What Is Interior Design: A Crash Course

Strictly speaking, interior design is the art or process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building, according to Dictionary. But in reality, interior design is much more than knowing where to hang a picture, position a sofa, or place the kitchen sink.

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Interior design is much more comprehensive than that. It’s about a person’s whole experience in a space. Interior design isn’t just the arrangement of pretty things. It’s an essential component of our very lives that affects not only how we think and feel, but also how we live, work, play, and even heal.

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What is the History of Interior Design? As a profession, interior design really began in the early 20th century, although today’s interior design industry is constantly evolving. Historically, the design of a building’s interior was based largely on instinct. Homemakers were the primary (and sole) interior designers of a home, for example, from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

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Today’s interior designer typically requires education, experience, and examination in order to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces (iida). Ever since the industrial age and the expansion of the middle class, people in general have expected more of their personal and work spaces, and interior design facilitates the improvement of both.

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Interior Design is Challenging to Get “Right.” Interior design, when it’s done well, looks easy. A space that looks pleasing and is functional and comfortable makes sense, and it feels effortless. But it’s rarely as simple to create such as space as it is to exist in one.

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Interior design combines the aesthetics of art with the science of understanding people’s behavior to make a space truly functional. It’s not enough to simply design a space that looks well. A common phrase is that interior designers may decorate, but decorators don’t design.

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Interior Design Combines Many Fields. Contemporary interior design combines many and various industries and areas of expertise in order to be successful, actually. Some of the players in the interior design world include architects, craftsmen, furniture makers and/or dealers, engineers, and property owners. Not only that, but the best interior designers are well-rounded in the fields of architecture, decorative arts, graphic design, and design knowledge in textiles, furniture, and lighting.

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Interior Design Requires a Spectrum of Knowledge. In addition to the areas mentioned previously (e.g., architecture, decorative arts, graphic design, and textile + furniture + lighting design), interior design also requires a working knowledge in spatial planning and arrangement, materials, and color theory. These are skillsets where technical knowledge gained from classes, books, and other information sourcesmust be combined with applicable real-world experience in order to truly thrive.

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Interior design also requires a bit of tech-savviness, as far as the use of 2D and 3D software applications is concerned. Computer-aided design (CAD) is key in contemporary interior design, as well as building information modeling (BIM). Generally, people or clients who can’t quite visualize a space without looking at it physically will benefit greatly from interior design’s digital mockups.

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On top of all that, while interior design is striving to make a space function well and look aesthetic and attractive, interior design also encompasses technical and safety issues such as structural requirements, building code, and health and safety issues.

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Interior Design Offers Many Careers. There is more to an interior design career than being an Interior Designer, although that’s certainly a common career path within the interior design field. Career options include, but are certainly not limited to, solo interior design practices, freelance or consulting interior designers, or those who work for a small or a large design firm.

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There are also options in design skill niches or specialties. These specialties include areas such as textile, lighting, and furniture. Other interior design niches that focus with a zoomed-in lens involve design careers in industries that benefit from interior design, such as the hospitality or cinematic (e.g., television, movies, even YouTube) industry.

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Two of the more common areas of interior design include residential design and commercial design. Residential interior designers focus their work on personal living spaces, whether new builds or existing living spaces. There are specialists within residential design who excel in a certain room or area of the house as well, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or home office.

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Commercial interior designers work in the realm of public spaces, from government and corporate buildings to schools, stores, hotels, hospitals, and much more. These spaces require an especial focus on performing for the people who will be spending time within, their safety, their needs, and their preferences. A library, for example, will be interior designed in a much different way than a corner café would be.

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Interior design is a challenging career, but the reward of successfully creating a space that exudes form and function is priceless. Functionality and aesthetics combine to enhance the life experience of everyone in the well-designed interior space.