Margaret Portillo, Ph.D.

Margaret Portillo, Ph.D.

Professor of Interior Design

College of Design, Construction and Planning

2011 Awardee

Margaret Portillo’s research explores planning processes employed by designers through qualitative and mixed methods research.

Her recent co-authored book, Design Thinking for Interiors, brings interior design theory and research to life with a narrative inquiry approach that offers unique insights into the minds of designers and the varied reactions of people to space. By collecting narratives of design processes and experiences, hallmarks for design engagement emerge through real-life stories ranging from a major renovation in Pentagon offices and infrastructure to the rebuilding of a historically significant residence devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This book shares new insights into the many ways designers innovate and create the groundwork for meaningful spaces.

Understanding and optimizing design thinking forms the foundation of related research on environmental color. Portillo’s book, Color Planning for Interior Design: An Integrated Approach to Color in Designed Spaces, is unique in its emphasis on the holistic design thinking underlying color decision-making. Its organizational structure rests on a framework based on original research and has been recently substantiated by new data gathered nationally. The design narratives contained in Color Planning reveal multiple criteria appearing in a wide range of projects: workplaces, retail centers, schools, residences, and medical facilities.

When Portillo began her dissertation research over twenty years ago, a scholarly base on color, design thinking, and creativity was practically non-existent. Little, too, was known about key qualities of color that designers consider in the process or differences that exist in the treatment of those qualities. Data collection for her research took place on-site in cities including New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Portillo’s research revealed five distinct functions of color across project types. The resulting framework, validated and refined over the years, forms the theoretical foundation of her work. This theory-guided research program applies frameworks from human development and creativity to design contexts. Her work comparing the creative practitioner across allied fields of interior design, architecture, landscape design, and engineering found architects and engineers reveals similarities and uniqueness across disciplines.

Christopher Silver, Dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning speaks to Portillo’s scholarly contributions, “Dr. Portillo has amassed a distinguished record of research in the field of interior design while at the same time, as Chair, building the Department of Interior Design program into a national leader. Consistently the UF Interior Design program is ranked within the nation’s top programs. This is, in part, based upon its reputation as a program that trains its students in evidence-based design. She has also developed it into a major producer of Ph.D.s in Interior Design. Dr. Portillo’s two books, her selection as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Interior Design (the top academic journal in the field), as well as her numerous invited essays, refereed journal articles, chapters, and refereed proceedings substantiate the extent of her research productivity.”