An interior designer is someone who works with a client to create aesthetic rooms and spaces. Clients range from homeowners to large corporations. The spaces and rooms interior designers create are equally varied, ranging from simple indoor and outdoor home environments to hotel lobbies and lavish mansions. No matter the size, every designer works to create spaces that are attractive yet functional. Spaces must also be safe while meeting the specific needs of the client.
Interior designers are primarily independent contractors who must build a client base. In some instances, designers will work for a larger firm. In either case, designers must excel in order to build a positive reputation in the industry and secure future work.
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Interior designers create indoor spaces that satisfy the client's needs for aesthetics, safety and function. Through the use of furniture placement, colour palettes, decorations and functional decor, designers create kitchens that are beautiful yet functional and theatre entrances that convey the excitement of a blockbuster film while ensuring crowd safety. Elements such as artwork, lighting, window treatments and flooring must work together to contribute to an overall look that will satisfy the client's needs.
Designers may specialize in commercial or residential design or be involved in both. Two new and emerging areas of interior design are green design and ergonomic design. In ergonomic design, designers work to create spaces, especially work environments, that contribute to good posture for employees confined to offices for most of the day. For labourers, designers create spaces and work areas that will result in reduced muscle strain. Green design incorporates the use of renewable, recycled or energy-efficient elements to create a more environmentally friendly space.
A formal education at a post-secondary institution is not required to enter the interior design field. However, designers who go this route may lack the fundamental design principles and skills necessary to achieve success in a field where success is highly dependent on technical knowledge. Generally, a degree in interior design should be completed to give those starting out in this field the best chance for a long and lucrative career.
Aside from a degree, prospective designers should have a passion and aptitude for art as it relates to interior spaces. Interior designers not only have artistic talent, they are also able to effectively communicate ideas to clients in the form of diagrams, material samples, and other visual and verbal forms of communication. Lighting, colour, balance and other elements contribute to the overall look of a space. Designers not only know this information, they are able to convey these concepts to their clients.
A high degree of technical knowledge as it relates to indoor safety and function is also essential. Designs must meet all building code and safety standards while remaining within the confines of the client's specifications. Spaces must also be functional, allowing traffic to flow freely and improving efficiency in work environments.
In addition to technical expertise, designers must excel at time management. Often self-employed and working independently, good time management skills, knowledge of how to increase productivity, and project management abilities are essential to establishing a career in interior design.
Interpersonal skills are also essential because designers often work in a team that may include architects or other designers. Often, a team is necessary when the client's project is large or requires several areas of expertise. Designers must be able to lead or work well as part of a team in order to carry out these projects successfully.
Interior designers tend to have flexible work hours and varied work environments. Schedules are often tailored to client needs and designers usually travel to the client's home or business to discuss plans for the design of the space. After an initial consultation and strategizing sessions, designers visit shops to purchase furniture, artwork and supplies for creating the desired space.
Most designers also rent or own office space, with meeting rooms for client and design team interaction as well as a reception area, office, and design area for creating interior elements. While not necessary for an independent designer, an office gives clients the impression of a professional service. A positive impression can contribute to the overall success of the design business.
The salary outlook for a career in interior design varies widely depending on several factors. Education level is important to some employers and can result in an increased salary. For the self-employed, experience is often the primary factor. Designers with only a few years of experience will generally earn under $40,000, while those with eight or more years of experience can earn twice that amount.
Designers who are able to network and effectively promote their brand are often the most successful. These designers often work with celebrities and wealthy corporations to create lavish designs for prestigious homes and establishments. For those with strong networking skills, talent, and connections, there is a very high upper salary threshold.
Geographic location also has an effect on salary range. Typically, designers in urban areas earn more than those in a rural or suburban setting. In the design hot spots of Chicago, New York, Paris and London, competition is higher but the opportunity to earn a higher salary is also increased.