How to become an interior designer
If since the days of Changing Rooms gracing our screens, you’ve dreamt of making a career out of designing colour schemes for the nation’s livings rooms, a career as an interior designer could be just the trick. But how do you go about transforming a penchant for swatches into a day job re-designing people’s homes?
What does it entail?
The job of interior designer is one brimming with creativity. However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all about drawing pretty pictures and choosing decorative throws. Oftentimes, designers will have the brief set out by the client to stick to, and may have to work alongside an architect if the work is structural.
It’s as much a creative role, as it is a strategic one: you will be required to transform initial sketches into detailed, computer-designed drawings, and ensure that the project meets the desired time-scale and comes in at the projected cost. So having a business head on your shoulders, as well as boasting creative flair, will certainly pay dividends.
Hours and salary
Working as an interior designer doesn’t usual come with the standard 9-to-5 hours; they can be long and irregular, especially in the run-up to the close of a project. In these cases, you may be working until 8pm or 9pm, or during weekends, but this can be expected in many industries close to important deadlines. You’ll spend most of your time in a studio, although will pay regular visits to clients, sites, and suppliers.
Pay levels tend to be quite generous, increasing with experience. Junior designers typically earn between £15,000 and £20,000, with this rising to £20,000 – £30,000 for mid-level interior designers and over £45,000 for senior designers and creative directors.
Although it is possible to start from the bottom through on-the-job training, the majority of interior designers will be required to undertake a qualification before they start working at a design practice. This qualification needn’t be a degree; many interior designers undertake shorter courses, but the important thing is to ensure your qualification is professionally recognised in the industry. As interior design combines both creative arts and architecture, your course will need to cover the fundamentals of design, visual communication (drawing, photography, model-making and the like), projects related to the built environment as well as professional practice (legislation affecting designers).
The spectrum of interior design courses is truly quite wide, and your decision will be based upon entry requirements to the course, time restraints, financial options and which area of interior design you’re most interested in. There is the Level 1 Design and Craft Certificate offered by City & Guilds, for instance, which requires 30 hours of learning, all the way to a four-year full-time BA Honours degree. It’s worth contacting interior design companies to ask what they expect qualification-wise for a Junior Designer before jumping into a course.
In order to apply for courses – especially undergraduate degrees – the provider will want to see a portfolio of your work. This may be examples of coursework at school, college or sixth-form – including sketches, designs and computer work – as you’ll want to show the breadth of your abilities. Most universities will have specific portfolio requirements, so be sure to research them thoroughly before applying for courses, so that you know you can create one to meet their specifications.
Regardless of which route you go down – vocational or degree-based – you’ll need to add three or four placements to your arsenal in order to land a job as a designer. Employers want to see that you’ve had everyday-working experience in an interior design practice, and this is something that a degree alone simply won’t provide (unless it has a built-in year in industry).
Want to find out more?
Interested in starting a career in interior design? These sites should be your first port of call:
The British Interior Design Association (BIDA) – www.bida.org
The Chartered Society of Designers – www.csd.org.uk
The Design Council – www.designcouncil.org.uk