Google+ House Revivals: So You Want to Be an Interior Designer!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

So You Want to Be an Interior Designer!

Do you love beauty? Do you love being creative? Do you love helping others put together beautiful and functional spaces? Maybe you should be an interior designer!

(This post is participating in Blogging A to Z.  I is for Interior Designer.)

If designing spaces is something think you want to do, here are a few facts you need to know:

{1}First of all, let's start with the difference between interior design and interior decoration, because the public often confuses the two professions.  According to the NCIDQ website,

Interior design is the art and science of understanding people's behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.

To be clear, decorating is still part of the scope of work that an interior designer is qualified to do, but in addition to that, they are likely preparing briefs or programs, space planning, drafting construction documents, checking building codes, creating lighting plans, and so on.

{2}Second, you really need to go to school. There are still a few states that permit you to practice without a degree, but things are changing fast. Most large interior design firms and architectural firms will not consider hiring you unless you have a four-year degree in interior design or a related field. Basically, if you want to be able to compete and to be taken seriously as a designer, you need to be serious enough to seek education.

Many recommend choosing a CIDA accredited school, to ensure your education meets the requirements for an entry level position in your field. Additionally, choose a school that has a competitive process to get into their program. Some schools are in the business of "selling you a degree" and anybody can get in if they can afford the tuition. I would feel more comfortable hiring someone from a state university with a competitive entry process, than from some private "art" schools.  I am not saying private art schools are bad -- there are many that are amazing.  I am saying do your research. Does the program require a minimum GPA? That's good! Do they require a portfolio review? That's great! Is competition pretty steep to get in? Generally, the harder it is to get in to a program, the better it is.

{3}Interior design is not glamorous. You are going to learn more about construction and building codes than you ever imagined!  You will learn the basics while you are in school, and you will continue learning when you are working. You will probably spend lots of time poking around in attics and crawl spaces, and dirty vacant buildings, and standing in line at the permit office.

{4}You will need to learn CAD. Some designers still use hand drafting, and you will need to learn that, as well, but drawing in CAD allows you to make changes quickly, work in layers, change scale, share files, and so on.

{5}You will need to learn to use 3-D modeling software.  Some firms will also want you to be comfortable with 3-D animation!

{4}You will need to be comfortable drawing, and have a strong understanding of perspective. (Don't worry, drawing is a skill they will each you in school!)

{6}You will need to learn about psychology, as it applies to your surroundings, and cultural differences in how space, distances, and elements within a space are perceived.

{7}You will need to develop a strong working of knowledge of the principles and elements of design.

{8}You will learn about creating safe, healthy spaces. You will learn how simple things like the height of a work table, or the arrangement of equipment on your desk can lead to injury. You will learn about sustainable materials, and indoor air quality, and  so much more!

{9}You will learn more about how toilets work, and electricity, and HVAC systems than you ever wanted to know -- and then you will need to apply that knowledge, and you will be glad you learned!

{10}You will learn that space planning is a HUGE part of the job of an interior designer. You will need to LOVE space planning.

So, I hope I haven't scared you off!  Interior design is a rewarding field, but there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what an interior designer does. Often shelter magazines and media perpetuate the misunderstandings, by using terms like decorator, stylist, and interior designer interchangeably.

Do want to be an interior designer? What about being a decorator? Or a Stylist? Or a kitchen planner?

For another article about whether interior design is the best path for you, click here