How to Become an Interior Designer
Getting Started as an Interior Designer
Contrary to popular and naïve belief, your mother, as much as she may try to convince you otherwise, is probably not an interior designer. She may claim to be an interior designer, and she may, in fact, do some interior design work for your house, but to call everyone who dabbles in decorating their home an interior designer is insulting to real interior designers. The reason it is insulting is because while some think interior design is just about choosing the furniture and color scheme for a particular room or space, it is actually far more complicated and nuanced than that. Professional interior designers and decorators don’t just have a knack for picking aesthetically pleasing chairs and drapes, they usually also boast a bachelor’s degree in design from an accredited institution that comes with a solid foundation of design principals, an understanding of how to use space, tons of experience in the design studio, and technical skills and knowledge that are often forgotten about in the world of design.
Interior design is considered to be a hobby by many but for the talented few willing to sacrifice time and effort, it is a full-blown career and it can be an exciting one for those lucky enough to get their foot in the door. Aspiring interior designers may be drawn to the profession by a love or passion for design, but it also might make them feel pretty good if they knew that the industry was also growing rather rapidly. According to a State of the Industry Report done by the American Society of Interior Designers, employment for interior designers is growing and even outpacing the average growth for other occupations. The number of interior design firms is also growing and, thanks in large part to a sharp uptick in residential spending, industry sales eclipsed $6 billion again in 2014. Of course growing industries, especially ones tied to incredibly popular industries like design, can be both a blessing and a curse. There is nothing more exciting than working in a growing field and understanding the impact you are having on the economy, on yourself, and on others around you. But success and potential wealth bring out competition, and the fact that interior design firms and interior designers are multiplying rapidly means that aspiring interior designers can expect stiff competition not only for placement in a degree program but also when it comes to finding gainful employment.
The professional interior designers we interviewed will all tell you that there is no hard or fast path to success in the industry and that each interior designer is going to have unique educational and professional experiences. There are some who prefer to work in a large-firm setting, but they have to deal with corporate structure, office politics, and the potential censoring of their creative expression. Other interior designers prefer to strike out on their own and create their own business, only many underestimate the marketing and public relations work that comes with running your own business and others struggle to enjoy the more technical and financial side of the business as it impedes on their ability to spend time doing design work. There is no right or wrong way to approach your career in interior design as even the experts we spoke to all came from different walks of life and all took different paths to arrive where they are now. But all of them will tell you that it is best to get your feet wet in the industry before committing to it as a career, and that if you do commit to it, you should be prepared to work very hard and you shouldn’t expect to get rich right away.
None of this is meant to dissuade interested parties from pursuing a career in interior design. The interior designers we spoke to all glowingly talked about how much they love their job and how much fun it is to pursue a passion like design as a career. Many also talked about the impact of creating a lasting piece of art and how, no matter how superficial it sounds, interior design can make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. We just merely want those interested in the career to have a good idea of what they are getting themselves into. In the interest of helping aspiring interior designers find all that information, we not only asked professionals to share their experience and advice, but we also created a handy visual to serve as an overview of what the industry looks like now.