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. 

 

Up Close with Philadelphia University

IIDA Campus Center: Philadelphia University

IIDA Chapter: Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter

Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Board Members

Co-Presidents: Christine Migliore, Student IIDA, and Rachel Thode, Student IIDA

Secretary: Kaitlyn DeBeras, Student IIDA

Events Coordinators: Caitlin Bakofsky, Student IIDA, and Bridget Sax, Student IIDA

Treasurer: Julia Strange, Student IIDA

IIDA Liaison: Emily Nelson, Student IIDA

ASID Liaison: Chela Humber, Student IIDA

AIAS Liaison: Gabriela Morales, Student IIDA

Social Media Coordinator: Paige Hocker, Student IIDA

Number of Student Members: 93

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 Campus Center at Philadelphia University.

IIDA HQ: Tell us about your campus center – What does your Board of Directors look like? How does your campus center operate?

IIDA Philadelphia University Campus Center: Our board consists of interior design students of all grades. We have a secretary, event coordinators, a treasurer, an IIDA liaison, AIAS liaison, ASID liaison, and a social media coordinator. We hold monthly board meetings, which allow us to come together and gather our ideas and plan events. These meetings are typically held a week before our monthly campus meeting where all ideas and events are then discussed with all of our campus center members. These meetings allow us to get any feedback from all of our members on any suggestions for events we hold, as well as answering any questions they may have.

Co-presidents and Board Members

Philadelphia University Campus Center Co-presidents and Board Members

IIDA HQ: What kind of events and activities do you host at your campus center?

PU: This past semester we held Milkshake Monday to help raise money for future IIDA events. This was open to all students and faculty on campus to gain awareness of IIDA.

Milkshake Monday

We also hold a mentor-mentee program within our campus in which we pair underclassman with upperclassman. This gives the underclassman an extra resource to go to for help regarding design and any other classes. We held a pizza social to introduce the mentees to their mentors. At the end of the semester we also held a potluck, which was open to all students in our interior design program – not just those who are IIDA members. This allowed everyone to come together and encouraged those who are not already members to join.

This upcoming semester we plan to hold firm and showroom visits as well as host our annual product showcase to help familiarize students with the industry.

IIDA HQ: What are your favorite or most successful events and activities that you host?

PU: Our potluck was our most successful event that we have held so far. We had a significant turnout that included not only our students but faculty as well. This event allowed everyone to get involved since it was open to all of interior design. It was also a relaxing event to have before the end of the semester.

 

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IIDA HQ: And because we have to ask: What is the biggest benefit of being an IIDA Member and having an active campus center?

PU: The biggest benefit is that we have a constant support system. This support system is created through our mentor-mentee program. Since we do hold events that are open to all of the interior design students on campus, another benefit of being an IIDA Student Member is becoming involved with the Philadelphia Chapter through networking events and competing in competitions. There is always an opportunity for networking and meeting so many new people! Being a member also allows students to participate in the IIDA Student Mentoring Program, which is beneficial in gaining further industry knowledge.


Follow the IIDA Philadelphia University Campus Center on Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about IIDA Campus Centers, visit iida.org

IIDA New England: Committed to Interior Design Advocacy Through Action

Over the last 18 months, the IIDA New England Chapter – with help from IIDA HQ – has hired a lobbying firm, actively engaged with ASID legislative leaders, reached out to the Massachusetts design community, met with lawmakers and officials, and introduced an interior design registration bill into the Massachusetts State Legislature. Undertaking an initiative of this size and scope is no small task and requires a team effort as well as strong leadership. Aimee M. Schefano, Vice President of Advocacy for the New England Chapter, has led the charge, working diligently to convey the importance of this initiative both to the Chapter board and local design leaders.

The lesson learned by IIDA New England? IIDA Chapters have power when it comes to advocacy. Board members are leaders in the design community, and as such, have an amplified voice. When those voices are conveying the same message, real change can happen. If an issue is important to the profession, it is too important to sit on the sidelines.

In addition to the amplified voice of board members, IIDA Chapters can reallocate funding to support advocacy initiatives. While there are many priorities in a Chapter’s budget— from professional development initiatives to events—boards can help rearrange how funding is used, create new revenue streams, or prioritize advocacy and legislation above other initiatives. IIDA New England demonstrated this by using their chapter funds to engage with one of the preeminent lobbying firms in New England.

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It has also proven important for the Chapter to work together with other associations in order to build a strong network of professionals working to advance a common goal. Schefano and Past-President Corinne Barthelemy have worked with ASID New England to create the Massachusetts Advocacy Council of ASID and IIDA, operating under the two chapters and facilitating the shared mission to advance the profession of interior design.

“Educating our profession is crucial to progress. Part of that education requires IIDA members to work collaboratively with other industry leaders. We are never stronger than when we all stand together against adversity,” said Schefano. “In Massachusetts, the design community is represented by a multitude of associations. What has helped us evolve our advocacy strategy is acknowledging that ultimately we are all interior designers, and that is what is most important. “

Through unified voices, effective funding, and organizational collaborations, IIDA New England has set a foundation that will surely lead to advocacy successes in Massachusetts.


For more on interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org

Past, Present, Future

Without neglecting history or disregarding the lessons learned along the way, design always looks forward. The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) embraces this ethos—gaining wisdom from our past as we charge toward the future of our industry and the association. As the interior design profession becomes more complex and multidisciplinary, it is our job to welcome change, adapt, and support our 15,000-plus IIDA members along the way.

