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Job Description: Interior Designer.

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Interior designers plan the design of living and commercial environments. They then manage the work of turning their ideas into a reality.

     

Job Description, salaries and benefits

Interior designers plan the design of living and commercial environments. They then manage the work of turning their ideas into a reality. They need to design a space that is practical for its purpose as well as visually pleasing.

Projects can be broad in scope, ranging from structural alterations to the choice of furnishings, curtains, wallpaper and lighting. The role includes:

  • working to a brief, which details what the space will be used for
  • inspecting and surveying buildings
  • negotiating fees and setting schedules for the project
  • researching and drawing up rough plans
  • developing detailed designs and choosing materials
  • supervising the work as it is carried out.

Interior designers typically work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some evening and weekend work may be required. Designers are based in design studios, although a lot of time is spent on location. Self-employed designers may work from home.

Salaries may range from around £18,000 to £60,000 a year or more.

An interior designer must have:

  • creativity and imagination
  • an eye for design, including colour, and good 3D awareness
  • the ability to visualise concepts and explain them to others
  • good drawing and IT skills
  • an interest in changing trends in design.

Around 6,000 to 8,000 people work as interior designers in the UK. The main employers are design consultancies and architectural practices. Some interior designers are self-employed. Opportunities exist throughout the UK. The biggest concentration of consultancies is in the south east of England.

Almost all interior designers have a degree or HND. This may be in interior design or in a related subject such as 3D design, graphic design, fashion and textile design, architecture or fine art. Courses are available across the UK. Foundation degrees and BTEC national diplomas are also available.

Besides on-the-job training, employers may offer short courses in specific areas such as presentation skills and IT packages. Interior designers are expected to keep up to date with new trends and products. Designers who have completed a diploma or degree in interior design are eligible for associate membership of the British Institute of Interior Design.

It is possible to progress to partner status within a consultancy. After building a reputation, many interior designers choose to become self-employed or work freelance. They may move into areas such as theatre set design or exhibition design.

 

What is the work like?

A designer may be asked to create or renovate spaces within:

  • homes
  • offices and industrial units
  • shops, hotels and restaurants
  • public buildings
  • historic buildings
  • vehicles, such as ships and aircraft.

Interior designers need to design a space that is practical for its purpose as well as visually pleasing. Projects can be broad in scope, ranging from structural alterations to the choice of furnishings, curtains, wallpaper and lighting. Designers may be commissioned to transform existing interiors, or to produce designs for a building that has yet to be finished.

Tasks may include:

  • working to a brief, which details what the space will be used for, and finding out the client's personal ideas and requirements
  • inspecting and surveying buildings
  • negotiating fees
  • setting schedules for the project
  • carrying out research, to make sure that plans are technically feasible
  • producing rough sketches and a mood board - a collection of suitable images, colours and materials
  • developing detailed designs, often using computer-aided design (CAD) software or small-scale models
  • choosing the most appropriate materials for the design and budget
  • advising clients on progress, and providing them with samples of paints and fabrics to be used
  • supervising the work as it is carried out.

As well as advising clients, interior designers must work closely with other professionals. They may consult architects, quantity surveyors and engineers. They may place orders with manufacturers and suppliers, and supervise builders and decorators on site.

Some interior designers also work on exhibition design.

Salaries start at around £18,000 a year for a trainee interior designer.

 

Hours and environment

Interior designers typically work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some evening and weekend work may be required, to meet clients, supervise ongoing projects and ensure deadlines are met. Part-time work is possible.

The work is based in design studios, although a lot of time is spent on location. Self-employed interior designers may work from home. Some time is spent travelling to visit clients and sites. Designers in some companies travel abroad to work with international clients.

When supervising building works, designers need to wear protective clothing, including a hard hat and overalls.

A driving licence may be useful.

 

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Trainee interior designers may start on around £18,000 a year.
  • With experience, interior designers may earn £30,000 a year.
  • The most senior interior designers may earn £60,000 or more.

Fees for self-employed designers start at around £25 per hour.

