Ever wondered how to become an interior designer? You can start by developing some great habits that will increase your skill set over time and make your journey a lot easier. I call them interior design habits because they must be done regularly and over a long period. So here are some basic things to practice regularly to help you along the way.
1. Draw Or Sketch Every Day
Sketch every day! It doesn’t matter if you suck at it, just do it daily. Over time you will get to a point where you can just draw your ideas without having to think about the process. It’s like learning to drive a car, one day you will be driving around without even noticing that your changing gears or checking the mirrors.
It shouldn’t be a hard process, just look at objects and draw them. For example take some scissors, place them in front of you and start drawing the outline. Change the angle of the scissors and try again. Now fill the outline with shading and repeat this process with different lighting situations.
You should repeat this process daily but you can draw anything you like, it doesn’t always have to do with interior design. The point is to get you to look at objects really close and notice details that wouldn’t always be obvious. Attention to detail is very important in interior design and the sooner you recognise details the better.
It won’t take long till you notice how much you improve and one day a great idea will pop into your head while you’re sitting in a meeting with a client, college or tutor and you will be able to demonstrate your idea while sketching in front of them. It’s a very cool moment for an interior designer.
2. Before you learn CAD learn Technical Drawing
So much emphasis is placed on CAD and how students need to learn Vectorworks or Autocad and yes you will have to master at least one of them at some point but they are just tools that help you communicate your ideas in a certain way.
Before you start worrying about viewports, instances and other CAD slang terms think about what you are trying to achieve. A plan can be drawn by hand also and there are great interior designers and architects that haven’t got a clue about computers.
Don’t stress about technology too much.
When I was studying everyone worried about using these complex softwares packages before we even knew what an elevation was. By all means experiment with software but also read books, look at architectural drawings and get familiar with drawing conventions.Try to draw your bedroom in plan view, add dimensions and notes all by hand first and then open that expensive piece of software and try to reproduce your handmade efforts.
3. Master Computer Aided Design
As mentioned above you should learn CAD at some point too. Interior Designers are under huge amount of time pressure and these tools are time savers if you know how to use them.
It doesn’t really matter which one is better, more relevant or industry specific at this point. If you learn one of them the transition to a different platform is quite easy. You never know what sort of software an employer prefers and worrying about this now is pointless. I would say Vectorworks and Autocad are the two industry standard software options and if you choose either one of them you can’t go wrong.
The first thing you should do is open the damn thing and take a good look around, click some buttons and try to draw some lines and shapes. And once you’re frustrated, fed up and overwhelmed with all the options just close it down and have a coffee.
After some initial wtf moments, dig out one of the plans you’ve hand drawn before, open the user manual and start learning bit by bit. It’s not going to be easy for everyone but small steps every day will make you the CAD master you always wanted to be.
On a serious note, it is important to study the user manual, I know it’s a pain but all the knowledge you need is right there. When I was teaching Vectorworks to interior design student’s I sometimes asked if they had a look at the manual, the answer was always “no but we looked at some YouTube videos”. And yes, YouTube is helpful but they should be used in conjunction with the official manual.
4. Talk about your design ideas
Presenting your ideas in front of a client, a group of people or fellow designers is an invaluable skill that needs to be learned just as every other skill. If you are shy don’t assume your useless at presenting and vice versa if you are full of confidence don’t think that nothing can fluster you.
When I was studying Interior Architecture I particularly enjoyed presenting my work and had no problem talking about my design, how it works and what inspired it. But on one particular day someone decided to film all student presentations, and as soon as I saw the camera I froze.
It wasn’t nice but it made me understand how difficult it can be to talk in front of people.
Take every opportunity to present your work to someone. If you are very shy, start with your friends and family. Explain your ideas, and ask them afterwards if they understood your concept. If they did great, if they didn’t you might have to speak slower, more clearly or add more information.
Uni is great for this as well as you will meet many people with different ideas and beliefs. Your fellow students and lecturers can really help you in becoming a great speaker. Don’t try to avoid speaking opportunities, seek them out, get feedback, learn and adjust your approach.
It’s a numbers game, the more you do this the more your confidence will grow and the better your presentations will be.
5. Be Playful
This might sound weird but just hear me out. When you start on the long and difficult road of becoming an interior architect/designer you have a great opportunity to think freely. Being playful, fun and having crazy ideas is a great way to unlock your creativity and imagination.
Don’t force restrictions on yourself at an early stage. Restrictions such as budgets, technical limitations and client ideas will come at a later stage. For now go with your gut feelings and design the unachievable.
You never know, one day technology and construction methods will catch up with your ideas and you might be able to realise the unreal. The future already exists we just need to find ways to create it.
