I knew I wanted to study interior design ever since I found out it was a career possibility at 9 years old. I loved decorating and re-decorating my room, making fake floor plans for how I would layout my furniture – all of the things I thought interior design was.
Before going to interior design school, I, like you, was researching the major and really wanted to make sure it was what I thought it was.
I learned very quickly that it was not exactly what I thought and I had to make a decision as to whether or not I wanted to still pursue it.
After researching it more, talking to people in the field, exploring programs etc. – I did my undergrad and ultimately grad school programs both in interior design.
Now on the other side, having a much more real and full picture of what design school is like I want to share with you 6 things I wish I had known before starting interior design school.
1. Know The Differences Between Interior Design vs. Interior Decorating
One thing I wish I knew before diving into interior design school is the difference between interior design and interior decorating. I did some research beforehand and I did know that before even applying to design school, but looking back, I should have delved even deeper into what exactly we would be doing, especially when it came to using computer programs and drawing.
Interior design focuses heavily on the actual design of the building itself, while interior decorating is all about picking out fabrics, furnishings, decor pieces etc. The closest you really get to decorating in design school is studying color theory, picking finishes for the space you have designed and decorating a space you designed for a mock up to show how it could look.
Interior design is much more about the architectural principles, proficiency in computer programs, and technical drawing skills. Not all design schools are the same though and, as I’m going to touch on in a later point, not all schools are accredited and therefore may stray more from that primary design focus.
So, if you’re considering studying interior design, I would say be sure to go talk to the design students at the schools you are considering and ask to look at what their homework is, what they spend the most time doing and learning about and maybe see some of their projects so you can see if that is something you would still be interested in doing.
2. Know The Similarities Between Interior Design & Architecture
While I did do research on the differences between interior design and interior decorating, I did not even think to look at the similarities that interior design actually had with architecture.
At first glance, it may seem like interior design is more focused on the decorative aspects of a space, like color theory and furnishings. However, as you get deeper into the curriculum, you’ll quickly discover that architecture plays a significant role in interior design.
Understanding structural elements and how they impact the functionality of a space is crucial. While color theory and decor certainly have their place, the bulk of interior design school is focused on the architectural aspects of the field. Most of what you learn and do is preparing you to work with an architect on a project not a decorator.
If you are like me and did not have an interest in architecture, it might catch you off-guard so I definitely recommend exploring and understanding how closely related they are before starting school.
3. Explore Possible Career Opportunities
A lot of people end up working at architecture firms, where they can apply their design skills to larger-scale projects. Others choose to venture into entrepreneurship, creating their own unique design businesses and being their own boss. And there are those who find fulfillment by working for smaller existing businesses that align with their values. The point is, by contemplating your desired career path before entering design school, you’ll have a better sense of direction and be more prepared to seize the opportunities that come your way.
So, take the time to envision your ideal career. Think about the impact you want to make, the types of projects that excite you, and how you can connect with people through your design work
4. Know You Are Not Limited To Doing What You Learned In School
While your education provides a foundation, remember that you’re not limited to following a specific path based on what you learned in school. Once you graduate, you have the freedom to explore unique or niche areas within the field. You can also create your own opportunities and businesses, like venturing into health and home design.
I wish I had known this in design school because I think it would have helped me see everything more as foundational rather than this is the work I’m going to be doing if that makes sense.
Looking back, I think I felt limited thinking that the only things that I would be able to do with my education were the things that I learned while in school When in actuality I was able to take what I foundationally learned in school and use it to create something I was really passionate about!
My advice is to just remember that what you are doing in school is not necessarily exactly what you will be doing or have to do when you finish.
5. It is a lot of work
I think there is a common misconception that interior design school would be fun and easy and not take a lot of time. I’m here to say that that could not be farther from the truth.
I would actually argue it takes MORE time than a lot of majors because it is a more creative field and there is not a right or wrong answer, it can always be improved upon and therefore – you never really feel done with your project.
Oftentimes, my classmates and I would be in the studio for long nights of working, printing, building, pinning up – only leaving an hour or so before class (if you were lucky and had the time) to shower and come right back to present it to the professor and class – only to have it picked apart and have to get back to work on it again.
Not only is the workload intesnse, but even the classes are longer than other majors because you need studio hours. For me this meant that for my friends in other majors their 2 unit class was 1 hours – while my 2 unit class was 3. They would have two classes and be gone for 2 hours and I would have 2 classes and be gone for 6 hours – for the same amount of credit.
If you love your work and what you are doing – it really is not as bad as it might sound. Even though it was stressful and oftentimes took literal blood, sweat and tears to get those projects done, I wouldn’t hve had it any other way because I really did love what I was doing and creating.
So with that being said, the main pint here is that – no – it is not an easy major. It is a hard major, but if you are passionate about it, it will be worth it!
6. People Will Doubt You
In any field, including interior design, there will always be people who question your choice of major. Some may suggest opting for broader or more “practical” paths. It’s important to remember that everyone has different interests and aspirations. if you go the interior design route I guarantee you will be met with people saying, “I was I was going to do that, but then I decided to ______”. Many of them follow up with saying they needed to get a more broad major for a more practical career. Don’t let this bother you, everyone has their own path and and interior design is absolutely a very valid and real career path that honestly so many people want to do, but very few have the courage to pursue and make something of.
I know at the beginning I started to doubt myself because so many people acted like it wasn’t a valid option, but I think it’s important to remember that maybe it wasn’t a valid option to them in their mind and their limited belief of what interior design can be.
So my advice is to just stay focused on your passion for it and embrace the unique opportunities it offers! Trust in your decision and forge your own path towards a fulfilling career!
Lastly, You can Do it!
As we wrap up this journey through the things I wish I had known before starting interior design school, I just want to remind you that though it feels like this huge decision, your education is merely the foundation upon which you can build an extraordinary career. So, put in the hard work, stay true to your passion, and embrace the challenges that come your way. Don’t be deterred by people who question your choice or make you feel like it is not a lucrative career path – because it is. Interior design can be such a fulfilling career path that allows you to create beautiful spaces and make a lasting impact – you just have to have the courage to go for it.