The main research problem was to determine interior design’s methods of cultural production. The original
knowledge contributions of this thesis is summatively included in the imaginal interiors hypothesis: “Interior
design produces culture through synthesis, proximity, associations, timeliness, and technification”.
The study was undertaken as an initial study of the role of interior design in the field of cultural production. It
aimed to make tacit interior design methods explicit and emerged from the assumption that interior designers
who excel in the creation of meaning are rewarded for it in the form of cultural and economic capital. The study
is important since it may improve the praxis of interior design, it expands the discipline’s research methodology,
and it reviews the production methods of an emergent discipline.
The study considered cultural production as an iterative practice comprised of the individual acts of
generation and interpretation and the group manifestations of meaning. Within this domain interior artefacts are
considered as a material objects within a semiotic context. These objects are functional and their primary
communicative role is to portray their function. Making the generation of culture analogous to the generation of
meaning allowed me to assess the interior artefact from a logical point of view and enabled me to speculate on
the role of interior design within the larger cultural discourse.
The research was located in the interpretivist paradigm. It took a non-positivist, social constructivist stance. I
believe that meanings are emergent from the research process. The research encompassed a literature review,
the collection of suitable examples, and the conduct of critical analysis. The primary research methods were
constructivist grounded theory and phenomenography. Qualitative, interpretivist tools were developed and
utilised in the content analysis through interpretation. The analysis followed a process of coding and analytic
integration to construct theory. The analysis is based on a non-probability, judgmental sample of representations
of interior artefacts which was compiled to cover the substantive area with a degree of representivity and
generality. The corpus contains photographic documentation and meta-data for 72 interior artefacts.
The thesis presented a theory for the construction of meaning in interior design as it manifested in the
substantive area. This was presented in a narrative format where the five imaginal methods were described by
illustrating and discussing their general properties, the actions they undertake and the effects these create.
‘Synthesis’ relate to the selection of meaningful components and bringing them together in a cohesive whole.
‘Proximity’ relates to the placement of objects in space to create meaningful arrangements and patterns.
‘Associations’ involve connections in the mind between different components and to methods which infer
meaning. ‘Technification’ is concerned with the physical expression of meaning. This theory should be
considered as the foremost response to the research problem. The theory that is presented here is the result of
identifying, isolating, describing, and interpreting interior design’s methods of cultural production.
The thesis contributes to the theoretical consideration of the role of meaning in interior design, how the
discipline creates that meaning, and how this production of meaning influences cultural production in general. In
terms of the discipline’s larger cultural role I concluded that the professional practice of interior design is the
best located occupation to denote occupation, inhabitation, and identity in the public built environment; in
addition the discipline communicates theoretical discourses through its cultural effluent.
The practical contributions of the thesis manifests in facilitating the production of meaning in new interior
artefacts. The thesis makes provision for the inclusion of imaginal aspects in the discipline’s production by
strategically expanding the interior design process. The practical contributions can be summarised as a call for
the inclusion of knowledge-based, empirical research practice in the interior design process. The thesis presents
a design strategy to augment, but not replace, well-developed design intuition. This strategy is a novel
contribution to interior design’s production processes.