From Interior Design Student to Interior Design Professional: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind

You graduated from your interior design program – congratulations! Now it’s time to tackle the next challenge: preparing for your career as a professional designer. This June, IIDA brought together four design industry experts to answer the questions students and recent graduates want answered. Thank you to Stacey Harloe, Ind. IIDA, of OFS Brands, Amy Leigh Hufford, Student IIDA, of NELSON, Hunter Charles Kaiser, IIDA, NCIDQ, of hk+c, and Rebekah L. Matheny, IIDA, of The Ohio State University for sharing their wealth of knowledge, insight, and advice at this year’s Career Bootcamp Panel sponsored by OFS Brands. From what makes a standout portfolio to how to network with the pros, here’s what they had to offer about succeeding in a career in interior design.

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Adopting a “humanistic” approach to solving a problem doesn’t just live in the area of medicine; it’s a significant part of your practice as a designer. Fulfilling a design concept for a client requires as much empathy as it does efficiency. “When the clients talk, they’re telling us the solution,” said Hunter. “We need to extrapolate it.” Be prepared to ask questions like, “What do you want to be able to accomplish in your space?” and “How does the space make you feel?” Use words that your client can understand, not design jargon. Talk less, listen more. Establishing rapport and trust with your client are crucial to maintaining a happy and healthy working relationship.

Tell Me Your Story

Rebekah starts the design process with her clients by asking them their story. “Sometimes, it’s not the client you’re designing for, it’s their customers, it’s their users of the space. How do you communicate the unfolding story in the space?” Understanding your client’s story will guide your design and dig deeper into the underlying goals and objectives. Added Amy, “We’re not designing for now, we’re designing for the future. At NELSON, we ask them, ‘How can we make you start your future now?’ ‘How can we institute change management for your company to make you perform better?’”

Process, Personality, Confidence

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A unique, creative, and diverse portfolio along with a strong skillset show you’re a talented and capable designer. Your personality and ability to describe your process eloquently are what sell you. “You’re going to have to articulate your vision to your clients, so there’s a selling acumen that starts very early for you, and that’s in the interview,” said Stacey. Build your confidence; practice articulating your portfolio as you prepare for job interviews. Come armed with questions, be inquisitive, and have a positive attitude. “Skills can be taught. It’s the thought process that’s most important because you’re bringing your mind set — the way you see and experience the world around you,” said Rebekah.

Share Your Work

Social media has become a natural part of our day. It’s as easy to post pictures of our vacation as it is pictures of our work. For some designers, sharing images of their work has been a real concern – what if someone copies my idea? Stacey embraces that. “When someone copies your idea, that is pretty rewarding. That’s gratification that you did something good, and that idea will become parent to later ideas.” We live in a world of sharing. If you’re doing something that’s well-done and you’re proud of, let people see it and learn from it. Conversely, added Hunter, share your mistakes so we could learn from those too.

Have a Dialogue

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It can be intimidating to approach designers when you want to catch them for a couple of minutes at a networking event or at the end of a talk. Rest assured, many of them know that. “Every designer started at one point too,” said Hunter. To help you break the ice, do a little bit of homework and research the designer before attending the event. What was the last project they worked on that you liked and why? Where did they get their start? Knowing these answers will inform what questions you ask and maybe find some common ground with them. And, quite honestly, sometimes starting the conversation is as simple as a compliment. “Find a way to flatter them,” said Amy.

But dialogue is a two-way street. “It’s also our responsibility [as professional designers] to say hi,” said Rebekah. “We need to make that human connection with you. Let’s shift to a collaborative process. Let’s co-design.”


Check out the IIDA Career Bootcamp page for information about the the Career Bootcamp Panel, interviewing, and networking. We also encourage you to reach out to your local Campus Center leaders for resources and suggestions that meet your needs as an IIDA Student Member. 

 

Up Close with the Kent State University Campus Center

IIDA Campus Center: Kent State University

IIDA Chapter: Ohio Kentucky Chapter

Where: Kent, Ohio

Number of Student Members: 40

IIDA Campus Centers are the first point of contact interior design students have to IIDA. Each one is unique in design, programming, and initiatives, which makes for a varied student experience across chapters. We want to highlight the diversity of IIDA Student Member experiences by introducing you to a handful of campus centers. From how they run their group to what activities garner the most student interest, here is what we learned after sitting down with the IIDA Kent State University Campus Center.

Give us a snapshot of your Campus Center.

