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7 Things to Know About the Profession of Interior Design

Think interior design is all about picking pretty colors and fabrics? Think again.

Interior designers are part engineer, part artist. They understand electrical capacity, interpret and communicate seemingly abstract ideas, and create functional spaces based on human movement and living patterns. And that’s just for starters.

Thinking that interior design might be your calling? Here are 7 things you should know first.

Not Just About Homes
We often think of interior design in a residential setting: kitchen, bedrooms, and the like. While interior designers certainly work on residential spaces, they might also work in other areas, like retail shops, industrial spaces, offices, schools hospitals and hotels.

Get Educated
Most interior designers complete post-secondary education. Proper education is a must for those who wish to establish a career in interior design. Interior designers often start off by completing programs in fields relating to interior design, like visual arts, engineering, or design. Afterwards, they can continue on to obtain a diploma in an interior design specific program.

There are more than 100 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada that offer interior design-specific programs, accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research.

So what does an interior design academic program look like? Courses range for theory-based lessons to spatial planning to sustainability practices. There are also business, computer science and liberal studies courses to complement the program.

Finally, to become an NCIDQ-certified interior designer, you’ll need to pass a series of qualification exams given by the National Council for Interior Design. This involves mastering building systems, codes, construction standards, design application, project coordination, lighting design, systems integration, and millwork, to name a few.

Interior Design as an Artistic Profession
Historically, the world of interior design was heavily associated with manufacturing and retailing. Think of a coordinated bedroom set: retailers would offer furniture, textiles, decorations and flooring as a bundled package.

This changed in the early 20th century, when professional interior designers, independent of retailers and manufacturers, emerged. This new wave of interior design brought significant innovation to the world of décor and design.

Understanding Space
Above all, interior design is about using space effectively. Interior designers establish parameters for a space using technical aspects, like acoustics and lighting. Then, the purpose of the space is determined: how is the space being used by its occupants? Understanding the ways that people are influenced by their environments is an important factor in creating smart spaces.

Communication is Key
Because interior designers work for clients, their communication skills are paramount. They need to be able to understand a client’s goals, needs, and vision—and since the client is usually not a professional in the field, their ways of expressing their views might require considerable interpretation.

Interior designers often work as part of a team with different experts and tradespeople. A good designer will know how to be an effective leader and how to be a productive team player. Strong interpersonal skills are an absolute necessity.

The Business of the Business
A business-oriented mind will go a long way in the world of interior design. Beyond working with spaces, interior designers need to establish timelines—they’ll often be required to complete projects with demanding deadlines–and work within budgets. A certain level of salesmanship is required to obtain clients. Presentation skills are required to pitch proposals and concepts to clients.

Working as an Interior Designer
There are many ways of operating as an interior designer. About a quarter of interior designers are self-employed, with the rest working for companies—everything from small companies with only a few employees, all the way up to mega corporations. The majority of interior designers do so as a full-time occupation, though some do it part-time.

How much can an interior designer make? As with so many careers, it really depends. A Canadian survey suggested that most interior designers’ salaries falls somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000 Canadian (a broad range, to be sure), though a well-established designer who is an expert in the field can earn more than that.

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