Monday, August 19, 2013

Taking the Design Plunge: 5 Tips for Interior Design School

Recently, a reader emailed me asking how I went about "taking the plunge" into an interior design career from a career that is so different: Civil Engineering. I've been meaning to write about this for a little while now, so I was happy to be reminded. This "Taking the Plunge" series of posts will share details of how I worked my way into the field of design. I still have quite a ways to go, but I figure, why not share it with ya'll while it's current and fresh on my mind. Hopefully this can be a helpful to anyone else looking to change careers to pursue a passion. It is by no means the only way to go about transitioning; this is simply my experience.

As most of you probably know (if you've read the About Me section), I started out by searching out and enrolling in interior design school.  I felt that for me to be confident in my future career, I needed the education to back it up.  I looked at a few different schools that were CIDA accredited--that's the Council for Interior Design Accreditation.  I wanted to go somewhere that had a reputable program.  Finally, I decided on Interior Designers Institute because it was accredited, close to my house, and slightly less expensive than others I looked into.

I went into school excited and interested.  I've been quite successful in it thus far, so I thought I'd share with you a few ideas that I developed from the beginning, which I believe have helped me.

  1. Don't worry about grades. I'm not in school to get a good report card like I was in elementary school.  I enrolled in design school to learn information and how to apply it and to exercise and hone my design skills.  The learning is the important part to me, not the paper transcript. So I don't think about my grades.  And what'dya know... the grades that have followed as a result of that attitude couldn't be better.
  2. Treat each teacher as your client.  We usually have to make up a fictional clients for school projects, but I always think of my teacher as the client since they are evaluating the work.  If they have input, I take it; if they don't like something, I change it.  I do my best not to take things personally and figure it's good practice for dealing with clients in the future.  I also keep in mind that there are so many different ways to design something well, so I need to be flexible and not get stuck on doing something one way.
  3. Learn from your peers.  I always look around at other student's work.  There are many talented people at school, so I try gather as much inspiration as possible.  I love seeing the way that different people approach projects and their unique visions.  It helps me expand my ideas about design and look at projects in different ways, which might help me to think of better design solutions.
  4. Be the best you can be; don't try to be THE best.  Some people might disagree with me here, but for me, trying to have a little humility goes a long way.  I must admit, I'm human and pride does get me at times, but I do my best to stifle it.  Design is such a subjective matter; there really is no "best."  I try not to think of school as a competition and instead remind myself of #3... instead of being stuck on trying to be the most awesome, I remind myself that others have awesome ideas as well.   I appreciate the work of my peers, let myself be inspired by them, and do the best that I can on each individual project with the "client" in mind.  
  5. Be of service.  I think helping my peers feeds the soul. Like I said... it's not a competition. I don't hesitate to share ideas, information and assistance whenever possible.
Armed with these objectives, I think you're bound to maximize your success. Now, go get 'em design students!

Coming up in the series, I'll share about...
  • how to revamp your resume for design,
  • putting together a portfolio (quickly), and
  • searching and interviewing for jobs.