Kent State University’s Campus Center is an umbrella organization for interior design students that aims to unite IIDA and ASID. We have about 40 student members within our organization. A majority of these members are aspiring interior designers from the interior design program but the organization is open to all students on campus.

Recently there has been a large push to incorporate architecture students into the group to encourage cross collaboration. We aspire to evolve the organization and remain cutting edge and align with the goals of our school’s architecture college, which focuses heavily on integration and collaboration between programs.

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Do you work with other organizations or design clubs?

We work with other organizations like Alpha Rho Chi (APX), an architecture-based business fraternity on campus, graphic design students, and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) to create the Design Arts Ball. We have an open relationship with APX and AIAS and join them for meetings, firm crawls, and workshops.

 What kind events and activities do you host at your Campus Center?

We all agree that events that would allow for more collaboration and inclusion for all would best benefit the group. Events and activities include but are not limited to: lunch and learns with professionals, firm tours, software workshops, social networking events, along with volunteer opportunities like Relay for Life, AIA/IIDA Design Awards, and one of our favorites, Zerolandfill.

kent-1-finalWhat are your favorite or most successful events and activities that you host?

Our favorite — and successful event — would have to be Relay for Life. This activity allows students to connect with different organizations around campus, as well as support a great cause. Another successful activity for us is volunteering at Zerolandfill. Our members are a large face of the event in both Akron and Cleveland. We love to help recycle old materials, and [the activity] also allows students to connect with professionals in the area in a less intimidating way. We like to get younger members involved to help ease them into the community.

How do you collaborate with your local chapter?

We are lucky in that our IIDA community is more than willing to engage us in their activities! Our Campus Center presidents are invited to attend monthly meetings with the Akron/Cleveland City Center. They also create fun events for us to interact with other design schools nearby and other professionals — it really brings the whole community together, something for which we feel very grateful for.

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How do you get people engaged with your Campus Center and local chapter?

We have found the key to engagement at the Campus Center level is frequency and variability. Our board has surveyed the group and worked on putting together events that our members ask for. Through our great professionals we are able to remain very connected to the local IIDA Chapter. Our members are able to engage with professionals through volunteer opportunities, local conferences, design charrettes, and networking events. Our board has been extremely happy with what the group has become!

What is the biggest benefit of being an IIDA Member?

We recently had this conversation just before our graduation. As a freshman, you feel so lost and overwhelmed. Joining IIDA early helps you use your time in school to prepare for “the real world.” Our students have the opportunity to create relationships with people in different sides of the industry, giving them the skills and confidence to succeed on their career paths. We believe it is important to have an active IIDA Campus Center not only to educate and inform our students and the general public of the importance of interior design, but to prepare students to be the best, well-rounded designers they can be.


Learn more about IIDA Campus Centers at iida.org

Changing of the Guard

On June 11, James Kerrigan, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, was inducted as the 2017-2018 president of the IIDA International Board of Directors. With his global perspective—he has lived in the U.K., Australia, Ireland, and multiple regions of the United States—and long-time leadership in the industry, the design principal of interiors at Jacobs brings a unique worldview to his new role at the helm of IIDA. We talked to Kerrigan about his design philosophy, what he sees as the industry’s biggest challenge, the continued shift toward smart technology and flexible spaces, and design’s biggest opportunity.

IIDA: What is your philosophy as a designer?

James Kerrigan: I see design as relationship-based work. The focus is on being a partner, an advocate, and tuned in to the culture of an organization rather than imposing a design ethos or passing fad. I value the collaborative, integrated nature of what we do as designers. Listening to what our clients want is such a big part of our profession, and I love the challenge of working with a team to synthesize what we hear and bring solutions—both expected and unexpected—to the table.

IIDA: Where do you see the industry headed?

JK: Buildings are becoming smarter and more connected. What that means for design is that integrated technology will manifest itself as user-choice and user-influence over the space being occupied. With user-control, you’re going to continue to see a shift toward flexible design, less hard construction, and further support for adaptability in a space. Previously, people served the function of an office space, and now the space needs to serve the people.

“The most effective interiors happen at the intersection of real estate and design, and reflect and support the culture, vision, mission, and brand of an organization.”
—James Kerrigan

IIDA: As a leader in this industry, what do you see as a design’s biggest challenge right now?

JK: The ongoing commoditization of design is a challenge for our industry. Design is a critical and strategic business decision, but the idea that it’s transactional and price-driven is still prevalent. Clearly there’s a defined expertise and there are different levels of quality—you get what you pay for.

