Ellen Cusick

Interior Design

Interior Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Portland

Ellen Cusick

Never stop learning. Making mistakes in a safe place is the best way to learn. Ellen Cusick , Interior Design Instructor , The Art Institute of Portland
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

In high school, I had an opportunity to help design the sets for a school play and knew that design was the field for me.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

As an independent designer, working in commercial and residential interiors for 18 years, I can share numerous tales of real-life application of codes, building systems and other technical details of Interior Design. Providing real-life applications of the course material is critical to imparting to students why they should know the material we teach. It also adds a little human interest into what can often be dry material.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

Introduction to Computer-Aided Drafting is one of my favorite classes to teach. During my education, most of the CAD assignments focused on drawing things that weren’t always related to Interior Design. The course assignments are designed to build on the previous assignment and each student comes away from the course with a full, as-built set of drawings for a 2,400 SF house, including floor plan, reflected ceiling plan, furniture plan, building sections, interior elevations and a site plan. This is a broad introduction to what all drawing sets are comprised of and the students get an opportunity to really see what is necessary in documenting a design project. CAD can be difficult for the beginner, but I encourage students to make mistakes and do some exploration when learning the commands, reminding them that AutoCAD doesn’t tell us what to do—WE tell AutoCAD what to do.  

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

Two things—Never stop learning. Making mistakes in a safe place is the best way to learn.  

The critical advice I offer is that we’re all capable of anything—hard work and a sense of adventure will always benefit your creative endeavors.  

How can people find out more about you and your artwork?