In 2016, IIDA expanded its offerings to commercial interior designers, manufacturers, industry leaders, and students in an effort to fill a need for cutting-edge and worthwhile resources, programming, thought leadership, events, publications, and more. The association commissioned vital research about the industry, publishing the second installment in the acclaimed “Designed Leveraged” series, which makes the case for good workplace design with data and statistics, as well as the first-ever IIDA Compensation Survey and the Economic Impact of Interior Design report.

The findings of the IIDA Compensation Survey reveal current wages for interior designers who work for firms and manufacturers in the U.S., and will be available later this year. The Economic Impact of Interior Design report, previewed at the 2016 IIDA Advocacy Symposium, tells a compelling story about the economic and fiscal impact of the industry at the state and national levels—and is a critical tool for advocates who are making the case for interior design licensing to legislators.

IIDA efforts in 2016 also included supporting tomorrow’s design leaders. We saw the growth of our student programming, which included a record number of participants—more than 1,000 students and design professionals—in our dynamic Student Mentoring program last March. A series of inaugural IIDA Student Roundtable discussions, hosted by OFS Brands and held in Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, again brought together design students and practitioners to discuss the preparedness of emerging professionals to take on the ever-changing challenges of the design industry.  Continue reading

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.

The Future of Tile and Ceramics: A Review of Cersaie

As a designer, finding inspiration everywhere is crucial to staying relevant, educated, and curious. Sometimes that inspiration is right outside your front door and sometimes it takes you to regions of the world you’ve never experienced. Today’s post is written by Richard N. Pollack, FIIDA, FAIA, 1999 – 2000 IIDA International President, who had the opportunity to travel to Bologna, Italy, for Cersaie, an international ceramic tile and bathroom exhibition. Read what he learned, including the technological advances being made in the Italian ceramics industry and the big tile trends to expect in the coming year.

In September, I had the privilege of being a delegate to Cersaie (pronounced: tcher say e), the annual ceramics fair in Bologna, Italy. Although many of the exhibitors were Italian, the fair is an international showcase of ceramics. My hosts were the Italian Trade Commission and Confindustria Ceramica – the Italian Association of Ceramics.

Confindustria Ceramica represents over 260 ceramic tile, sanitary ware, tableware, and refractory materials manufacturing companies, with Cersaie focused on the first two manufacturing segments. U.S. and Canadian architects and interior designers might think that ceramic tile usually refers to bathroom and kitchen tiles and mosaics, but it encompasses many types of wall and floor covering tile and panel.

Some significant statistics about the industry provided by Confindustria Ceramica:

  • Overall recycling in Confindustria Ceramica factories is 99.5 percent with 100 percent of the water used in production recycled.
  • Italian ceramics industry is adopting LEED 4 at the end of October 2016.
  • Ceramics factories recycle material from other industry sectors, effectively making their recycling efforts more than 100 percent.

The products I viewed were porcelain and ceramic, with this year’s technological advance being large format panels – some 1×3 meters and thinner panels – down to 3 millimeters for wall application. Although the original source material for manufacturing the tile was the red clay that came from around the city of Sassuolo, not far from Bologna,, now the raw materials such as feldspar, quartz, and others are sourced from other countries. Fabrication begins with constructing the panels, which may also have intrinsic coloring and textures added during manufacture, and are then printed with surface patterns. The printed surfaces are relatively thin, but the strength of the underlying panel and extremely hard glazes applied over the printing makes the products strong and long-wearing. Confindustria Ceramica noted that their members’ tile has the best longevity of all flooring materials including carpet, wood, and marble. Panels can be used for floor, wall, indoor, outdoor, and special applications – often using the same tiles.

A unique new product is a ceramic porcelain roof tile with integrated solar panels. The solar panels are the same shape and size as adjacent roof tiles, and are installed using a plug-in grid system that then connects to the building’s electrical system. Very cool!

As a delegate, I toured a factory near Sassuolo to see first-hand how the panels are manufactured. The factory building was very large to accommodate the long production lines but with relatively few people required. I saw the process from start to finish, with the panels formed, textured, printed, baked in kilns, quality checked and packed for shipment – quite impressive.

During my three days in Bologna, I learned what trends to watch for (Warning: “This is not your grandmother’s tile,” said a member of Confindustria Ceramic):

  • Lighter colors with a softer feel and a predominance of blue as an accent color in tiles
  • Large format concrete patterned panels from all manufacturers
  • Almost invisible grout lines, highly rectified tiles
  • Increased use of patterns, both subtle and strong, including strong dimensional surfacing
  • More precious patterns, including geometric shapes such as hexagons and rhomboids
  • 3-D textures from lightly textured through highly visible shadowing
  • Small to large graphics, and all the stops in between
  • Fabric textures on tiles, with tartans, plaid, herringbone, and madras – finished smooth or with varying dimension and texture
  • Panels exhibiting more movement, with warps and wefts in the patterning to convey energy
  • Many wood effects ranging from somewhat accurate wood representation to artistic images implying wood
  • Greater focus on representing natural stone more effectively, including large-scale, book-matched marble, slate, travertine, granite, etc.

The show and its exhibits were quite striking, providing an excellent overview of Italian ceramic tile product and approach. The Italian ceramics industry produces high-quality products with a strong focus on design – and I should know – owing to all the Italian ceramic tile in my home.


Richard N. Pollack, FIIDA, FAIA, is Managing Principal of Pollack Consulting, which he created after founding and leading award-winning Pollack Architecture for 28 years. Pollack Consulting assists firms’ growth and success through improved business development, winning presentation techniques, business coaching, recruiting top talent, and ownership transition implementation. You can reach him at Richard@RichardNPollack.com or 415.508.6008.