IIDA: How can the design industry overcome this challenge?

JK: I believe there’s a greater opportunity to demonstrate our value as an industry. Design is a service; it’s an experience; it’s people-focused. Once upon a time, design was transactional—we executed a design based on what the client told us they wanted. What makes design so successful now is that it goes far beyond choosing colors, artwork, furniture, signage, or a particular floor plan. It’s the holistic and integrated solution—the most effective interiors happen at the intersection of real estate and design, and reflect and support the culture, vision, mission, and brand of an organization.

Evidence-based design has started to define value for commercial interior design, but the research is largely qualitative. Quantitative research—i.e., the return on investment for design—will bring additional credibility and ensure that outside of our industry, design is rightfully understood as a necessity that brings value and requires expertise.

To that end, providing essential industry content through a variety of mediums that continues to illustrate the tangible benefits of design is among my priorities as president of the IIDA International Board of Directors. We have a great opportunity to further the association’s position as the foremost source for commercial interior design thought leadership and research.


This post was originally published in Interiors & Sources.
 

IIDA Members Testify in Ohio to Defeat Proposed Sales Tax on Interior Design Services

A proposed sales tax in Ohio, introduced in the state budget bill in January 2017, sought to tax interior design and decoration services. The tax provision would have put Ohio’s interior designers at a disadvantage in relation to interior designers in neighboring states, as well as other design professionals whose services are not taxed. IIDA, together with the American Society for Interior Designers (ASID), mobilized a grassroots advocacy campaign and successfully defeated the proposed tax.

Here, Tamra Fuscaldo, IIDA, NCIDQ, an interior designer for healthcare, higher education, and corporate facilities, and the past president of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter, shares her experience testifying before the Ohio Legislature about the negative effects the proposed sales tax would have had on the Interior Design industry in Ohio.

IIDA: Why was it important for you to get involved and testify in front of the Ohio Legislature?

Tamra Fuscaldo: I have been in the Interior Design industry for over 25 years. I feel that it is my responsibility to stand up for our profession. We are continually misunderstood and mislabeled, and I will do whatever I can to change that narrative.

IIDA: What key points were used in Ohio that made a big impact?

TF: For the legislation involving taxing of luxury services in Ohio, the bill was written with too broad of a definition. The intent was to tax the consumers, those who might have discretionary funds, when hiring a residential interior designer or decorator, referred to as business to consumer (B2C). I wanted to make it clear that the definition included commercial interior designers, those who worked in the business to business (B2B) sector. Commercial interior designers typically have at least a four-year degree, pass the NCIDQ, and have years of specialized experience in interiors. Moreover, with this tax, project costs would rise, impacting budgets and causing small firms to lower their fees in order to compete. Essentially, this was a tax on professional services not luxury services.

IIDA: What were the keys to success in Ohio?

TF: The profession of interior design has a long way to go in terms of advocacy. The public, including our legislative representatives, do not have a clear understanding of the complexity of our industry. During our hearings, we represented the Interior Design industry well, and I hope we were able to change the perspectives of legislators who were present. Ultimately, we have to show value in our profession in a way that puts us on par with architects and engineers. The key to success in Ohio was being able to define interior design to legislators as a professional and technical industry that benefits the public.


Want to learn more about advocating for the Interior Design profession? Join us at the next IIDA Advocacy Symposium.

My Top Five: The Best of NeoCon by the 2017 IIDA Student of the Year

Hi, I’m Lindzey Duval, 2017 IIDA Student of the Year, and here are my top five favorite moments at NeoCon! Although every moment was special, there were a handful that were unforgettable.

ACCEPTING THE IIDA STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

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On stage at Annual Meeting with Cheryl Durst, IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO. (Photography by Elaine Miller Photography)

At the IIDA Annual Meeting, I had the unique opportunity to share my story and experiences on stage when I accepted the Student of the Year Award. It may have been one of the most nerve-racking things I have ever done, but it was also one of the most amazing and unforgettable moments in my life so far. I never expected to feel so much love and support from my family, friends, Texas State University, and the design industry. Accepting the award at the Annual Meeting takes the cake of favorite moments during my experience at NeoCon!

