You love to decorate your home and help all your friends with their home renovations…so should you become an interior designer? That all depends. Anyone can become a decorator if he or she decides to as no special training is necessary. Even though you might enjoy design, however, there are educational requirements for becoming an interior designer and, in most states, licensing requirements too. Beyond those, there are also other characteristics to keep in mind if you want to pursue an interior design career.
An educational program in interior design generally requires two to three years for a certificate or an associate degree. Or, a bachelor’s degree program that requires four years is also an option. In fact, more than 300 colleges and universities as well as 150 professional programs offer interior design education. Programs in interior design may be accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation or from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. At most institutions, the interior design program is typically within the art, design or architecture program.
Most programs include courses in interior design, visual and design communication, materials, construction, lighting design, sustainable design, along with general education requirements. Students then learn how to use these principles and concepts in interior design projects for residential and commercial clients. In addition to coursework, studio projects and research or internship experiences may be part of the plan. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is definitely a required skill in this day and age and staying up to date on trends and professional news goes without saying.
When starting out in an interior design career, most new designers will begin with an apprenticeship or some kind of supervised experience. After that, in the United States, it depends on where you live. Some states require a license or registration to work as an interior designer. In addition, to call yourself an interior designer, you must pass the exam from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ).
Once registered or certified, some people decide to specialize when they become an interior designer. Assorted specific areas of design offer additional certifications, such as commercial specialties, lighting or kitchen and bath design. Some require additional education and others may be achievable with experience earned on the job.
Although less tangible than education and licensing, there are a number of other qualities you need — or need to develop — in order to become an interior designer. These characteristics can help ensure that you’ll not only love your interior design career, but enable you to find success.
A Sense of Artistic Flair
This is hard to quantify, but think about it: Are you the one who dresses with style? Are you aware of what’s in and what’s out with regard to colors and trends? Maybe you’re the one who has always had a stylish apartment, even when living on a shoestring as a student. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may have the knack for interior design.
When looking for a new house or apartment, there are two kinds of people: Those who can envision what an empty room will look like with furnishings and decor and those who cannot. If you fall into the first category, that’s a good thing if you want to become an interior designer. You’ll also need to see the good and bad in a particular space because both have to be taken into account. Similarly, you’ll need to use that same vision to strip away what. exists and envision the basic space underneath. Cluttered rooms, poorly configured spaces that need remodeling and other challenges are a part of everyday life for interior designers. The ability to predict what the final space will look like after you complete all your decorating plans is a key skill for pleasing clients.
Attention to Details
With this characteristic, we’re not talking just about the finishing touches on a room. Your interior design career is going to require many more skills than picking paint and fabric swatches. Exacting measurements are required for all areas of interior design: Window treatments, furniture placement and remodeling projects. You need to know infrastructural details about which clients will likely know nothing, such as building codes, the psychology of spaces, local building codes, safety and more. As the designer, it’s your role to know these things and raise any issues in the planning so that they can be addressed by the proper professional. This all has to happen before you get to the “fun” part of picking paint and decor.
When the going gets tough, an interior designer can’t crumble under the pressure. Watch enough remodeling shows and you’ll find that something always goes wrong with a project. Being able to calmly consider the problem and possible options for a solution are key. Delays can be another thing to frustrate a project, from late deliveries to hitches in construction or contractor schedules. Learning to efficiently and professional deal with delays is an important skill to hone.
Ability to Communicate Effectively
While any job that involves working closely with clients requires good communication skills, those who work in an interior design career must be expert communicators. When a client invites you into their home to transform the space, it becomes a personal relationship on a certain level. You must be a good listener. You have to really understand what a client wants and translate that into a vision, and then convey that to anyone else involved in the work, from the painter to the builder. Communicating effectively throughout the life of the project goes a long way toward ending up with a satisfied client.
A People Person
It’s not about you. Yes, you might have a personal style, however, your vision for a space has to be what the client wants. It’s the clients home and they’ve entrusted you to make it special, according to their wants and desires. When you become an interior designer you will be creating plenty of spaces that do not fit your own personal style — and you might not even be particularly fond of the final product. The job is about understanding the client’s desires, developing a design they like, and then guiding them toward the end result. You’ll walk a fine line between moving the project along and pleasing your clients.
As with any business, competition is stiff and you’ll have to work hard to promote yourself. Spend a portion of your time marketing yourself is essential, unless you can afford to hire someone to help. Having a portfolio and impeccable social media accounts that convey the style and depth of your work are critical in today’s digital age. Building solid professional relationships through work partners and vendors can help drive potential business in your direction. Networking and putting your name and work out in front of the marketplace can help propel you toward a successful interior design career.
No Visions of Grandeur
As you peruse the Instagram accounts of major interior designers, you might get visions of jetting around, designing properties in exciting locations across the globe. While you may reach that level some day, no one starts out fabulous and famous. According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an interior designer in the US is $51,500, but that includes the full range of career experience. For someone starting out, the 2018 median salary for the entry level ranges between $35,188-$48,662, with geographic location being only one of the major factors influencing the figure.
It’s a lot to think about but if you are indeed passionate about design and want to be involved in more than just the decorating aspect, an interior design career can be exceptionally rewarding.