Aspiring designers with a flair for color, an interest in fashion trendsm, and the skills to produce unique styles may wish to pursue an interior design degree. These degree programs involve a great deal of detail-oriented coursework that immerses participants in the history, theory, and application of many design concepts and prepares them to apply those concepts in the real world.
Prospective designers can expect to work with all areas of interior style including colors and textures, fabrics, lighting and furniture design, and placement. Such concepts are applied in a variety of settings from functional "bare bones" constructions such as offices to luxury hotels, homes, and apartments.
Designers may work with architects and builders as well as structural and mechanical engineers to visualize how a space will look and function. They meet and collaborate with clients to develop design visions and set goals for the desired layout as well as determine how long projects will take. This provides the basis for sketching preliminary plans, choosing materials, finalizing designs and applying the style to the finished space. A client follow-up is usually part of the process to ensure satisfaction.
Those desiring to become interior designers should possess the following skills:
• Familiarity with past and present design trends
• Ability to work well with others and collaborate to complete projects
• Artistic ability and a creative mindset
• Attention to detail that allows visualization and execution of design concepts
• Problem-solving skills that can be applied to a variety of challenges
Interior designers may start their career paths with two- or four-year programs. Each involves important coursework that covers general education and business as well as design. General education courses may include art history as well as writing, communications, general history, and additional social science courses. These provide the necessary foundation for further coursework and for working with clients in a real-world setting.
Preparing to work with clients also requires a solid understanding of business skills and operations. Courses in sales and merchandising, business math and budgeting, entrepreneurship, and professional practice may all appear on a syllabus for interior design degrees.
The main body of design coursework covers a wide variety of topics and skills. Students are commonly expected to take classes in such diverse areas as architecture, construction documents and blueprint reading, building and structural systems and understanding municipal codes. These practical courses ensure that designers understand the concepts behind interior construction and will be able to look at the plans for a new structure and visualize designs for rooms that are not yet built. Specific areas of study such as color and design concepts, design research, interior finishes, textiles, interior lighting, and design drawing integrate with this foundation to provide the knowledge necessary for students to succeed in the field when they graduate.
Computer-aided design, or CAD, is a very common course for aspiring interior designers. Computers are a big part of just about every profession and are valuable tools for turning the mental image of a design into a reality. Students learn how to use a computer to make two-dimensional sketches of their designs. Further coursework in other areas will likely include three-dimensional design to aid in bringing interior styles to life.
To learn how to plan out a design in a specific space and apply it to both residential and commercial areas, students will take courses in spatial planning. This includes learning to understand the architectural concepts behind building design.
Courses in furniture and lighting design focus on the internal elements of rooms. Students gain an understanding of how to construct furniture pieces and use them as design features. Some furniture courses include the fundamentals of furniture engineering and manufacture. Coupling this with lighting design allows students to visualize the effects of lighting on an interior space and learn to use different types of lighting fixtures to create specific effects with light and color.
Students can expect to complete 45-60 credit hours of specific design training as well as 15 hours of general education for an associate's degree. Bachelor's programs require around 51-98 hours of design work and 50 hours of general education. Most universities allow students to transfer from a two-year to a four-year program as associate's degrees typically include the necessary background for continuing design education.
Having a two-year degree can also open up the opportunity for graduates to work as assistant designers. This offers practical on-the-job training that hones skills and gives beginners an idea of what they can expect to encounter when working on their own. Internships provide similar experience that can be invaluable to designers who are just starting out.
Designers may choose to focus on a particular area of design as they study and practice. Common options include:
• Kitchen and bath design with specialized programs provided through schools accredited by the National Kitchen & Bath Association
• Universal design, which focuses on accessible renovations
• Lighting design for homes, offices and public areas such as museums and theaters
• Sustainable design with a focus on efficiency including energy and water conservation and the use of sustainable materials
• Working in home furnishing stores to help customers choose the right styles and designs for their homes
• Teaching in a design school
Licensing and Registration
After schooling is completed, some states require designers to become licensed. This is usually done by taking a state-approved test such as the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam. This allows designers to designate themselves as registered. To take the exam, applicants must have a bachelor's degree and at least two years of supervised experience working in the field.
Design students should check the laws in their state to ensure that the scope or title this particular profession isn't restricted. Some states will allow both licensed and unlicensed designers to work while others have laws about what titles can and can't be used. Certain states won't allow designers to work at all unless they've passed the licensing exam.
The job market for interior designing is projected to grow at least as quickly as other occupations: 13% between 2012 and 2022. This offers many opportunities for hard-working students and those who have already obtained a degree. There are always new buildings going up and companies and organizations are frequently looking to remodel. High-income areas with wealthy residents may provide some of the best prospects for those looking to work in specialized design services as this client base has the income necessary to hire a designer to decorate their homes or apartments.
Pursuing an interior design degree requires hard work and dedication to the education process as well as a willingness to apply oneself to practical fieldwork. Those who enjoy collaborating with others to create beautiful interior spaces will do well in this profession. As trends grow and change, some may wish to return to school to update their knowledge and remain competitive in the field of interior designs.