Why Hire an Interior Designer With a College Degree?

Hi, I’m Mara! I have been the summer intern at Fuchsia Design since May, and it’s proven itself to be a rare experience thus far. I will be starting my 4th year at Central Michigan University this upcoming fall. My major is Interior Design and my minor is Marketing, which I have found mesh quite well.

If you would have asked high school me what an interior designer does, my answer would have been completely different than it is now.  Making the decision to go to college was a big step, and I struggled at the beginning to understand how much I was learning and preparing myself for the future. Being that it’s not required to obtain a college degree in order to practice interior design in Michigan, I felt that it was important to learn as much as I could about the industry before becoming a professional interior designer.

 Being accepted into the interior design program has done a list of things, but it started off by informing me about interior design as a career.  I always get the jokes about “decorating” homes for a living, and how it must be so easy and fun picking out paint colors and pillows. In reality, that is a small portion of what interior designers do. Without the education I received, I would not have been informed about the reality of what an interior designer does, and acquired skills that would give me an advantage in the industry.

My sophomore year of college, I started my interior design program requirements with a drafting class. After finally understanding how to use an architectural ruler-it’s harder than it looks, I moved onto learning drafting skills. This is a skill that helped me develop and understand proportion, standard symbols and measurements, but most importantly, I learned how to read and comprehend floor plans. This skill would be the foundation of where my job as an interior designer starts. Another key part of my education was my Introduction to CAD and Advanced CAD classes. I learned how to use AutoCAD, SketchUp, Kerkythea, and 3DS Max. With these key programs, I was able to make floor plans, elevation views, build models, and render. I have learned through my internship that clients are more likely to say yes to a design if they can visualize what it will look like. SketchUp does just that. Although it will not always be affordable for some clients to purchase SketchUp models and renderings, it can be beneficial for larger scale projects. Even if it may be frustrating at times, the education I received has given me the capability to be familiar and efficient with programs that are highly used in the design industry.

The design program has also helped me build confidence. I have grown extremely close with professors and other students in my program. The interior design program at CMU is small, but full of talented and driven students who not only push themselves to be better designers, but push their classmates as well. In a sense, I think the small classes in which I am placed serve as a way to prepare me for a career after college. I work with my classmates on projects, talk through ideas with them, bust most importantly, I learn from them. We all have our strong suits and offer help in areas that others struggle. At the end of our major projects, each student is critiqued by classmates, professors, and sometimes mock clients. Critique also prepares me for a career in the design industry. Presenting designs to clients can be hard. Realistically, not every design you come up with is going to be perfect, and the client may not like it. This can be one of the most frustrating things as a designer, but also something that can strengthen a designer. Critique prepares us for the unpredictable moments where a client might not approve the design that is presented. Getting used to hearing critique can be hard, but some of the best designs expand because of it.

Finally, college is important for interior designers because without it, I wouldn’t have been ready to apply for this internship. An internship is a requirement of the interior design program mainly because it helps students gain realistic expectations of the design industry. Without the education and experiences I have gained through Central Michigan University, I would not have been prepared for my internship. Learning terms used by professionals in the design industry throughout my program has prepared me for meetings with builders and representatives, and kept me from feeling overwhelmed and confused. Through courses at college, I have experience working on and presenting projects for mock clients. This helped me understand the process an interior designer goes through for each project. However, experience with mock clients can only be so realistic. My internship with Fuchsia Design has given me the opportunity to be part of the process of designing a real home and the expectations that come with it. I have been able to get a real taste of what a residential interior designer’s job entitles. Without the connections, experiences, and education passed on to me by my professors, I would have felt lost jumping into my internship.

From someone who is going into their fifth year of college, I can’t imagine jumping into this career without a college education to back me up. I have used this time to develop my knowledge, but also myself as a future designer. My internship has given me a taste of what the world of design is, and what is expected with the job title. Without my time in college, I wouldn’t feel confident in my role as a future designer, have the education to keep up with the design industry, and make as many connections that I have. When hiring an interior designer, I would encourage you to hire one with the knowledge that can only be learned through a college degree.