STUDENT DESIGN CHARETTE

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This was the third design charette that I have participated in and this one was by far my favorite of the three. As someone who loves working with others, I enjoyed collaborating with students from across the nation from many different universities. Everyone who was part of my team brought their own unique background and thought process to the table and it was great to see our charette project unfold. And taking second place was pretty cool, too!

MEETING NEW FRIENDS + MAKING CONNECTIONS

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Accepting 2nd place at the 2017 IIDA Student Design Charette from judges Joseph White, IIDA, NCIDQ, IDEX, LEED AP, director of workplace strategy, design, and management at Herman Miller, and Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, president and co-founder of Studio O+A.

NeoCon brings together people from across the world — I met students and industry professionals I may have never had the chance to meet if I wasn’t there. From Philadelphia and D.C., to California, Illinois, Indiana, and New York, I was fortunate to learn from the unique experiences and backgrounds of each person I met and what is currently happening in the design field where they live.

IIDA COOL GALA

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Opening reception at COOL with Doug Shapiro, Ind. IIDA, vice president of the IIDA International Board of Directors.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with the COOL Gala,think of it as the design Oscars. Sounds fancy, huh? It is! Everyone was head-to-toe glam celebrating design excellence and some pretty amazing projects from this year’s Interior Design Competition and Will Ching Design Competition. I enjoyed chatting with everyone and dancing the night away. Shout out to OFS Brands for inviting me and for sponsoring my award. They are total rock stars!

THE SHOWROOMS AT THE MART

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This was my first year at NeoCon and it is safe to say that I was blown away by the creativity and thought put into each showroom this year. It made standing in those long elevator lines worth it! If you’ve been to NeoCon, you know what I am talking about. Seeing everyone’s hard work and research come to life was so rewarding. Plus, get ready for some great new products coming our way this year. I cannot express how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to attend because of IIDA! Thank you to everyone who made my experience so great.


Lindzey Duval is a member of the IIDA Texas/Oklahoma Chapter. You can view the rest of her – along with other IIDA Members – NeoCon experience on Instagram by following #IIDAtakeover.

Social Design Dialogues: Beyond the Bathroom Sign

This post was contributed by Raquel Raney, Student IIDA, and Brennan Broome, Student IIDA, co-presidents of the IIDA Florida International University Campus Center.

At Bespeak’s inaugural talk, “Non-Compliant Bodies and Social Equity in Public and Private Space,” participants looked to open up a dialogue about inclusive restroom design for all-gender public facilities. The topic, as of recently, has gained widespread media coverage, sparking discussion and debate within the field of politics, and is a subject often overlooked within the design of the built environment. What we learned at Bespeak was that the issue of inclusive design has a much further reach than gender alone and can solve a whole spectrum of demographic design problems. Designing all gender facilities doesn’t only benefit transgender populations, but also people of all ages, abilities, and religions who require special needs and assistance.

The tendency with bathroom design and space planning is to give it the least thought ­­­– tucked away in far off corners of buildings – with the only goal being to comply with code. This not only creates safety concerns, it establishes restrooms as places of disgust and possible shame. By creating thoughtful, functional spaces, designers and architects can play a vital role in moving forward towards a more open and inclusive design of restrooms, potentially changing the way people think of and use these spaces.

For us as young designers, the discussion opened up a new approach to our design practice – one that is lacking in the traditional design education. It opened our eyes to the diversity of the people this profession reaches and the potential effects one’s decisions can have on whole populations of people. It became clear to us that the design process cannot be done alone. It requires a cross-disciplinary approach to tackle the issue of inclusivity in the built environment. From conception to creation, bringing together a diverse group of practitioners and individuals — from architects, interior designers, and graphic designers, to psychologists, business owners, and of course, end-users — is vital in fostering a productive discourse that leads to practical, real-life solutions.

With our backgrounds in graphic design, symbols and iconography have become a point of interest in creating a much needed, universal vocabulary around the subject of diversity design. The current system promotes the requirement of marginalized identification that needs to be rethought to include those that exist outside of the gender binary. Although it is not a simple task, important issues like these raised at Bespeak have inspired us to broaden our scope to create meaningful work that promotes health and well-being and improves safety and security in public spaces –ultimately, creating a better designed environment for everyone.


Raquel Raney, Student IIDA, and Brennan Broome, Student IIDA, are both master’s degree candidates of interior architecture at Florida International University. The pair run Raneytown, a full-service branding and creative studio based in Miami, Florida. Merging backgrounds in art and design, Raneytown delivers distinctively creative and collaborative design solutions across a range of disciplines and mediums.