Carving a Career in Design: Lessons Learned from IIDA SHIFT

Thanks to the IIDA Foundation’s Designing for the Future Campaign, five IIDA Student Members from across the U.S. attended IIDA SHIFT, the IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter’s Student Conference held in Dallas. This annual student conference brings together an array of top students, educators, and design industry professionals for a multi-day professional enrichment experience that includes project and firm tours, mock interviews, and a variety of other networking opportunities. More than a recap of the event, we wanted to know what parts of the experience made an impact on these students as emerging designers: from how to conduct themselves in a portfolio review and in a professional setting with their peers, to finding the motivation to begin a career in design.

Standing Up for Myself

I give credit to the SHIFT Conference for essentially reinforcing and reassuring me of the education path I have chosen. Over the past years, I have constantly been interrogated by my architecture peers, questioning why I had chosen to study interior architecture in addition to architecture. Admittedly, the questions had made me even start to doubt my education path and myself. However, all my concerns and uncertainty dissolved after hearing the keynote by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA. I felt as though Cheryl was talking directly to me and promoting me to make my own decisions and not to second guess myself.

While at the conference, I also attended the campus center roundtable, which was particularly beneficial to me as I am the current co-president of the Lawrence Tech University Campus Center. I was able to hear about what is working and not working for other campus centers and gain valuable insight from different perspectives. After hearing about other campus center leaders’ struggles and successes, I felt inspired and poised to return to my campus center and make further improvements to my campus center!

Curtis Bac, Student IIDA, Lawrence Tech University, Michigan Chapter

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IIDA Students kicked off the conference at the SHIFT Pep Rally in Steelcase’s Dallas showroom. Photo: Guillermo Antonio

Looking Through the Lens of a Hiring Manager

Michael Horton and Harry Vicci from CallisonRTKL went through their interview process at their office and how to best prepare for interviews. They gave so many tips on how to present yourself and what kinds of questions to ask the company. It helped me to realize that I just need to be myself and find the perfect fit for me and the company. After going through the mock interview process, I now have an idea of how to conduct myself during a professional interview and what questions to ask as an incoming entry-level designer—once again teaching me how to be calm and confident and let my personality show through. The feedback I was given from my portfolio review helped me to view my projects through the lens of someone in a hiring position.

Jessica Payne, Student IIDA, Belmont University, Tennessee Chapter         

Finding My Community

I’m in the final phase of my interior design and architecture program through UC Berkeley’s extension program and SHIFT was exactly what I needed at this point in my education. School is a safe bubble and as the transition into the “real world” looms before me, it honestly feels a bit daunting. Having the opportunity to meet such a huge range of my peers at SHIFT was truly motivating.

I really enjoyed the firm and showroom tours but my favorite aspect of the day was getting to know the other students. . Learning about their programs, chatting about what aspects of design resonated with us the most, and how each of us came to be on the same path was fun and settling somehow–as though I was finding my community of like-minded individuals. I also enjoyed hearing the work histories of our guides; being able to visualize transitioning from student to the beginning stages of working in the interior design industry was becoming more and more tangible.

Tessa Poppe, Student IIDA, UC Berkeley Extension, Northern California Chapter

Expanding My Network

In the Northeast, with the concentration of a number of major cities, we can become immersed in our own little realm. As a student, I have taken as many opportunities as were made available to me to involve myself in the design community. From a mixture of networking opportunities provided by Jefferson University, IIDA, and my various internships, I have grown familiar with the network in my region. However, I understand that as an emerging design professional, my work and experiences will not be limited to the Northeast as they have been in the past.

The IIDA SHIFT Conference provided me with the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences with other students and professionals from across the county—and a much welcome break from the snow in the North! In traveling by myself, I was put in a position where I had to represent myself and my university in a respectful manner without relying on the company of my classmates. I was given the chance to meet with representatives from firms and manufacturers that do not have a Philadelphia office, such as Cannon Design and Perkins+Will. The connections I have made, I hope, will last further into my design career.

Deanna Hagman, Student IIDA, Thomas Jefferson University, Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter

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SHIFT Pep Rally. Photo: Guillermo Antonio

Connecting with Firms that Inspire

My favorite part of IIDA SHIFT was the design Expo. Here, I was able to network with designers who work at the firms I’ve looked up to for years. It was incredible to hear about their experiences working in the industry and make those connections. The expo has actually led to three interior design interviews!

The last day of the conference, I participated in portfolio reviews, mock interviews, learned about negotiating a salary and experiential graphics. Each workshop left me even more inspired, motivated, and excited to graduate and join this wonderful industry. To finish off the day, we heard from IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA. By the end of her talk, I was on cloud nine. I was so uplifted and proud to be a part of such a wonderful industry and organization.

Marissa Keller, Student IIDA, Savannah College of Art & Design – Savannah, Georgia Chapter


To learn more about IIDA student membership, including professional development and leadership opportunities, visit iida.org.

The Design Portfolio as a Visual Storyteller

After a recent opportunity to sit in on an undergraduate design critique, Susan Fireside, art director at IIDA, recounts the lessons to be learned from student design portfolios.

There’s something about design students. They’re at that point in the road where they’ve been in school for long enough and are now truly ready and willing to start their professional careers. Feedback and constructive criticism are still welcome because they’re hungry for the real world.

And hungry is what I saw when I recently had the opportunity to be a guest at a Portfolio for Interior Architecture class at Columbia College Chicago. Taught by Tom Marquardt, IIDA, president and founder of marquardt+, the class combines curating a substantial body of work with learning about professionalism and the business side of the industry.

Marquardt is their instructor as he was mine in a branded environments class I took when I was getting my master’s. While I’m not an interior designer, I am an art director, so branding, visual storytelling, and finding ways to express a design story is what I do. I was happy to offer my guidance to this group as they put together a physical book to show potential employers.

