Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reader Question: Becoming an Interior Designer

Hello everyone, I've received and email from a reader that I would like you to help me respond to. Tiffany, a recent high school graduate, is interested in becoming an interior designer and needs some guidance. Here is her email:

"My name is Tiffany and I wanted to contact you to get a little bit of your input on the idea of pursuing a career as an interior designer. I have recently graduated high school and want to begin college. I have found that a big interest of mine is interior design... I was just wanting some information, ideas, and a little bit of ideas to let me know what I need to be waiting for. I would sincerally appreciate this... Thank you."

It's makes me smile that Tiffany would reach out to me for advice. Tiffany, the first thing you should know is that I am not an interior designer. I actually studied Marine Biology in college and work as an Environmental Scientist but I have a strong interest in interior design. I voraciously consume information about the subject and write about the topics that interest me. I also have a father who once owned his own interior design business, a brother who works as an interior designer and was actually on the third season of HGTV's Design Star, and an uncle who was a very talented artist. I guess you can say interior design is in my gene pool. I also do small amounts of design work (usually for friends and usually for free) because I love it so much. I am working to build that business and perhaps one day will do more (paid :) work as a decorator or designer.

Now that you know more about my background you can see that I can't actually provide guidance about what kind of schooling is necessary to become an interior designer. This is why I would like to turn this question over to my readers. I know that some of you are professional interior designers & decorators, some that may have followed a traditional route and some that have not, and I was hoping you could give Tiffany some advice. It would be great if you could give her some insight into the path you followed to get to where you are today.

Art School -- Interior Design -- Bachelor's Apartment

Photo Credit: Jorge Luis Garcia Jimenez, Interior Design Student, Pratt Institute, 1960

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  1. Hi,
    Im not an interior designer either, but a book that can help you is "how to become an interior designer" here is the link for it on amazon, you can take a look inside.
    I bought that book a few months ago and it helped me a lot to understand what being an interior designer is. It is not just about decorating and matching colors, it is way more. Way more interesting. From what I understood (and what I will start asap) is that you have to find an accredited school, that there are 3 years of schooling and then 2 years of internship. After that, to be considered as an Interior Designer and own the title you have to pass the NCIDQ exam. It's not easy, but it is worth to make your hobby/passion a job!
    Good luck Tiffany.

  2. Hello!
    I am an interior designer :) I believe there are many paths that can land you in a design career. Initially, I spoke to local designers for suggestions (great place to start) and decided going to a college with an accredited 4 year design program was my best bet. I've heard horror stories about people graduating from schools with design programs, but no accredidation. Definitely ask. My program was also based on fine arts which really suited my passion for art. I now work with several colleagues who went to more technical schools for their design degrees. Interior design (especially commercial design) is pretty equally technical skills and art, and both programs will land you the degree you need. Once I graduated I worked with an architecture firm. I'm still working up to my NCIDQ exam, which is a bit intimidating, but I'm very much looking forward to being licensed. Currently, you do not need to be licensed in most states to practice, but the industry is moving that way.

    I hope that was helpful. Best of luck Tiffany!!

  3. Keep track of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Here's a helpful link regarding school:

    I would also recommend dabbling in some architectural history classes, and perhaps a studio class to help gain an understanding of space and scale.

    Harvard GSD has a spectacular summer program for deciding if you want to be an architect; I am wondering if Parsons or SCAD or someplace like that offers a "get your feet wet" type of program to see what an education in interior design is like.

  4. Thanks everyone, this is excellent advice and I think will provide a good jumping off point for someone who is just starting to consider this field.

  5. Tiffany-
    I am an interior designer. I have a BA in Environmental Studies, went to work in the "real world" and realized interior design was my passion and what I wanted to do as a career. I also realized that an education in interior design was very important to being I went back to school and received an AAS in Interior Design. I am also a LEED AP. Do whatever you can to become as educated as possible about will be worth any time and money spent.

  6. Just wanted to say thank you for your kind comment about my move to San Francisco :)

    Have a lovely weekend...xo! Crystal

  7. Crystal, you're such a doll. Thanks for stopping by.