“I really believe in the idea of the future”
Just look at what Zaha Hadid did. She spent years painting buildings that people thought couldn’t be built. Take a look at the video below for some inspiration.
6. Learn one thing very well
Interior design comprises of so many subcategories that it’s near impossible to become an expert at all elements. Over time, with practice, experience, persistence and some talent you will master most or even all elements.
Being an interior designer is being a master of all trades.
For now though it would be good to find something specific you really enjoy and try to excel at it. This fill benefit you in various ways, your confidence will increase, you can help fellow students and they can help you with other things and when you’re looking for your first interior design job it’s a thing that you can really promote yourself with and talk about.
Here are some ideas to get you started!
Become skillful and/or knowledgeable in the following:
- 3D modelling
- Hand drawing
- Public speaking
- Construction Techniques
- Design Management
- AnimationThere are loads more but just pick one and try to become exceptional at it.
Once you think you mastered one thing pretty well, move over to another topic and start studying, practicing and experimenting and never assume you’ve learnt everything, you choose interior design as a career which involves life long learning.
7. Read Design Books and Magazines
And i’m not talking about novels, well if you want you can, they might actually help you stimulate your creativity. I’m talking mainly about interior design magazines, books and sometimes blogs. It’s not for inspiration, particular knowledge or finding out how to do something but purely to increase your design vocabulary.
The design industry has it’s own vocabulary. The sooner you learn how to speak like a designer the easier it will be to convey your vision vocally. Explaining a complex concept with as view words as possible in a passionate and professional way is the desired outcome.
This word always makes me laugh but it’s actually very useful.
Be cautious though, don’t pretend to know stuff that you actually don’t. Don’t use words if you can’t explain them and don’t bamboozle people with words that only another interior designer’s would know. Give Interior Design Illustrated by Francis D.K. Ching a go. I love it and it has amazing illustrations that can be used for reference.
8. Interior Design Exhibitions and Trade Events
Where have you been lately? Any interesting interior design, product design or architectural design exhibitions? A common question asked at interviews. Why? Because it shows that your staying up to date with industry going ons and you are passionate enough to travel somewhere to learn.
I always enjoy this, understandable my friends where not to enthusiastic when I convinced them to take a detour to an exhibition about Organic Architecture while we were in Amsterdam for a long weekend. We did rectify this with a visit to the Heineken Museum :-).
It’s also a great way to meet people, make connections, find new products and gather information that is not available online. It’s called going the extra mile and it’s worth it. You never know, one of them connections might be your boss, partner, client or supplier one day.
Search for trade fares here www.tradefairdates.com
9. Inspiration usually comes from research
Inspiration is a very personal experience and there are no set guidelines about how to get inspiration for your interior design project. Every person/designer needs to figure this out for themselves. But one thing that can kick of a great journey of inspiration and concepts is research.
Start by gather as much information as possible about the industry and people who you’re designing for. In a way you need to become a mini expert of that field. Talk to people, read things and try to interview end users (the clients client for example in a commercial project, hospital patients, workers and shoppers for a retail project).
At some point, when you have some information create a story that involves the end-user using your space. Once you’re in the mind of the user you can better understand their needs and see what it is that makes them want to be in that space. Or in the case of a hospital, imagine how your life could be improved while having to stay in that space.
From this general idea you can then drill down and ask further questions. How would an improvement to this hospital make my life better? Or you change angle, how would the design of this hospital bed make the life of a nurse easier? In a retail environment you might ask yourself how easy it is to buy a certain item.
Basically, you need to be a Detective trying to find answers that might not exist. You are designing a solution in your mind that will solve a problem or improve a situation. Maybe your’e design a beautiful living room, that will help the client relax after a hard day’s work. You ask yourself: “What helps my client relax?” Low temperature lighting, earth tones, soft textiles or a minimalist space that is clutter free and bright?
Just some ideas to get them creative juices flowing 🙂
10. Take a break from interior design
It’s a misconception that designers live breath eat design. Of course, you have to be passionate about design to keep on the road of becoming a designer but you should also enjoy other things. Your brain needs time to relax too and these other experiences actually make you a better designer.
Don’t let your passion turn into obsession.
Doing other things allows you to see everything from a different perspective, keeps you motivated and focused. One you have been in the industry for many years there is a big danger of getting burnt out. So, the next time you feel stressed or fed up because you just can’t come up with anything good go for a long walk, go swimming or socialise with friends and family.
11. Enjoy becoming an Interior Designer
It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get where you want to be, just make sure you enjoy the journey. I added this one to make it one better than 10 🙂