Here are some key takeaways from that critique session:

  • Carry your visual story through everything. The cover should connect with the inside, which should connect with your website, social media channels, and resume.
  • Digital and print are two different mediums. If you’re doing anything for print, be sure to print out your work at 100% while you are in each phase of the project. From your initial concept to your work in progress layout, what looks small on a screen can look oversized when printed.
  • Be consistent and streamline. Watch how many typefaces and font you use. Type and color tell a story as much as graphics and copy.
  • Use images purposefully. When building your portfolio, think carefully about what you show and if it’s reflective of the kind of work you want to do.
  • Edit. Curate. And then do it again. Your portfolio is an ever-evolving work in progress. Even if it’s your first, it will not be your last.
  • Research. Look at which companies you want to work for and see how they showcase their work. What are they including? What are they leaving out?
  • Technology is your friend. In today’s world, there are many different ways to showcase your work. Don’t be afraid to market yourself and show off what you are capable of.
  • Make sure it can stand on its own. Will someone understand what they’re looking at when you’re not there to talk about it? 

5 IIDA Student Members Share Their Memorable Moments from the IIDA Student Conference

Last year, the Trustees of the IIDA Foundation added a new initiative to the Designing for the Future Campaign: A portion of the funds raised from the campaign sponsored five IIDA Student Members for an all-expenses paid trip to the 2018 IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter’s Student Conference. The annual Student Conference brings together an array of top students, educators, and design industry professionals for a multi-day professional enrichment experience that includes project and firm tours, mock interviews, and a variety of other networking opportunities. Here, these five students talk about what they took away from the experience, the value of portfolio reviews, and what getting outside of your comfort zone can do for yourself and your career.

Making Fast Friends

With my sponsorship from IIDA, I was able to attend the 18th annual IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter Student Conference, an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have financially been able to do. I was the only student from my school and from the state of Utah to attend the conference — I was pretty nervous. However, on the first day, I rode the bus from the hotel to the pep rally at the Haworth showroom. I randomly sat by another student who was also there by herself from Kansas. We realized that we were both recipients of the same sponsorship from IIDA. That evening we met another student from California who had been sponsored to attend the conference and we all quickly became friends.

I participated in the portfolio review and mock interviews. I was nervous but I was paired with incredible designers who were very genuine, talented, and eager to help me. They gave me great feedback and comments on my portfolio and how to interview with ease.

Allison Newell, Student IIDA, Utah State University, Inter Mountain Chapter

Realizing What You Want to Focus On 

I’ve always been told that to be the best designer, you have to walk out on a limb, make that extra effort, and step out of your comfort zone. Well, in my two years of traveling from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Houston and Dallas, I can say that this conference has taught me some of the most valuable and interesting lessons about being the best designer I can be!

This year my experience was nothing short of amazing. Each year the Texas/Oklahoma Chapter make us Alabama students feel so welcome with their generosity and hospitality. Seriously, these volunteers who put together this conference give their hearts and souls to making this the most educational and rewarding experience for students. I have always known that I wanted to be a commercial designer, however, it was at last year’s student conference that I realized I wanted to focus on corporate and office design and create spaces that make work environments enjoyable.

Carmen Jenkins, Student IIDA, University of Alabama, Alabama Chapter

Surrounding Yourself with Passionate People

This was my first time ever attending the IIDA Student Conference. I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect but the whole time being there was such a learning experience because I got to meet so many students that were just like me who knew what it was like to stay late in the studio to complete projects. It was so inspiring to see how passionate other people are about interior design, why they chose this career path, and what they are striving to be. There was so much to take in and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Nicolle Soriano, Student IIDA, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific Chapter

Learning How to Stand Up for Your Design

Any professional that I met, I made sure to grab their business cards. If they didn’t have one, I took a picture of their name tag. I now have a phone full of name tags and business cards. Each one of the professionals encouraged us to tap into their resources, ask them questions, email them about products, ideas, resumes, portfolios, etc. They wanted to help us succeed.

Our keynote speaker for the event, Primo Orpilla, co-founder of the firm Studio O+A, left all of us with some very wise words. He told us to find our voice, define our narrative, leverage space types to building flexibility, and to customize and curate success. We need to be in control of the design. Stand up for our design. We need to understand the things that make the space a memorable experience. Have empathy for the client and the space, not sympathy. He concluded his talk by reminding us that our design can change attitudes and how the users treat one another. Your designs have an impact!

Kellie DeVries, Student IIDA, Michigan State University, Michigan Chapter

The Power of a Portfolio Review

Our final day was loaded with panels and speakers, filling my head with very valuable information about stepping out into the world after school successfully. The best part of my day, however, was the portfolio review. After two conversations with a very kind Susan Bellson from JSI she pulled me over and set me up to do my review with Elizabeth Trupiano from Corgan and I got very lucky with that. Elizabeth asked great questions of me, listened intently and gave helpful critiques, and then sat and answered all of my questions until we ran out of time. I loved making friends and connections that I’m sure will last me years.

Chelsea Bainbridge, Student IIDA, Kansas State University, Mid America Chapter


To learn more about IIDA student membership, including professional development and leadership opportunities, visit iida.org.

FOCUS ON EDUCATION

Compliance Reminder

Professional and Associate Members are reminded that they are required to complete 1.0 CEUs, 10 contact hours, by the end of the year, December 31, 2013. This applies to those who joined prior to January 1, 2012. To check your CEU status, log in to your profile at IDCEC. Contact ceu@iida.org if you need your IDCEC log-in information.

If you find yourself still in need of CEUs,  please visit the Professional Development section at the IIDA website, the IDCEC Event Calendar and your local IIDA Chapter for other continuing education events or programs.