Design School 101

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Today at ASD Interiors, the interns are taking over the blog! Well, specifically, one intern is taking over in hopes of giving an inside perspective of design school and what it is like to start off in the interior design business. Not untypically, going to school for such a particular area of interest is often a career change. To give some background on myself, I received an undergraduate degree from a four year college in Los Angeles, began working in the entertainment industry (as most Angelinos do), and then experienced what I like to call “The Quarter Life Crisis.” After experiencing the working world for a few years, I quickly discovered that I wanted a job that I loved and at that moment, I did not have that job. I began to think about all the things in life that I truly enjoyed and design was the one constant. I was always the kid in grade school math class that was drawing floor plans on my graph paper or building models at home. As an adult, I enjoy moving at least once a year just so I can redecorate. Although a little hesitant to give up the progress and connections I had made in the entertainment industry, I decided to take the plunge and go back to school for interior design. After looking at three different programs in the area, I decided upon FIDM in downtown Los Angeles.

Well-recognized, FIDM presented a lot of exciting opportunities and gave me a lot of hope for my new career path. Of course, as most educational experiences go, your expectations do not always correspond to reality. The first thing I realized was: “This is going to be a lot of work.” Although I knew I had signed up for homework and school projects, I did not fully realize that I would eat, sleep, and breathe design school. For those of you who think that becoming an interior designer is learning how to pick out the perfect throw pillow, you could not be more wrong. I was immediately thrown into every aspect of my training. Manual drafting, various computer programs, sketching, the science of fibers. When you sign up for a textile class, you are excited for the beautiful colors and textures. Little do you know, but this course has nothing to do with those things, but instead the technology of fiber content, how it is bound together, and what is natural vs. what is machine made. What is the strongest fabric option vs. what is the weakest? How many times can you rub this particular fabric until it begins to wear away? Which fabrics lose their color in sunlight? Drafting, whether manual or computer aided, is greatly related to mathematical measurements and codes. One wrong measurement or code violation can ruin an entire project and it is your fault. It doesn’t take long to realize that interior design, although creative at times, is mostly based around details and project management. You are responsible for knowing all the materials on the market, the best people to hire in the business, where to get the best deals and products, the details of every installation, how to draft a plan and move a wall if need be, maintain proper code regulations, and how to get it all done on time. Designing is one giant puzzle and it is your job to make sure all the pieces fit together.

The most important knowledge I have gained thus far is when I started an internship in the design industry. Not that I have not acquired important skills while in school, but my internship has helped me understand a connection between my new talents and how they apply to the real world. In school you design without a budget, there are no consequences when to your mistakes, and no one explains the importance of the marriage between designer, contractor, electrician, and whoever else is on your team. In fact, when considering whether to go to school in the first place, it never occurred to me the roles that management and business would play. It does not matter how well you can pick out a paint color or a stone slab, but if you are not able to execute your ideas and communicate them to your team, you will not be successful in this business. In particular if you open your own company, you will need to create your own business model, establish your rate, generate contracts, obtain insurance, and find clients, to just name a few. These are all things that you will have to learn on your own because no one in school is going to teach you. To become an interior designer, you need to be driven and goal oriented. Even in school, it is easy to pick out the students who plan to make design their career versus the students who enjoy reading Architectural Digest on the weekends.

With only two quarters left, I could not be more excited for my journey into the world of interior design. Knowing that it is going to be a lot of work, and with still a lot to learn, I’m looking forward to the trial and tribulations of the business and, hopefully, the successes to come. Reviewing my experiences so far, if I had to narrow down the three main aspects of the design business that I wish someone would have told me, they would be:

3 Things to Think About Before Going to Design School:

1. Love Working For Free!

You will gain the best experience by far at your internships. Do not be afraid to begin while in school, as this is the best time to work for free. A lot of students make the mistake of waiting until they graduate. Not only are they shocked by their lack of knowledge in the industry but they cannot get a job without any experience. If you are unwilling to put in the hours and feel that interning is not for you, the design business is probably not for you either.

2. Know Your Team

Being an interior designer does not consist of only buying furniture and picking out upholstery. Your projects will be made up of an entire team. Whether it is a large project with a contractor, electrician, etc. or a smaller project with a painter and a wallpaper hanger, you need to know every aspect of the job. It is your responsibility as a designer to familiarize yourself with every detail of that particular project. You also need to be able to communicate with your team and specify exact details as to what you want. Learning about lighting, electrical, paint types, wallpaper adhesive, grout types, etc. will not only make your projects go smoother, but it will make you a better designer.

3. Do Not Be Afraid to Sketch

Not everyone needs to be Pablo Picasso, but you need to be able to communicate your ideas. Have you noticed how much emphasis has been put on communication! Sketching plays a huge role in daily design life and is usually the best way to explain an idea to a client or members of your team. A sketch may be used to display an entire space to a client or it might be drawn on site to show the contractor the dimensions of an area or how to lay tile. A quick drawing is often the best way to visualize your ideas and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Carry a sketch book with you at all times, because you never know when you’re going to need it!

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