Interior designer Angela Cheung and I meet online each fortnight to discuss interior design. We thought this week it would be helpful to discuss our own paths to having our own design businesses to help anyone considering starting in the industry.
For me that was the traditional educational route of A level Art & Design, Art Foundation Course and then a degree (although I opted for Furniture Design). Following my degree, I was lucky to work in a drawing office and then a design team to build up lots of experience. I’d bought and sold some houses that provided great experience as well. I also took a distance learning National Diploma in Interior Design (which I didn’t get to mention) while I was working - plus took numerous associatied short courses and continuted courses on CAD and design software. All these things set me up well for venturing on my own - however if you are thinking of doing that - the actual runnning of a business is a whole new skillset that needs a whole lot of training and coaching for!
Angela’s path has been different - she came from the same Art Foundation course to study Graphic Design to working on commercial design projects from the client side. She is an employer and is able to offer office-based work experience (unlike me). She details the software requirements she needs applicants to have - technical skills - In Design, Photoshop, CAD. Angela highlights the huge importance to learn the 'classics' first - art & design history and the basic skills of draughting and drawing by hand.
We talk about the benefits of coming into the industry from other routes and later in life and how that is a benefit rather than a barrier. The people side of the role seems much easier as you get older.
The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) a great place to start when considering joining the industry. They have advice on choosing courses and have a student membership and pathway. They will support designers through their career - starting with free membership and first year in industry. They offer mentoring, a yearly Student Design Challenge (which is open now for registration) and even portfolio mentoring. We both feel strongly that being an accredited designer is important - as the industry is unregulated. Entry requirements to the BIID are high and you must show you have the experience, skills, professionalism and insurances to work in the industry which is vital reassurance to clients.
If you have a specific interest such as Sustainability like me or Biophilic Design like Angela - then seek out courses that teach that specialism. Now that courses are online - you can be studying anywhere.
CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD)
For those entering into the world of interior design - be aware that you are embarking on life long learning. We both are proof that learning does not come to an end. Angela is in her second term of her BA in Architecture. I’m just starting a new course in Healthy Materials and Sustainable Building. The whole reason I joined the professional body was to continue learning through their CPD offer. More and more courses are shifting online and becoming more affordable. Get as much work experience as you can. Try to build up lots of experience within a large company who values education and who will give you lots of access to learning.
The reality is that Interior Design in reality is nothing like what Instagram might convey. Being original - draw on inspiration and be original - not copying is vital! You might be able to shop well but that's not just what interior design is about. It’s not only about design and being creative - it’s actually a huge amount of people skills, technical skills and mathematics.
It is not all about creativity and design is actually a small percentage of what you'll do. The creative concept may not always come from you - so there is no room for ego and stamping your style on every project. Clients often come with their own strong ideas and we are there to deliver spaces to the client’s brief.
Invest in as much education as you can afford and get as much experience as you can.
Angela summarises the discussion so well by advising people to align themselves with companies who share their core values and to be authentic.
British Institute of Interior Design (BIID):
Choosing an Interior Design Course advice https://biid.org.uk/education-cpd/choosing-interior-design-course