An interior designer’s work is closely involved with designing and coordinating interiors of residences and commercial buildings. They may work with manufacturers, architects, project managers and individual clients to put together spaces and furnishings which work in an aesthetically pleasing and functional way. A designer will take into account lighting, wall coverings, flooring, spaces, window treatments, furniture, art and decor and other factors when planning a project.
The interior designer must be aware of building and safety codes when working on a plan, and have to be able to read blueprints. A project may involve special accommodation for handicapped residents, using space in a most efficient manner, or be a “green” project, using sustainable materials. The interior designer will meet frequently with clients to ascertain their needs and wants, and will recommend elements of room design to create a cohesive whole which works for them.
Although designers may work for a large firm or in industry, they are often self-employed individuals. The median annual income for an interior designer in the U.S. is approximately $45,000.00. Higher salaries are more common for designers who work for architectural and engineering firms, while designers working for furniture stores and building materials and supplies dealers make slightly less than the median.*
Some interior designers and decorators choose to have a part-time career, and this can work well if they are self-employed. The rates that designers charge their clients can range from $75.00 to $100.00 per hour. This would include consultation time, putting together design elements and making presentations, ordering furniture, fabrics, and materials, and visiting the job site to check on progress.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
At the very least, an associate’s degree is required for an entry-level job in this field, in which the graduate may become an assistant to a designer. Many interior designers attend four-year colleges and earn bachelor’s degrees, and may qualify for a formal design apprenticeship program. Individuals may also apply for a master’s degree for further training.
The National Council for Interior Design Qualification has a program called the Interior Design Experience Program, which enables entry-level workers in this field to gain valuable job experience and knowledge while being supervised and mentored.
Training can be specialized for interior designers, and can be learned on the job as well as in the classroom. They may be required to learn software programs used by their employer, architectural knowledge, or areas such as bath and kitchen design.
As in many other occupations, there are continuing education classes available for interior designers and decorators throughout their working life. These can lead to certifications which will enhance their careers. One very popular and growing area of training is based on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building. This focuses on moving towards sustainability in construction. Designers who have excellent knowledge of how to work within LEED guidelines can be quite valuable to their employers, and their clients, who will save on energy costs and taxes due to this type of construction.
A number of states have licensing requirements for interior designers. A licensing exam is administered by The National Council for Interior Design Qualification. Applicants who wish to be eligible to take this licensing exam must have at least six years of combined education and experience in interior design. At least two years of their education must be postsecondary education.
Successful candidates who pass this licensing exam are given the title of Certified, Registered, or Licensed Interior Designer, depending on the State. Often it is required that they attend continuing education as a requirement to keep this designation.
Job Description and Outlook
Interior designers have the responsibility of making plans, designing, and giving makeovers to interiors of houses, offices, hotels, retail spaces, institutional buildings, etc. They can work for design firms, stores or manufacturers. For example, a flooring manufacturer may employ a designer to create textures and colors for a new carpet line, using currently popular and coordinating looks to appeal to the consumer.
An interior designer may create floor plans, as well as shopping for window treatments, fabrics, furniture and other decor accessories that may suit the design he or she feels is right for a specific client. They will show sketches, color charts, sample fabrics and wallpapers, to present an image of the finished project to that client. The designer may choose artwork, recommend proper lighting, organize the flow of rooms and buildings, and use textures and colors to create a mood or energy in a room.
The field of interior design is competitive, as there are many talented individuals competing for these jobs, however the market looks positive. It is highly recommended that people wishing to enter this field get the best education possible and keep up on learning opportunities to enhance their prospects of advancement. They may also seek out specialized knowledge to work in niche markets that offer additional career possibilities.
ASID – American Society of Interior Designers
IIDA – International Interior Design Association
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