Fres Home · Oct 13, 2014

10 Things You Should Know About Becoming An Interior Designer

There are many functions that an interior designer must fill. Is it the right role for you? Image Source: 27 Diamonds

Are you always receiving compliments on your interior design taste? Do you love decorating rooms and arranging furniture? If you answered yes to these questions, then maybe a career in interior design is right for you.

Before making a life-altering career choice, there are some things you should know about the design world. There are certain challenges that interior designers face everyday—some of these may not appeal to you, while others may excite you and open doors to a career that you never knew was possible.

Let’s read on to learn about the top ten things you should know before becoming an Interior Designer:

Interior designers have a way with color, textiles and spatial arrangements. Image Source: Elements of Style

1) There is a Difference Between Decorators and Designers

There is a big difference between interior decorators and interior designers. To sum up the difference in one word, the difference is —Education.

Quite literally, anyone can become an interior decorator. Someone who loves playing with colors, fabrics and textiles can easily become a decorator by simply printing off a business card and promoting themselves to clients. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but educational background is also important.

On the other side of the spectrum, an interior designer must have an accredited education. An associates degree or a Bachelors degree is a requisite for working in the interior design field. Do you want to pursue an education or try to jump immediately into the decorating world? Continue reading to see if interior design could be the right fit for you.

There is a big difference between designers and decorators–designers have to have an associates degree. Image Source: The Sitting Room Studio

2) Do you Have Design Talent?

It may seem obvious, but in order to become an interior designer, you really need to have an innate flair for color, spatial arrangements, architecture and textiles.

Just because you love your home, receive compliments on your decor, and people think that you have done a great job decorating it, does not make you an ideal interior designer, but it is certainly a great first step.

The first step to a successful career is to follow your passion. After all, doing something you love will never feel like work. Take this fun career quiz to see what field you should consider majoring in. Is a career in interior design in your future?

Do you have the insight and talent that it takes to become a designer? Image Source: Grace Home Design

3) Interior Design Isn’t all Fabric and Fun

While fabrics, furniture and color may play an very large role in interior design, there are plenty of other tasks that are required of interior designers—tasks that may seem less fun and more like work.

Interior designers need to be educated in the history of design, structural integrity of buildings and building codes, ergonomics, spatial concepts, ethics, psychology, computer aided drawing (CAD) etc…

It seems that interior designers are expected to be ‘Jacks or Jills’ of all trades, doesn’t it? This broad range of skills are required because designers not only work with homeowners, they work with builders, architects, government policy officials, and business owners. To become a successful interior designer, one needs to be very educated and well-rounded and work with all disciplines.

There is more to interior design than fabric and fun. Image Source: FD Photo

4) Interior Design Compensation

Show me the money! After all, shouldn’t someone with such a vast education get paid well? It depends. Stats show that the salary of an entry-level interior designer working in the USA will make an average of $40,630 per year.

Of course, this depends on a lot of factors such as, education, prior work experience, size of the firm/company and location. A designer that is employed by a furniture company will most likely make less than a designer that is employed by a high-end architectural firm.

Essentially, you can dictate your rate of pay by gaining as much exposure and experience as possible. Someone with education in the fields of architecture, building codes/laws and structural design will more likely become financially successful.

Designers who have the most education and stay on top of trends are the ones that make the most money. Image Source: IBI designs

5) You Need to be a People Person

Ask any interior designer to share their experiences, and they will surely share some horror stories of past clients. People are finicky, especially when it comes to their homes.

While some clients have clear goals in mind, others may think they know what they want only to discover that they hate the final product and are dissatisfied with your work. A successful interior designer is a people pleasure and a mitigator (and sometimes a mind reader).

A successful designer will be able to steer their clients towards a favorable outcome, while making the client feel they are in full control of the design choices. Interior designers juggle a fine balancing act on a daily basis between the right design decision and a client’s desires. It is not a cake-walk, to say the least.

Expect to deal with all sorts of different personalities when working as an interior designer. Image Source: Platinum Series Homes

6) Develop a Portfolio

A picture says one-thousand words. This is definitely true when it comes to an interior designers portfolio. You can talk all day long about color choices, fabrics and textiles, but unless you have an outstanding portfolio that showcases your designs and past projects, your successes will be few and far between.

How can you get a portfolio started? If you are just coming out of school and are fresh to the job market, it may be necessary to offer your services for free or at cost. This may be the best way to get a portfolio started, and also a great way to get to know local merchandisers and suppliers, developing a rapport for future projects.

Everybody starts off at the bottom, but with effort, experience and proper marketing, you can become a successful force in the interior design field.

A great portfolio that is full of unique projects is key to success and landing jobs. Image Source: Greg Natale

7) Competition is High in Interior Design

Interior design is a competitive business. The key to success is getting yourself noticed. As mentioned above, an amazing designer portfolio will certainly help you get noticed and land jobs.

Another key to success in this field is acquiring an extensive education. The more you know, the better off you are. Consider looking towards future trends such as population growth, designing for the elderly, modern architecture and green design—education within these trendy fields of design will certainly give you the upper hand in the job market.

Also, it is a good idea to stay abreast of design trends through the reading of design publications, communicating with fellow designers, and following a mentor. When competition is high, you need to work hard in order to get noticed and rise to the top.

Competition is fierce in the design world, so you need to stay on top of all the trends. Image Source: Brizo

8) Virtual Designers Have an Opportunity

When people hire a designer, they may not realize that they can actually hire from anywhere in the world. Yes, designers can telecommute, too! Thanks to all the modern inventions of Skype and computer design software, designers are discovering a whole new world of virtual design.

There may be a lot of amazing free online room designer tools available to the general public, but interior designers have an edge on this competition thanks to their exclusive relationships with elite design lines such as Shumacher.

Yes, a lot of high-end textile companies offer undisclosed discounts to designers working in the trade, thereby allowing interior designers to get you the best price for high-end merchandise.

Interior designers can telecommute thanks to virtual room planning tools. Image Source: M Architecture

9) Designers Need to Know Local Laws and Codes

This is where would-be designers may opt to avoid the education and become decorators, thereby avoiding some of the doldrum of learning building codes and local laws.

Some of these nitty-gritty details can certainly be boring, but are required knowledge of every interior designer. Learning about plumbing codes, electricity and load bearing walls may not excite you, but it is a fact of life for interior designers.

Staying abreast of building codes, laws and architectural requirements gives interior designers an advantage and marketability that decorators simply do not have.

Designers need to stay abreast of local building codes, such as plumbing and electricity. Image Source: Visible Proof

10) It’s Not About Your Style, It’s About Theirs

While designers can offer their clients a wide range of design styles to choose from, it is important to remember that it is up to the client to choose what style suits them best.

There is a misconceived notion of some budding designers who are just entering into design school— just because a designer has good taste, it does not make their choices superior to the clients. As mentioned above, it is up to an interior designer to show the style offerings and direct the client towards the right design choice, while allowing the client to feel in charge.

For example, you may work as an interior designer for years and never actually design a house that suits your personal tastes. It is about the clients style, not your own.

Interior designers have to work with many unique clients and their style choices. Image Source: Regas Interiors

After reading all the pros and cons of a career in interior design, what do you think? Is a career as an interior designer something you may want to pursue?

If it is something you plan look into further, then remember all the ten items mentioned here. Designers need to work hard; get a great education; work with many types of people; be flexible in their design choices; and stay abreast of building codes and laws. The market may be competitive, but with hard work and a stellar portfolio, you can become a successful interior designer.

Do you dream of becoming an interior designer? If you do, what appeals to you most (or least) about the job?

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