 

Skills and personal qualities

An interior designer must have:

  • creativity and imagination
  • an eye for design, including colour, and good 3D awareness
  • the ability to visualise concepts and explain them to others
  • good drawing and IT skills
  • good organisational skills, to ensure each project is completed on time and within budget
  • awareness of technical building issues, and the range of relevant products and materials
  • strong communication and negotiation skills
  • confidence with figures
  • self-discipline.

 

Interests

It is important to be interested in:

  • changing trends in design
  • the processes involved in architecture and construction.

 

Getting in

Around 6,000 to 8,000 people work as interior designers in the UK. The main employers are design consultancies and architectural practices. Some interior designers are self-employed.

Opportunities exist throughout the UK. The biggest concentration of consultancies is in the south east of England. There are good opportunities for interior designers, but competition for places can be keen.

Vacancies may be found in trade publications, such as Design Week and Architects' Journal, and on specialist websites such as www.design4design.com and www.mad.co.uk. Many jobs go unadvertised, so speculative applications may be worthwhile.

Entry for young people

Almost all interior designers have a degree or HND. This may be in interior design or in a related subject such as 3D design, graphic design, fashion and textile design, architecture or fine art. Courses are available at universities and colleges across the UK.

In rare cases, a design consultancy or architectural practice may offer a trainee post to a candidate without a degree or diploma, although they would expect the applicant to demonstrate a high level of relevant experience, flair and enthusiasm.

It is important to have a portfolio of varied designs to present to potential clients and employers. A work placement, paid or unpaid, in the field is invaluable. Employers often expect new entrants to be familiar with all the major computer design software.

Many students take a one-year Foundation Diploma in Art and Design before applying for a degree or diploma course. This is a useful way to try a variety of art and design subjects, and build up a portfolio of work.

A Foundation Degree in Interior Design is also available. This takes two years, full time and includes 16 weeks' work experience. Entry requirements vary. Students may be able to progress by transferring to the third year of an honours degree course.

For a degree, two A levels/three H grades are usually required, including at least one art-related subject, as well as five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

For an HND, entry requirements are usually one A level/two H grades in art and design subjects, or a BTEC national diploma/certificate in a relevant subject, or equivalent.

A BTEC National Diploma in Interior Design is available. Entry requirements are usually four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent. It is also possible to take the National Certificate in 3D Interior Design. This course involves a year of practical study, and there are no set entry requirements.

Entry for adults

Mature entry is possible with relevant experience. An Access course in interior design may be available as preparation for entry to a degree or diploma.

 

Training

Besides on-the-job training, employers may offer short courses in specific areas, such as presentation skills and IT packages.

Interior designers are expected to keep up to date with new trends and products. They may attend trade fairs and exhibitions.

Designers who have completed a diploma or degree in interior design are eligible for associate membership of the British Interior Design Association. They may apply for full membership after six years' practice. It is also possible, on assessment, to gain membership of the Chartered Society of Designers.

Postgraduate degrees and diplomas are available in specialised areas of interior design.

 

Getting on

With substantial experience, it is possible to progress to partner status within a consultancy. After building a reputation, many interior designers choose to become self-employed or work on a freelance basis.

Interior designers may move into related areas, such as theatre set design or exhibition design.

There may be opportunities for interior designers to work overseas.

 

Further information

British Interior Design Association, 3/18 Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, London SW10 0XE. 020 7349 0800. Website: www.bida.org

Chartered Society of Designers, 1 Cedar Court, Royal Oak Yard, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GA. 020 7357 8088. Website: www.csd.org.uk

Creative & Cultural Skills, 4th Floor, Lafone House, The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN. 020 7015 1800. Website: www.ccskills.org.uk

Design Business Association, 35-39 Old Street, London EC1V 9HX. 020 7251 9229. Website: www.dba.org.uk

Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL. 020 7420 5200. Website: www.designcouncil.org.uk

The National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD), The Gatehouse, Corsham Court, Corsham, Wiltshire SN13 0BZ. 01249 714825. Website: www.nsead.org

 

Further reading

Creative Futures - NSEAD

Interior Design - Laurence King

 

Magazines/journals

Architects' Journal

The Architectural Review

Frame

FX Magazine

idFX Magazine

Interior Design Handbook

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