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Interior Design Faculty and Staff

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Administrative Staff

Academic Advisor

Graduate Coordinator


Affiliated Faculty


Associate Professor

Fred Malven

Associate Professor, Interior Design
Graduate Coordinator, Interior Design

Mailing Address

Interior Design Department
158 College of Design
Ames, IA, 50011

Contact Information

Phone: (515) 294-4147
Office: 283 Design

Fred Malven, Associate Professor and former Program Coordinator, joined the College of Design in 1981. He taught previously at the University of Connecticut, Western Kentucky University and the University of Missouri. His professional practice has focused on product design, including numerous tools for the fire and rescue services and industrial design assistance for Iowa industries. Fred regularly teaches design detailing and entry-level studio courses. He also teaches various upper division design studios focusing on office and institutional environments. His courses emphasize human factors in design and the practical application of theory and systematic methods to everyday design problems. His approach encourages the use of three-dimensional modeling for design exploration, refinement and presentation. Fred is a local volunteer fire officer, an Adjunct Instructor for the National Fire Academy and a technical consultant on building fire safety to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the lighting industry. This activity has supported his research interest in the health, safety and welfare implications of design decisions. He is best known for publications, technical presentations and continuing education programs dealing with building fire safety.


BS, Interior Design, University of Missouri, 1969
MA, Housing Policy, University of Missouri, 1970
PhD, Environmental Design, University of Wisconsin, 1981

Research Interests

Health, safety and welfare issues in design (especially fire safety); multi-modal sensory applications in design; environmental navigation, memory and mapping; formal design methodology; industrial design-- furnishings, lighting and tools; application of "pattern languages" to design.

Current Projects


“Fire-Safe Interior Design” (In Progress).  Interior design decisions have a tremendous influence on the outcomes of building fires; how can interior design educators, students and practitioners best be prepared to respond to this challenge?  This project expands on previous work dealing with interior furnishings and materials as fire “fuel.” It distills key fire-safe design principles of fire spread and fire protection systems into simple, concise symbolic and narrative summaries or “patterns,” modeled on the work of Christopher Alexander and Edward Allen.

“Furnishings as Agents of Mechanical Injury” (In Progress).  Every year, thousands of individuals experience fatal or seriously debilitating injuries related to interior furnishings; how might those involved in the practice of interior design be made more aware of this phenomenon and concepts for controlling its occurrence?  Based on content analysis of information in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database, a conceptual model of furnishings-related injuries is being developed.  High frequency and [especially] high severity scenarios are being summarized in simplified symbolic and narrative terms, similar to the National Fire Protection Association’s “Fire Safety Concepts Tree.”

“Low-Visibility Navigation in Unfamiliar Spatial Environments” (In Progress, with Paul Bruski, Graphic Design, Iowa State University). In the U.S., disorientation in complex building interiors is a major cause of serious firefighter injury and death. Does “wayfinding/wayshowing” theory offer strategies for helping control of this problem?  This field project is studying how: 1) interior crews mentally track their locations and movement through unfamiliar spaces, 2) exterior rescue crews plot the progress and locations of interior crews for whom they are responsible, and 3) exterior rescue crews define their routes when attempting to find lost interior firefighters.  The present and potential role of “mental mapping” is a subject of particular interest.  Preliminary reports: “A Theoretical Framework for the Study of Firefighter Wayfinding and Communication,” 2011 Conference, International Association of Societies of Design Research, Delft (NL), 2011, and “Where Am I?: A Method for Assessing the Means and Accuracy of Critical Communications Between Interior and Exterior Fire Personnel,” 2011 Fire Research and Developments Conference, [English] Fire Services College, Moreton-in-Marsh (UK), 2011.

“Interior Furnishings and Fire.” Lightweight, open-structure furniture designs have dramatically increased the fire hazard in modern interiors.  Measures need to be taken to make the interior design community more aware and better able to manage this potential threat. With U.S. Fire Administration support, this project has examined post-incident fire reports (U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Incident Reporting System and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System) for the years 2005-2010, with an eye to summarizing both furnishings-related contributions to the fire problem and general concepts for minimizing its adverse effects.  Information was translated into brief “pattern” summaries, illustrating and describing the problems identified and concepts for limiting their impact.  Preliminary report: "Key Principles Related to Fire-Safe Selection and Placement of Interior Components: A Systematic Application of Pattern Language," 2010 Conference, Interior Design Educator's Council, Denver, CO (US), 2010. Final report: “The View From the New ‘Front Lines’ of Fire Safety: Interior Design,” Interior Design Educators Council East Regional Conference, Philadelphia, PA (US), 2013.  A final report is in preparation for publication.

