Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Want to be a Designer! (now what?)

Many of you have expressed via comment or email that you share my desire to turn your love of design into a career. There's always the questions, though, of how to start, what we need in terms of education, experience, etc. So, I was thrilled when Sharon Harlan, of Interior Design Degree Online offered to write a guest post making her argument that at least some formal education is needed to work as a professional designer.

Is Formal Education Required to Become an Interior Designer?

You would think that all you need to make it big in the world of interior design is an eye for detail and color, a taste for the chic and stylish, and connections to people in the industry and prospective clients. However, interior decorators do need at least two years of formal education and a few years of experience before they can become certified to practice – yes, you read that right; certification is required in as many as 23 states as of 2009, as well as in Puerto Rico and District of Columbia. So if you’re hoping to become a designer, here is the best way to go about it:

  • Complete an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts or in Design – you will have to learn courses that pertain to design, computer aided design, architecture, ergonomics, furniture design, colors and fabrics, drawing spatial planning, and even psychology and ethics.

  • Apply for an internship with an interior design organization or an architectural firm – this could be for a period of two to four years, depending on whether you hold a four or two-year post secondary degree.

  • Apply for the licensure exam offered by the National Council for Interior Design – you must have at least six years of formal education combined with experience, two of which must be spent in some kind of formal training.

  • Once you’ve earned your license, you are qualified to seek clients on your own and develop your interior design business.

  • It pays to be additionally certified in specialized fields of interior design – you could become a bathroom or kitchen designer by completing additional certification courses, attending seminars and passing examinations offered by organizations like the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

  • Your standing in the interior design community also improves when you apply for membership to institutions like the American Society of Interior Designers and are accepted. This helps you secure new clients by way of networking and also aids in improving your skills as an interior designer when you interact with others who are more experienced and talented in this field.

  • Being an interior designer involves much more than just choosing the right colors and fabrics and deciding on the furniture and furnishings according to the size and layout of each room. You must also know the basics of building design, including how to read blueprints, make allowances for and include plumbing and electrical fixtures into your interior design, make use of space efficiently and effectively, restore old buildings according to their historical value, undertake renovations and remodeling contracts without overrunning budgets and causing damage, know all about building permits, and most important of all, be able to design according to the needs of the client.


This guest post is contributed by Sharon Harlan, she writes on the topic of interior design degree online . She welcomes your comments at her email id: sharon.harlan83<@>gmail<.>com.


Carla@DesignintheWoods said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I've spent much time and money on my education, licensing, and professional affiliations. It really enables me to work with confidence and expertise in this field. Design is so much more than putting together a nice combination of pillows and you need to arm yourself with the proper tools. I think it shows my clients I'm responsible and really serious about my work.

Carla Aston, ASID, RID, CAPS

christine {bijouandboheme} said...

Thank you so much for this post- you know I dream about this all the time so it's great to have this as a reference- going into my favourites bar so that I can reference it. Thanks!!!!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with this article. I hired a blogger who had no formal background in interior design and she came to my house, took measurements, etc. We went shopping together and I thought the furniture was too huge but she kept saying no. The furniture arrived and it was too huge for the room and I had to cancel two more that were on its way. We spent so much on her fee as she charged professional rates of the other interior designers and also money wasted on too huge furniture. We were burnt - we only looked at those who studied it formally. The happy ending is now we have hired a professional interior designer with a Masters degree. We have noticed the huge difference in the way they both work. So, formal training IS crucial when selecting a designer!

Julie said...

I totally agree - I don't know if I'd hire someone with no schooled design degree. Just a personal preference, I guess, but I like to give credit where credit is due.

Stephanie Sabbe said...

Thanks for posting this! I try not be be the blog police, but after going to school for 5 years, working in firms for 7,and taking a really stinkin' hard licensing exam, it does really annoy me when people pass themselves off as an experienced designer in the blogesphere.

lizziefitz said...


Anonymous said...

I definitely understand and see the need for education of any kind. And, I agree that there are lots of unqualified people out there trying to pass themselves off as experts in the field of interior design when it's not warranted. However, I will say, that there are a LOT of "self-taught" decorators/designers (whatever you want to call them) out there that are very successful and that I love. These are people who got degrees in English (Celerie Kemble) or marketing or film (Miles Redd) but later found their love for interior design. Often times, they are artists or art history majors (Ruthie Sommers). I know of interior designers who have actual degrees in interior design with all the letters after their name, but their taste is questionable. A lot of them specialize in commercial design. My point is that there are good and bad decorators/designers in each group (the degreed and non-degreed), and that people should investigate before hiring anyone.

Connie @ SogniESorrisi said...

Great tips!

My Interior Life said...

Always a very interesting conversation, the decorator vs. designer conflict. Brian Patrick Flynn wrote a thoughtful article about it a while back that I bookmarked:

Definitely worth a read!

my favorite and my best- MFAMB to you said...

if your good your good.
experience will help eliminate those pesky details like measurements.