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.

Bedside Manner

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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. 

 

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.
 

Deregulation Bills: What Do They Mean for Interior Designers?

Deregulation bills are pieces of legislation introduced by state legislators to remove part or all interior design laws in a particular state. Read on to learn more about deregulation bills and how you can get involved with advocating for the interior design industry.

Who is behind these efforts to deregulation interior design and other professions and occupations?

There isn’t one answer to this question. A legislator may have been asked to sponsor the bill by a constituent. However, several national organizations have made decreasing occupational and professional regulation a priority, including but not limited to the Institute for Justice and Americans for Prosperity. These organizations and supporters of the deregulation legislation believe that occupational and professional regulation makes it difficult for people to enter those professions, increases the cost of services by those professions, and does not protect the public.

Why should interior design be regulated?

Commercial interior designers are more than they are perceived to be. They have a tangible impact on the interior environment.

  • Regulation shows consumers and clients that an individual has met government-approved standards of education, experience, and examination.
  • Regulation gives consumers an avenue for redress.
  • Regulation demonstrates that the profession of interior design is on par with architects, landscape architects, and engineers for their prescribed scope of work.
  • Regulation expands economic opportunities for interior designers.
  • Regulation can and should include expanded privileges, such as the ability to submit their work to a building department for a permit and ability to own their own design firm.

What is IIDA doing to combat these bills?

IIDA monitors legislation in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Congress on a daily basis. We closely monitor any legislation that pertains to the industry, but especially to attempts to undermine legislative progress. In addition, IIDA maintains open dialogue with hired lobbyists, coalitions, and ASID National. IIDA recognizes the importance of the legislative progress and continues to advocate for the voluntary registration or certification of interior designers.

In January, IIDA worked cooperatively with the Virginia/West Virginia and Mid-Atlantic IIDA Chapters and with ASID national and their Virginia chapters to combat successfully HB1824, which would have deregulated interior design in Virginia.

What can I do?

First, be aware of the laws in your state. If an action alert is sent by IIDA, ASID, or a coalition, act on those alerts. Connect with your legislator to let them know you’re an interior designer and why you care about interior design registration. No one can speak better about your profession than you.


To learn more about interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org.

Envisioning the Future of the Interior Design Industry

What were you doing 20 years ago? IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, opened Industry Roundtable 20, held January 6-8, 2017, with that simple question.

“Twenty years ago, commercial interior design was experiencing a transformative shift,” said Durst, who moderated the annual roundtable. “We began asking, ‘How do people work?’ instead of, ‘Where do people sit?’ We started to think beyond the job title and consider how people relate to one another in the workplace. We saw that work and life were overlapping in new ways. And, we recognized that good design is the solution for optimizing work and productivity in this new era.”

It was a fitting question to kick off the event: For two decades, Industry Roundtable has welcomed distinguished design leaders for a two-day, thought-provoking discussion about topics relevant to the Interior Design industry. This year’s topic, “Design Then, Design Now, Design Next: A 20-year Retrospective,” offered participants the rare opportunity to reflect on the history of the profession and assess the emerging economic, cultural, and social trends that are shaping the next generation of commercial interior design.

Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, LEED AP, principal and global practice leader, Perkins+Will, opened the event with her keynote presentation, “A 20-year Retrospective of the Commercial Interior Design Industry,” which provided an overview of how technology, sustainability, and the evolving purview of design have shaped the profession.

Her message was forward-looking, setting the tone for the remainder of the event. “Standing here at the end of the Information Age, we are in a unique position to figure out what is next and how we can change the world with design,” said Jones.

The group of 30 interior designers, manufacturer representatives, and thought leaders then participated in sessions focused on the future of people, place, and work, featuring speakers Julie B. Cummings, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, director of human resources, BKD, LLP; Jim Young, co-founder, Realcomm Conference Group; and Jim Ware, Ph.D., founder and executive director, Future of Work….unlimited. Much of the conversation focused on the multi-generational workforce and how to transition design leadership to younger generations.

“When I first started, I never would have imagined that human resources would be sitting at the table with design teams to talk about space,” mused Cummings who presented on The Future of People, “We need designers to guide us, consult with us on how space can meet the needs as the Boomers transition out and Millennials become even more of a force in the workplace. This is something all of my peers are wrestling with.”

Young and Ware, who spoke on the Future of Place and the Future of Work, respectively, echoed this sentiment during their presentations: Designing for the future will mean accommodating five generations, a growing population, and rising life expectancies while reckoning with a decrease in available space, a critical need for sustainable building practices, and ever-evolving technology.

