It isn’t necessarily a specialty thing. And it isn’t silly either.
Lobby decor can be considered as much graphic design as interior design. These are “branded” spaces and branding is something a graphic designer is supposed to know about.
It’s great that students are given a hint of design beyond flat pieces of paper and web work, but unless that professor has given the students access to materials like trade magazines that explain this field and show the possibilities available, and knows more than a little about the field themselves, the exercise is nothing more than photoshop 101. Quite honestly, in the real world, mockups are a 10-20 minute project undertaken to get the “look” in a form a client can visualize. It isn’t a 5 day project to show off photoshop skills.
PD’s virtual class wouldn’t allow self-directed projects. It would give a brief for a client’s space requirements. It would give specifics starting with the corporate branding standards and include an overview of the client’s business, the type of demographic visiting the space, and for what purpose the space is being branded. Is it a reception area for outside clients? A lounge for employees? A meeting room for the board of directors?
Then it would give specifics that the students would have to research. Maybe the client wants a 3D logo on the wall, custom printed wallcover and branded tabletops. Or some other combination of 3 processes the student would have to research.
In a perfect world, a room would be selected on campus that the student would have to measure and photograph. Sketches would be required. And a final dimensioned drawing.
Definitely senior level work.