary stretching leap  for the interior design profession." Cheryl Durst, Fellow, Executive Vice President/CEO, IIDA

Additional Research