“Design has the unique ability to bring together allied professions, solve problems from multiple points of view, and put society’s well-being at the forefront. This notion of the convergence of people, place, and work, and how we think about design in the context of these things is critical to what’s next for our industry,” said Durst.

An executive report, to be released in March 2017, will provide a summary of key insights from IIDA Industry Roundtable 20.


Read past Industry Roundtable executive reports online at iida.org.

Passion and Practice in Action at the 2016 Advocacy Symposium

Today’s post is written by Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, Assoc AIA, who attended the 2016 IIDA Advocacy Symposium in Denver on Sept. 23 – 25, 2016. 

The second annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium flew by – a whirlwind of thoughtful, impassioned conversations dedicated to advancing interior design recognition across the country. Hosted in Denver by IIDA and the Rocky Mountain Chapter, the Symposium was an opportunity for interior design advocates to connect, share best practices, and reinvigorate our collective passion for the profession.

Practicing at the intersection of architecture and interior design, I’ve been supporting interior design recognition since moving to Seattle in 2011 and serving as the Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Northern Pacific Chapter. Coping with a recent defeat at the capitol, the Chapter had taken a step back to reframe our approach to the legislative process. Our focus shifted to a broader definition of advocacy, which included engaging our city communities and developing a shared vision among our industry professionals. In parallel, the IIDA International Board of Directors prioritized advocacy and launched a series of initiatives to support change, such as the Advocacy Symposium and Advisory Council.  Continue reading

Turning a Conversation About Diversity Into a Movement

In January 2016, IIDA hosted its 19th annual Industry Roundtable. The two-day event held a mirror up to the design industry, showing us that while we are well-intentioned about increasing diversity – as a whole, across racial, gender, generational, etc., lines – in our workforce, we must be assertive about transforming our discussions about diversity into an action plan.

To that end, IIDA is excited and proud to share the executive report from that day. Tackling the topic of diversity and inclusion in the design industry, the report, “Diversity and Design: Why Gender, Equity, and Multidisciplinary Thinking are Essential to Business,” summarizes the lively and productive discussion of 30 design industry leaders from the Roundtable and provides a strategic roadmap for the newly formed IIDA Diversity Council, chaired by Stacy Walker, Ind. IIDA, Director of Customer Experience at Milliken.

“IIDA approached the subject of diversity in the design industry by taking stock of our Association. From chapter events to continuing education programs, to the headquarters of our partners in manufacturing to our own board of directors—diversity, or the lack thereof, was apparent,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, who moderated the Roundtable. “This report and the formation of the IIDA Diversity Council are the first steps of many toward a more diverse industry—in race and gender, and thought and discipline.”

The Industry Roundtable report features research highlighting the myriad benefits of diversity in business, statistics illustrating the current state of diversity in the design industry, and personal accounts from industry leaders who shared their experiences as African-Americans creating opportunities for cultural awareness and inclusiveness both in their own firms and across the profession.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT

By the numbers

69 percent of the 87,000 practitioners in the interior design industry are women. Yet, female design firm leadership is only 25 percent.

There are 347 total licensed women architects in the United States. Of this, 0.3 percent are African-American. (Correction: There are 347 total licensed African-American women architects in the United States, representing 0.3 percent of all registered architects.)

What’s one of the top five least diverse professions? Architecture.

By the stories

“Designers have a powerful impact on the environment, and I want more people who look like me to have a say in that. Growing up, I had seen what architecture does to our communities; they suck. I wanted to change how my people live.”

-Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Global Diversity, Perkins+Will

“There was a group of us in D.C.; we used to see each other around and at meetings, and do the ‘black nod.’ One day we were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to meet up?’ So we created an informal group for black designers—interior designers, architects, and manufacturers. The size went from 20 to 35 to 75. Then brokers wanted to come, people from the periphery of the industry. Last time, we even had students. It was nice. You don’t realize the impact of just being there together.”

-Jeffrey Gay, Ind. IIDA, Architecture + Design Representative, Herman Miller

Looking forward

“There’s a misunderstanding that design is only accessible to a privileged few. Because of the lack of exposure at the early educational level, many minority groups do not choose design as a professional path.”

-Edwin Beltran, IIDA, Assoc. AIA, Principal/Designer, NBBJ

Targeting the talent pipeline – the next generation of interior design professionals – is key to an inclusive industry. It is our responsibility as professionals in the field to become more involved in schools in disadvantaged communities and introduce them to career options in design. Inspiring role models and mentors representative of minority groups also need to be more visible.

You can download and read the full report on the IIDA website.


How has your company addressed diversity in the workplace? Tell us and share your feedback about the report in the comments.