If you are thinking of pursuing a career in interior design, then you have scrolled down to the right article. While the many-many reality shows about home renovations and documentaries about great designs may have helped to raise awareness on the role and importance of interior design in our lives, they have also created a rather sensationalized and inaccurate picture of the interior design industry at large. In fact, there is much more to the field than what meets the eye. In this article, we will take you through the 10 things-to-know before pursuing a career in interior design.

1. Interior design is not limited to home renovation or residential design.

In recent years, with the popularity of many home renovation and design reality shows, it is easy to get a false sense of understanding of the interior design industry and the profession. Before pursuing a career in interior design, you must know these shows reveal only one specific aspect of the field and there is much more to interior design, such as hospitality, commercial, retail, food and beverage, institutional, and healthcare design. All of these require professional knowledge beyond aesthetics.

2. Interior design is different from interior decoration. 

While both involve a sense of aesthetics and composition, the interior design really gets deep into the walls, floors, and ceilings while interior decoration seldom goes beyond the surfaces of the walls. In other words, interior design is a science as much as it is an art, requiring comprehensive knowledge of materiality and construction, spatial programming and planning, as well as conceptualizing.

3. Professional requirements for interior designers in your country or region.

It is important to find out what qualifications you need in order to work as an interior designer in your region. Do you need a degree? Do you need a license? Does the license need to be renewed every few years? In most cases, a bachelor’s degree in interior design, interior architecture, or architecture is the minimum requirement for a career in interior design. While a license to practice architecture is most often mandatory, licenses for interior designers could be optional, but good to consider nonetheless.

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An IIDA panel discussion; Source: www.iida.org

4. There are both international and local interior design associations and organizations that could provide valuable resources. 

An example is the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), which connects designers with job opportunities, scholarships, training resources, and upcoming events such as design shows, talks, roundtables, and symposiums.

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A Quick perspective Sketch; Source: www.thinkific.com

5. Being good at drawing is not a prerequisite, but having strong spatial thinking skills is.

Because interior design is a studio practice and seen as a form of art, it is commonly assumed that solid artistic abilities are necessary to take up the profession. This is not true for two reasons: first, many interior design programs actually start by teaching fundamental drawing techniques and second, when interior designers do draw, it is not about achieving lifelikeness, but about conveying an accurate sense of space, scale, and proportion in relation to the human body. In other words, strong spatial thinking is much more important than great drawing abilities from the outset, and in the long run.

6. Interior design is not usually a high-paying profession.

Again, the many reality shows on interior design and architecture may have created the impression that designers and architects lead luxurious lifestyles and have a high-paying job. In reality, the salary of interior designers is mostly mediocre as compared to other professions, although it might edge towards the above-average range depending on geographical location and years of experience. Also, interior designers generally earn slightly less than architects, and this is in part because the former is not always required to have a license or certification, unlike the latter.

A Design Meeting
A Design Meeting; Source: www.residencestyle.com

7. As with any design profession, interior design is not about realizing the designer’s dream design, but the client’s.

While most of us get into the design industry because we have ambitious design dreams, it would quickly become apparent that it is seldom, if ever, about our own subjective tastes. That is not to say that we cannot exercise our creativity or aesthetic sensibilities at all. In fact, the job of the interior designer is precisely to lend their artistic, and technical, expertise to help their client realize their dream space. Essentially, the profession is an on-going negotiation between the client’s taste and the designer’s expertise.

8. Communication and people skills are just as important as design skills.

Since the design industry is about constant negotiations between clients and designers, a good design solution does not mean anything if it cannot be communicated effectively. While there have been stories about how difficult architects and designers like Le Corbusier are to work with, most of us are not artistic geniuses and so should have no excuse for not establishing good communication and relationships with clients.

An example of an FF&E Package
An example of an FF&E Package; Source: www.pinterest.com

9. A career in Interior design has many overlaps with architecture, and it is important to question exactly where your interests lie within the larger building industry.

The many overlaps include spatial thinking, computer drafting, digital modeling and rendering skills in addition to knowledge about materials, construction, sustainability practices, and architectural history, among other things. However, interior design operates at a much smaller scale than architecture does and has an exclusive focus on FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment).

10. Be prepared to hear the phrase “Will you design my house/apartment/condo?” for the rest of your career.

More of expression of confidence in your work rather than a real request, such phrases usually proceed from excited friends, family, and acquaintances upon first hearing your profession. Now, I don’t have a tip on how to prevent such conversations or questions, so your first assignment might be to simply figure out your response to such a question. (Hint: take a peek at item 1 above)


Lisa graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in interior design and a few internship experiences. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in art history and studying architectural renderings for her thesis. Her passion is thinking critically about everything architecture: from architectural movements to contemporary professional practices.