Interior design influences and impacts higher education facilities

Glenn Ebersole//March 6, 2023

Interior design influences and impacts higher education facilities

Glenn Ebersole//March 6, 2023

Interior design, architecture and engineering are constantly evolving and this evolution has greatly accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many innovations were developed to adapt the exterior and interior of buildings to respond to the pandemic and its impacts on building occupants. The design and construction of buildings and their interiors greatly impact many aspects of our lives when we work, rest, communicate, live and play. 

A majority of college students chose to learn in-person prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 created the era of online education, rather than in-person learning. Many Gen Z students were already engaging in online education through virtual platforms, but the pandemic accelerated students’ ability to learn online and continue to do so in the future.  

The pandemic highlighted the importance of flexibility with students having an ability to learn online and in hybrid environments. Higher learning institutions had to look for and create flexible and alternative spaces to learn during the pandemic. This trend will likely continue in the future.  

Obviously, interior design can span a broad spectrum for different kinds of buildings. Higher educational institutions are designed much differently than residential or office buildings. It is critical that interior designers remain current with the latest trends in higher educational facilities.  

Engaging Gen Z in higher education institutions requires flexibility and the ability to socialize. Designers and educators must consider the benefit of in-person learning, when so much can be done online. The top design trend for 2023 with Gen Z will be a focus on creating “authentic spaces,” where inclusion and mental health are prioritized and creativity may flourish.  

Authentic spaces for college campuses will include: colors, materials, and patterns found in nature; ergonomic furniture as physical support for all-day work, rest, and sensory stimulation; furniture and tools that are easily accessible and consider the needs of multiple users; open space concept for rooms so all can see and be seen, with secluded areas that create balance for rest; tables, chairs, and soft seating that inspire a sense of calm and creativity or to “unplug.” 

Some of the interior design trends that will impact and influence higher education facilities in 2023 and beyond include:  


Safety is paramount in any situation and is particularly important in education. This is true because students need to have extra safety measures in place. And a safe educational environment is essential for reducing stress and increasing comfort levels.  

Personalized spaces 

Education has evolved and instead of trying to teach everyone the same way, it is important to recognize every student’s situation and personalize each learning journey. One way to do this is through interior design. 

For example, some schools are installing extra power sources to provide students with more options for charging their mobile devices like smartphones and tablets and using them in the learning process. Many institutions have their own Wi-Fi and encourage students to use the Internet to look up information, translate texts and more. 

Focus on community  

Community is crucial for education because it helps students and teachers socialize beyond the classroom. This is why more educational institutions aim to create comfortable communal spaces. Socializing has become more important than ever in a post-pandemic world.  

Improved acoustics 

Some educational facilities suffer from being too noisy. Students can easily get distracted during classes or become increasingly loud during break time if a room is too noisy. This is precisely why so many interior designers now focus on improving acoustics. 

Some of the most popular solutions include area rugs and curtains, sound masking, ceiling treatments, and flexible wall partitions among others. Special flooring solutions also can help reduce noise. 

Technology integration 

Technology is playing a greater role in education and educational institutions are trying to meet demand with better interior design that seamlessly integrates technology. Large monitors for showing videos and presentations, multiple electric sources for charging devices and bigger IT rooms are examples of the increasing importance of technology in education.  

New patterns of educational spaces 

The traditional setup for educational spaces is no longer the standard which included strictly aligning all desks. Today it is all about new patterns and balance. Schools opt for other patterns that allow students to be more engaged in the classroom. The focus on maximizing space is another reason why balance in the interior design of educational facilities has taken center stage. 

Sustainability focus 

An increased focus on sustainability has influenced interior design in education. More and more schools and universities are opting for eco-friendly building products, sustainable stationary supplies, durable furniture made of eco-friendly materials, and other options. 

Home-like spaces  

Educational facilities are now designed in a way to make them more home-like to reduce stress levels and make students feel more comfortable. The intended goal is for these facilities to bring the comfort of home to students. 

Young people’s energy and vivacity is multiplied when students come together and this is why universities and colleges must prioritize collaboration spaces. These spaces will foster an environment where students can reach their fullest potential.  

The potential that lies with Gen Z students and their ability to create change must be “Top Of Mind” with interior designers. An ideal space for Gen Z will include soft seating for gathering, individual retreat areas, and environments where they can think, act, and engage with others. Interior designs must provide an area to create, plan, move, and engage with visual communication tools for students to brainstorm together within a space that cannot be found in the world of online education. 

Closing Thought 

“The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilized, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out.” Albert Hadley, American interior designer and decorator.