“Building Facilitation of Emergency Wayfinding.” Most developed countries have developed comprehensive formal mechanisms for marking primary egress routes in buildings and other high-density settings.  However, in addition to these formal directional cues, many normally occurring building features (floor patterns, spatial geometry, lighting, the continuity of features in general—formal and informal) are also perceived by users to signify priority routes.  Initiated with funding from the Lighting Research Institute (US), this on-going project has sought to identify, evaluate and refine such features for use as parallel, congruent adjuncts to formal EXIT marking of primary circulation routes, especially emergency egress routes.  Several early papers addressed the direction-giving potential of various forms of “lighting continuity.” A paper co-Authored with Ed Dorsa (Industrial Design, Virginia Technical Institute) and Alan Mickelson (Graphic Design, Iowa State University), entitled "Semantically Safe: Overcoming the Limitations of Standardization Through the Use of Product Semantics," was presented at the International Conference on Product Semantics: Helsinki (FI), 1989.  It introduced a general performance model for such informal directional cues, founded on legibility, meaning and memorability. A paper co-authored with Paul Bruski, Graphic Design, Iowa State University, entitled Environmental Influences on the Recognition and Use of Emergency (Fire) Exit Routes in Buildings, presented at the 2009 Fire-Related Research and Developments Conference at the [English] Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh (UK), addressed the frequently antagonistic (contradictory) contributions of conventional EXIT signs and adjacent general interior lighting. This paper also compared full-scale field experimentation with digital simulation as approaches to studying the phenomenon. Most recently in 2011, a presentation on the topic, entitled “Buildings As EXIT Signs: Directional Continuity In Emergency Egress Design,” was delivered at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD (US).


“In Search of a More Purposeful Conceptualization of ‘Aesthetics.’” Outside of the design community, the notion of aesthetics is widely perceived to be superfluous, devoid of real value. And, even designers themselves have long wrestled with “aesthetics,” sometimes celebrating, later denouncing, its purposeful professional relevancy.  This on-going project has examined various conceptions of “design” with an eye to defining and defending “aesthetics” as a purposeful dimension.  Its defense is founded on two theoretical constructs.  First, aesthetics is described in terms of the ancient Greek notion of the “aisthetike,” that is, being “of the senses” or about sensation and perception.  Aesthetic qualities are invested in the [largely positive] experiences of individuals rather than the durable, universal, material “beauty” of objects and spaces.  Secondly, design, itself, is defined in terms of five functional dimensions, represented by the acronym HOPPS: H) health, safety and welfare functionality, O) operational functionality [a synonym for what might previously have been referred to exclusively as “function,” P) psycho-behavioral functionality, P) physical/physiological functionality and S) setting or contextually-specific functionality.  Within this frame of reference, aesthetic qualities are viewed as one means of achieving functionality in the five HOPPS dimensions—rather than being ends in and of themselves.

“Showing the Invisible: Exploring and Communicating the Rich Potential of Non-Visual Design Concepts.”  Vision being the dominant sensory mode, it is not surprising that design has come to be considered a principally visual phenomenon.  However, design’s preoccupation with the visual has undoubtedly often been at the expense of additional promising concepts, founded on other human sensory modes and less clearly understood.  What steps might help designers be more aware of non-visual dimensions of their work?  What tools are needed to enhance their understanding and action on these issues?  This project has focused on a partial answer to these questions, the development, evaluation and refinement of communication methods suited to expression of non-visual design problems, program requirements, theory formulation, and solution development.  Rather than images, the theory of communication related to non-visual subjects is heavily dependent on abstract, symbolic, schematic, tabular and narrative methods.  At present, the project is focused on two goals: 1) a compilation of communication tools for communication relative to non-visual design issues (with oneself, one’s peers, design consumers and allied disciplines) and, more specifically, 2) the potential of the graphic narrative idiom as a model for development of more hybridized and specialized design communication.  A presentation, entitled “The Graphic Narrative: A Key to Exploring the Potential of Non-Visual Sensory Design?” was presented at the University of Missouri—Columbia, Columbia, MO (US) in  2011.