Becoming an Interior Designer

Published by Ashlyn Poppe

Santana Lopez had been decorating the homes of her family and friends for years, and wanted to take her career to the next level. A local news station sat down with Santana for an interview to observe the steps she took to become a certified interior designer. When asked, she descibed her journey step by step. Here’s what she said! “Becoming an interior designer was the career I was always meant to pursue, but the work wasn’t easy. The phrase ‘interior designer’ is often demoted; however, the path you must take is complicated and requires a raw passion for design. The work of an interior designer is never finished until a blank canvas is brought to life, displaying the character and energy of the designer and their client…”

Decorate VS Design

“Decorating is never successful if it’s not personal.” Says notable celebrity interior designer, Jan Showers. Consider that an interior decorator is one who likes to play around with colors, patterns, fabrics, and styles. Decorating is design in its simplicity, but becoming an interior designer takes time, effort, and passion. In contrast, to be labelled a designer, you must have an accredited education, with an associate or bachelor’s degree. In addition, designs are almost always planned out and graphed on paper first, so architecture and floor plan are defining aspects of interior design. However, decorating is a major part of designing, so you may use decorating as a platform to achieve greater career paths. Remember, make sure design is your passion, and know that you’ll put in the work to make it happen.

Education and Background

Now that you’ve come to terms with your passion for interior design, it’s time to set out on a course that builds upon your skills and helps you choose a career path. Design education is no walk in the park, students must choose a certification path, this can be done at university or after graduation. Next, you must pass the final exam and maintain a balance throughout the course. In addition, you can further pursue a Bachelor’s degree in interior design to build more experience. Keep in mind that certified interior designers need to be educated in the history of design, the structural integrity of buildings, building codes, spatial concepts, ethics, computer-aided drawing (CAD) and much more.

Interior designers and trainees can also participate in workshops to grow their expertise. For example, the Sherwin-Williams Online Learning Center‘s CEU courses on color and paint technology are certified by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC).Consider that interior designs must be good with people, for its up to you express someone else’s character through their living spaces. This is not to say that you must be bubbly and outgoing all the time, but it is easier to book jobs with a friendly personality. Also, having a quality portfolio on hand is a great strategy to book jobs and prove your skills, but we’ll talk about that next.

Building your career

Starting a career as an interior designer is no easy task, it takes patience and dedication to become successful. The most difficult feat for new designers is booking paid jobs for clients, for many clients are more vigilant when hiring interior designers with little to no experience. However, there are countless solutions when facing this issue. For instance, interior designers oftentimes begin by doing work for free. This helps develop experience and credibility, it also allows the designer to practice their craft in a real life setting. In addition, it is imperative for designers to conduct a portfolio to show potential clients their past work, education, client reviews and recommendations, other majors in the arts or design, and reliability. But what do you include in a portfolio?

According to Brian Ling, a design innovator with over 18 years of experience and the developer of several design programs and Fortune 500 companies from Design Sojourn, portfolios are the key to booking any substantial job for designers. Brian Ling focused primarily on the projects you include in your portfolio, for he claims they are the most “eye-catching” and “necessary” pieces of your portfolio. For instance, keeping your portfolio nice and neat is a great way to display your work and avoid boring clients. Brian Ling says, “keep your projects from 8-10, and make sure they depict your best work.” Similarly, designers should constantly update their portfolios and the work inside. The more work you put in, the greater success you’ll have as an interior designer.
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This graph displays the median salary in three various locations in the United States. The regions are California, New York state, and Texas.

Things to keep in mind

Now that you’ve completed your interior design training and created a flawless portfolio, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, the salary for professional interior designers is not as high as you’d imagine. For example, $40,000 is the median salary per year in the US. Of course this depends on your clients and the area in which you work. Many interior designers receive benefits for their work. PayScale online, a not for profit website developed to give accurate salary estimates and available jobs, states, “Unfortunately, some people in this line of work are without benefits — slightly less than a third lack coverage. On the flip side, the greater part have medical insurance and nearly one-half receive dental plans.” Consider the potential advantages of cultivating a career in interior design.

In contrast, competition is fierce in the interior design industry. Designers with more experience or better projects will beat you to opportunities and snatch up more clients. Creating a killer portfolio is the key to any client, and it is important that you make a strong, memorable first impression. Nothing worth having comes easily, so put in the work and it will pay off.

As stated previously, make sure design is your passion! This is to say the required skill-set and training are no easy tasks to complete, so make sure you are putting in the time and effort to build a career that you love. And even if you aren’t sure about doing interior design full-time, finishing a basic course may allow you to work on the side as a hobby or extra job. So take the plunge, it may provide you with great opportunities and a career doing what you love.

“Becoming an interior designer was a journey I’ll never forget. If design is a field you are truly passionate about, I strongly encourage you to take a leap and get started! The payoff will be lively career doing what you love and sharing your creativity and talent with others!” Were the last few sentences of the interview with Santana. Know that the pursuit of a career in design can take time, effort, and skill. There are many tasks you must complete before you can become an accreditted interior designer. If design is something you’ve always wanted to try out, but never really knew how to get started, take a risk, the reward may be something greater than you’d ever imagine.


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