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Interior Design

The Breakdown

Interior designers are artists. However, instead of a potter’s wheel or a loom, they use an empty room as a canvas. Lest you confuse them with decorators, interior designers don’t simply help clients find the best ottoman and love seat to place in their study. Instead, they determine the layout of a room taking aesthetics, space allocation, construction materials and building codes all into consideration. Easy enough right?

Should you decide to enroll in an interior design program, you will study design history and theory along with the basic principles of architecture. And you will investigate how interior spaces fit within a larger architectural context. Moreover, you’ll research the ways in which people interact with their environment and how the materials used affect both physical health and comfort. You’ll always familiarize yourself with the vocabulary of design as well as the tools (ie specific computer design programs). And, of course, you’ll study all the elements of design from lighting and color to form and furnishings. Lastly, you will learn how to design for a variety of locations – commercial, residential, institutional and recreational.

As an interior design student, you must be equal parts creative and analytical. You will also discover that an eye for detail and a head for numbers are important. Further, you’ll need to be flexible and have strong communication and people skills. After all, interior design is often collaborative. Plus, you will always have to take your clients wishes and opinions into consideration. Lastly, it probably helps to be inspired, not overwhelmed, by the idea of an empty space.

Nuts and Bolts

As an interior design major, your schedule might very well include courses such as: Introduction to Textiles, Design Fundamentals, Computer-Aided Design for Interiors, Lighting and Other Mechanical Systems, Digital Design Studio, Observational Color, History of European Interiors, Sketching and Rendering, Person and Environment Interactions, Hospitality Design and Retail Design.

Decisions, Decisions

Interior design students obviously gravitate towards fields that call for creativity and visual acuity. Therefore, they also sometimes consider studying fashion design, studio art, art history, architecture, textile design, sculpture, urban studies, landscape architecture, graphic design, photography, interior decorating, industrial design and art education.

What's Next

Similar to architecture majors, budding interior designers are really put to the test…literally. Indeed, after graduating from an accredited program, majors will have to pass a licensing exam given by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). However, before taking the exam, recent graduates must gain a modicum of work experience. Many young interior designers do this through the Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP). This is a program administered by the NCIDQ and aimed at giving new designers the chance to tackle a wide range of professional tasks. Additionally, it helps prepare designers for the licensing exam and provides a number of networking opportunities. Of course, some interior design majors ultimately decide to branch out and find other career paths. Fortunately, there are many related and tangential professions including antiques specialist, interior decorator, set designer, production designer, lighting consultant and architectural draftsperson.


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Don Munce