Hello, friends of the Kuotes! Last week we discussed the differences between an interior designer and an interior decorator to prepare for our back-to-school September series we’ve titled Becoming a Better Interior Designer (straight to the point, huh?). This series will cover all of the hot topics and questions we receive on how to grow your business as a designer, and the content from this series will be available as its own section in The Designer’s Handbook. So stay tuned, and don’t miss out!
The first post in this series goes out to our readers who are just beginning their adventure in the world of interior design. There is a mass of information on how to become an interior designer, and processing it all can be quite overwhelming. The Kuotes is going to break it down for you, topic by topic, so that when getting started as a designer, you’ll feel a bit more like
School Comes First
Isn’t that what mom and dad always said? Well, it’s good advice. Certified interior designers have more than a good eye and creativity; they have formal training and a strong education. Most reputable design companies will not hire designers without at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design, and 26 states currently have licensing requirements for certified interior designers (including our location, New York). In some states, you cannot even legally call yourself an interior designer unless you meet or exceed a certain level of accredited education. In many other states, you must pass the qualifying exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. Going to school is the best way to prepare you for all of these rules and regulations.
Even if your state does not legally require schooling, who doesn’t love to learn? If you are truly passionate about interior design, why wouldn’t you want to study more about the industry and expand your knowledge in the worlds of architecture, design, art history, and other topics that will bolster your creativity and know-how. Formal training will allow you to explore different types and aspects of interior design that you may not have considered before as a possibility: a design architect, a set designer, an architectural and civil drafter…the list goes on. Formal training will provide you with all of the technical skills necessary to become a designer (from sketching and modeling to using AutoCAD) as well as all of the professional and legal training (from memorizing building codes and architectural requirements to business and project management courses).
Sounds great, but how do I decide on a school?
For most aspiring interior designers, going to school is an obvious choice, but questions still remain: When? Where? How? Here are some of our guidelines to follow when choosing a school or design program:
1. Accreditation: The Council for Interior Design Accreditation carefully reviews interior design curriculums to ensure that students will exit the programs with a proper knowledge of the field. School is an investment, so you want to be assured that the quality of your education matches what you’re paying for. A full listing of schools and programs that meet the proper accreditation can be found online. Pro Tip: The easiest way to check for accreditation is to call and ask. Note that some schools may be in the process of becoming accredited or while others may not have applied for accreditation due the size of the program. If you’re part of a program that is not accredited, push your institution to go through the motions and make the changes needed for that stamp of approval.
2. Program Duration: We understand that you’re busy, so the most important aspect of choosing a program is to choose a school that fits your needs. Some schools have 4-year programs while some schools offer accelerated 2-year programs. Some programs are large and housed in a university while others are small and put on by private institutions. And most programs have specialty areas that you may or may not be interested in. And, of course, all programs come at a different price. So choose a program that is right for you.
Pro Tip: You can even get the education you need online! Be careful, because many online certificate programs are not accredited and will not provide the education needed to pass state tests and regulations, but two programs the Kuotes highly recommends are the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s Online Division (www.aionline.edu) and the Academy of Art online program (www.academyart.edu).
Put Together a Portfolio
Although school is a priority, the arguably most important step in becoming a designer is constructing a strong portfolio. Think about it. Who in their right mind would hire someone with no proof of their abilities? A portfolio is absolutely imperative for demonstrating your proficiency to clients and for showing your personal taste and design style. Remember to take high-quality photographs all of your work, including detailing shots, and also include your sketches and drawings so your client can see how you were able to bring your ideas to life. Don’t be afraid to include projects of a variety to showcase your well-roundedness as a designer. And, as it is 2015, you should definitely have an accessible online portfolio in addition to the portfolio you carry around with you.
Pro Tip: How do you get work to put in a portfolio…if you can only get work with a portfolio??? This is the catch-22 that exists for almost all art forms. Make sure to photograph and document any work you do as a design student in addition to any work you do on your own home or for friends and family. The worst case scenario: do a few pro bono projects until you build a portfolio you can sell!
Network and Outreach
Something to think about: interior design is a very, VERY social career. Most of your success, outside of your talent, will be from your ability to interact with others. Clients can be a handful (to say the least), and it is your job as a designer to steer clients towards a favorable design while making them feel in full control of the design choices. To make your clients happy, you will need to provide constant communication and follow ups. The talking doesn’t stop with your client either. Designers have to effectively communicate with architects, technicians, vendors, etc. In addition to this, great designers are vocal on social media and within the design community to have their skills shown.
Pro Tip: Does all of the organization and communication involved with interior design sound complicated? Well, it is. Luckily, it’s one of many things we at Kathy Kuo Home are experts at. Make your project management and client communication super simple by becoming a trade member at KKH. We’ll handle all of those pesky follow ups and communications for you!
One Last Tip:
Have more questions on getting started? Feel free to comment in the section below, and we’ll be sure to follow up!