How can I become an interior designer? Well everyone will tell you that you should go do a course and then go and get experience. WRONG!
There are a few very key reasons why it is too hard to become an interior designer the traditional way, which is – going to get a formal education at an institution then applying for a job when you graduate.
I probably get 1-3 enquires per month from graduates or interior designers looking for work, most of them, quite talented, working in cafes or other industries, but not employable by me in either the commercial or domestic part of my business.
The most common path if you want to become an interior designer is to go to university or college and study interior design, some drafting, contract administration, project management, furniture, art and architectural history and most importantly design.
The main reason it is hard to employ a graduate is because they cost money and time, and time especially is difficult for a business owner to give out, even less so when it costs money rather than making us money…
The second reason is that, business owners have more often than not, spent hundreds and thousands of pounds on training, years of study, hard work and dedication and they are afraid to pass on too much information to staff who will most definitely leave as soon as they become profitable for them.
So why don’t universities teach students what they need to know in order to get employed? The truth is they do try, but universities are not set up to provide that kind of education.
The industry has been criticized for years that graduates are entering the workforce without the required knowledge and are therefore unemployable. The skills that a real life office needs are practical skills and unfortunately tertiary education provides theoretical education rather than real-life skills.
There are large firms who will usually take on graduates, however not everyone wants to work in the commercial sector, and still this doesn’t provide the right experience for everyone. Anyone who has worked in both the commercial and domestic sectors in architecture, construction and interiors will know what I am talking about. The domestic and commercial sectors are VERY DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES, in fact, completely different. I have worked with designers from the commercial sector who can transfer their knowledge into the domestic market, but they do drop considerably when it comes to design skill and technical knowledge and vice-versa.
So the traditional route requires you to spend a lot of money on getting an education (which is actually pretty fun, I did it for 7 years and thought I would be an eternal student), but then you graduate and you find that you can’t find work because everyone requires the one thing you don’t learn at university, which happens to be the key thing to getting employment….experience.
I was lucky enough to get experience while I was at university. My bestie and I opened up our first architecture firm whilst still at uni. We had 3 projects that we ran together. I believe the main reason I never had problems finding work was because I had real experience when I graduated.
So the typical thing that happens is students graduate thinking, finally, my dream career just to be told, “I’m sorry, we would like you to have some more experience”….. what?!
Then you think to yourself, “well hang on, how can I get experience without getting a job?”
And so it goes… on and on until you give up on your dream career.
In Australia, we have this thing called TAFE. I remember you could go and get a trade or learn practical skills instead of going to uni in pretty much any career. The idea was that you would attend lessons a couple of evenings after work each week, whilst also working full time as an apprentice.
In my opinion, this model would suit the interior design industry much better than going to get a formal education, because the reality is that practical experience is how most of us learn in this industry.
I am really passionate about helping people start a career in interior design. I found that the interior designers I knew from working in the industry, were not people I actually wanted to work for either… Why were they always so erratic and crazy-like? And I don’t feel that these are the right role models to future leaders in the industry.
The truth is, in most parts of the world including the UK, Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa and many states in the USA, you don’t need a formal education, qualification or even a license to call yourself or work as an interior designer. And, in fact, what you do need to get work is experience. So why not get experience on your own projects, whilst earning money and working in the industry at the same time? It makes sense to me!
You can do that with my mentorship program. You don’t need to have any previous experience working in the industry, but you do need a level of competency, which you should already have if you are transferring from another career or already have a degree in interiors or any other industry.
Want to know what skills you need to be a successful interior designer? My blog post “The skills you need to be a freelance interior designer”