What an Interior Designer Does (& Doesn't Do) at Work

You may be familiar with the basic interior designer job description: create indoor spaces that are safe, functional, and attractive.

But you may not realize the full scope of the role.

Interior design is a broad and varied field, with many potential specializations and career paths.

You could work on all kinds of spaces, including condos, hotels, restaurants, factories, hospitals, airport terminals, retail stores, and more.

At the same time, there are many misconceptions about what interior designers actually do. (Hint: it's not all about picking pretty fabrics!)

In this post, we provide an inside look at the job of an interior designer and debunk some common myths about the role.

Find out what this career really involves so you can decide if it's right for you.

 

WHAT INTERIOR DESIGNERS actually DO

Interior designers enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of interior spaces. So, what does that mean, exactly?

It means they integrate colours, lighting, textures, furniture, and many other elements to create a space that works well and looks amazing.

When done well, interior design can make a huge impact. It can entice shoppers to buy more, make a home easier to live in, or completely change the mood and feel of a space.

Interior designers go through a specific process when tackling a project. Many steps and skills come together to make the design a success.

A typical day's work for an interior designer includes:

☑️ Consulting with new clients to figure out their needs, tastes, and budget

☑️ Analyzing the purpose and function of a space, to ensure their design meets those needs

☑️ Giving advice on materials, finishes, colour schemes, window treatments, and other elements

☑️ Creating detailed blueprints and 3D models to present design plans to clients and builders

☑️ Revising plans as necessary to get client approval

☑️ Collaborating with architects and contractors

☑️ Developing project timelines and estimating costs

☑️ Sourcing and ordering materials for projects (lighting, furniture, paint, countertops, flooring, accessories, window treatments, etc.)

☑️ Overseeing the building and installation process to make sure their designs are followed correctly

 

Skills interior designers use on a daily basis

Interior designers need technical skills, like space planning, measuring, and drafting designs using special software. These are all taught in interior design school.

But there are other traits and skills designers use every single day, that aren't so easy to teach.

For example, problem-solving is a huge part of the job. Interior designers have to deal with materials shortages, electrical and plumbing surprises, builders who don't show up on time, and clients who change their minds half-way through a project.

It takes creativity, amazing people skills, and resilience to be successful in this career.  It's about so much more than following the latest trends.

American interior design legend, Albert Hadley sums it up best.

"The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilized, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what's in or what's out. This is not an easy job."

 

 

POSSIBLE CAREER PATHS IN INTERIOR DESIGN

There are plenty of options when it comes to interior design careers. Here are a few examples:

☑️ Residential interior design is what most people think of first. This involves creating comfortable living spaces that reflect your client's style, personality, and habits.

Some designers specialize in kitchens and bathrooms, while others do whole houses, apartments, and condos.

 

☑️ Industrial interior design focuses on factories, warehouses, manufacturing plants, and related structures.

These types of spaces must accommodate machinery and production activities as well as administrative offices and employee break areas.

The challenge is to meet those functional demands and still create spaces that are pleasing to look at and work in.

 

☑️ Retail space planning is about designing store layouts, decor, and displays that appeal to the target market and increase sales.

The idea is to develop interior designs that align with the corporate brand, make good use of space, and influence customers to buy more.

 

☑️ Commercial design includes projects like hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, lounges, bars, stores, and other types of business spaces. It's a huge market, with many opportunities to specialize.

One of our own graduates, Sergkei Theocharis landed a commercial interior design job creating showrooms and product displays for an international furniture company.

“I design concepts for special projects and have gone twice to the U.S. to help stage products at showrooms there.

I'm also creating presentations and layouts of rooms for hotel developers who are interested in our products.

I'm always working with photographers and graphic designers, doing photo shoots and staging for marketing and advertising campaigns.”

 

What interior designers don't do 

There are so many misconceptions about the field of interior design. If you're thinking of a career in this industry, it's important to know what the job does not involve.

Here's what an interior designer doesn't do (and a few other common myths).

 

☑️ They don't just decorate a space.

Many people don't realize the difference between interior designers and interior decorators.

Interior decorators use items like pillows, fabric, window coverings, and artwork to achieve a certain look for a space.

Interior designers do that as well, but they can also plan for structural changes and improve the overall function of a room.

The role of an interior designer is to plan, design and decorate a space from scratch.

 

☑️ They don't tell clients what to do.

It's not about what the designer wants. The job is to come up with the layout and décor that brings the client's vision to life.

This usually involves negotiating with the client, not just telling them what to do.

For example, if a client likes a certain type of hardwood flooring, but you know it gets damaged easily and may not be the best choice, you need to speak up.

You're there to provide guidance, but everything you do should be aimed at helping your client find their own style.

 

☑️ They don't only work with the uber-wealthy.

Contrary to what many people think, interior designers are not just for the rich and famous.

Designers know how to work within a budget and make the most of the resources that are available. The good ones can make a small space seem bigger and really stretch a dollar.

It's all part of the challenge!

 

interested in becoming an interior designer?

A successful interior design career starts with quality training. There are university degrees in interior design, or you can choose an interior design diploma.

A diploma is the faster option. Most programs take 2 years or less.

Take a look at the Interior Design diploma at Herzing College Montreal. Students can choose from an accelerated 18-month course, or take the extended 24-month option.

Training includes an 8-week internship at a local design firm.

Click below to get more details on the Interior Design program and chat live with an Admissions Advisor. We're here to help!

Explore Herzing's Interior Design Program