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Career: Interior Designer

A Day in the life of a Interior Designer

An interior designer is responsible for the interior design, decoration, and functionality of a client’s space, whether the space is commercial, industrial, or residential. Interior designers work closely with architects and clients to determine the structure of a space, the needs of the occupants, and the style that best suits both. The position is a combination of engineer and artist, and it takes a unique type of mind to handle both of those concepts well. Interior designers have to be good with more than color, fabric, and furniture; interior designers must know materials, have budgeting skills, communicate well, and oversee the ordering, installation, and maintenance of all objects that define a space. They also have to know about electrical capacity, safety, and construction. This broader range of required knowledge distinguishes them from interior decorators. Interior designers have to be able to work with contractors and clients alike, planning and implementing all aesthetic and functional decisions, from faucet handles to miles of carpeting —and all this usually must be done within a fixed budget. Interior designers are hired for their expertise in a variety of styles and approaches, not merely their own personal vision. Therefore, they have to be able to balance their own tastes and their clients’ tastes—and be willing to put their clients’ tastes first. This requirement can be frustrating at first for many who enter the profession. Interior designers are often asked to begin their planning before construction of a space is finished; this means that they must be good at scheduling and comfortable reading blueprints. This element of the job comes as a surprise to many new interior designers, who expect to have less of an administrative and technical role and more of a role in influencing the overall feel and appearance of a space. Those who thrive in the industry say this ability to balance the practical with the aesthetic is crucial to being a successful interior designer. Interior design is hard work, but those who do it well find the work very satisfying.

Paying Your Dues

The academic and professional requirements for most areas of design are fairly general, with the emphasis on portfolio development and professional experience. Interior design, however, has nationally–standardized requirements. Interior designers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers look favorably on those who have studied engineering, design, and art. Those who want more specific study complete interior design programs. Across the United States and Canada, there are 105 colleges and universities accredited by the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research. Interior designers must also be familiar with federal, state, and local interior design codes (involving such issues as capacity, flammability, and stress levels). To be federally licensed, prospective interior designers must pass the qualification exam given by the National Council for Interior Design. Professional organizations are significant in this field, and many interior designers find it helpful to join one or more of them. To become eligible for membership, one must have completed two to three years of graduate work, worked in the field for two to three years, and passed the federal licensing exam.

Associated Careers

Interior designers deal with technical engineering issues and aesthetic design issues. Those who leave this field usually choose another area involving aesthetic design. Many become interior decorators, graphic designers, and computer graphics consultants. A notable few become architects. Few leave the arena of aesthetic decision-making altogether.

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