In this article I’m going to share seven of the things that I love most about interior design, and I hope that by the end of it, you just might start to love it too. Interior design as a professional field is a little bit misunderstood. A lot of people confuse it with decorating and spending a lot of money on beautifying homes. Yes, creating beautiful spaces is one part of interior design, but it isn’t even nearly my favorite.
So, what is the allure of interior design for someone that has lived and breathed the subject for a decade already? I thought you’d never ask.
I love the thought process that comes with being a designer.
I like the possibilities.
I loved the well-rounded creative education that learning interior design provided, and most of all, I love knowing that there are a million ways I can take what I learned and apply it to the real world.
I’m especially psyched about the way design gives me the tools to create a better world.
Let’s start, shall we?
1. Interior Design (or the Lack Thereof) is All Around Us
If you happen to be in an indoor setting right now, I invite you to look around. Wherever you happen to be, just stop and take it all in.
Look at the perimeter’s boundary, be it made up of walls or large sections of windows letting the light flood through. Check out the height of the ceiling. Notice the materiality of the floor. Consider how the room was organized and put together. Consider the colors and patterns and how they jive and flow or how they punctuate the room.
Notice the way the space feels and what its vibe is.
Do you like what you see?
If you answered yes, brilliant! You are one of the few lucky people who at this moment gets to surround themselves with an environment which is aesthetically pleasing. There are many more rooms in the world which are not all that pleasing. In fact, I bet that if you really think about it, you’ll agree that there are likely many more indoor environments you have spent time in at different points in your life that you didn’t particularly like, or that you simply chose to ignore.
Why is this?
Perhaps even more importantly, can you explain the difference between how a beautiful setting makes you feel versus how an unappealing one does? Do you think it matters? (Designers and psychologists both do).
Learning to see
Enjoying the appearance of our interior environments is one way to appreciate them, but we are also experiencing the environment on several other levels! These might even be subconsciously. How a space functions is equally as important as how it looks, and it is also tied into the success of the room’s aesthetic. We don’t tend to think about how a room functions or doesn’t function well. Most people don’t notice the details; they simply take them for granted.
If you are someone who does notice these things about the buildings you encounter, you have what we could call the “eye” of an interior designer. Develop this for a while and you might be a good fit for becoming one. Why? Becoming a designer takes some effort, but it’s well worth it.
An interior designer is trained to study indoor spaces, and to constantly be trying to find ways to make them better. True, the designer can’t “fix” every ugly or suboptimal room they walk into! What the designer can do is take mental notes and use the perceptions they garner from “learning” from real world spaces to help them create better ones in the future. The world is an interior designer’s classroom and every interior space has something to teach.
So the first thing to love about interior design is that it really is all around us, every day of the week, every day of the year! Shelter is one of the first things humans learned to create, and it has changed a lot over 10,000 years, but it will never lose its importance.
From grand palaces, museums and hotels to luxury condos, apartments and villas, we can all benefit from a better environment. In fact, our immediate environment is so important that our safety, productivity and mental health depend upon it. As we discover more environmentally friendly ways to design the buildings of the future, we will need designers to create these too.
I think its safe to say that good designers should never be out of a job!
2. Interior Design is Both a Practical and an Artistic Profession
There is a continual debate of sorts in interior design, regarding whether interior design, and indeed, architecture, are creative pursuits or technical ones.
I don’t think you can separate these two.
As a designer, if you are not creative you will not come up with good designs. On the other hand, if you are only creative your designs won’t be practical. To me, the beauty of design is that you have to learn some very set rules. These rules limits you to some extent, but also allow you to create something of a greater magnitude than you could in only two dimensions. Real-world built designs will always be more complex than the smaller scale of art projects.
Design has more constraints than art, but can accomplish more
Trust me I am not knocking art. I’m a huge art fan, and in fact consider myself first an artist before a designer. So let’s talk about the differences between artistic creation and design.
Why, for example, would an artist bother with leraning design?
The answer might be to learn a discipline and develop a strong creative practice.
If, like me, you are someone who is starting out with a lot of natural creative and artistic talent design training can help you to learn to put some landing gear on your boundless creative ideas.
Since learning to be a designer I have had to put practical constraints on a lot of my own. Believe it or not, this has actually helped me.
Sometimes with art your constraints are actually your helpers. Why is this? Well, when things are too open-ended it’s easy to get lost in your creative world and the potential of your many creative notions. When you have too many choices it’s harder to narrow it down to one.
Design forces you to do this through the design process.
Working with parameters in design
With design you are starting out with some specific parameters. Working in harmony with these parameters makes it easier to focus your creative energy. At the end of the day you must come up with something that is fitting to the design brief.
Playing by the design “rules” actually channels your focus. Let’s imagine your client wants you to design a children’s playroom. The project will have specific needs and preferences which will shape the possibilities from the get-go.
–You will have to work with the existing parameters of the room, and take the children’s ages and interests into account, for example.
–Safety and function are other things you’ll need to consider.
–Don’t forget budget!
Even then, you still have a lot of play and creative freedom to come up with cool and interesting ideas, and ultimately no one project is ever exactly like another. That’s the beauty of it!
Painting in three dimensions
Being a designer is seeing the 3D and built environment as your canvas. When you think about it this way it’s easier to get inspired about all the possibilities that are open to you.
When you’re given a beautiful blank slate you find that you can’t help but want to turn it into a masterpiece! Picture an apartment with beautiful bones, painted white and just waiting for you to come in and turn it into something beautiful, interesting and awe inspiring. The perimeters of physical space are your art board.
Sometimes your job is more remedial and about fixing things at first. This happens when you’re given a project or a space that desperately needs help and has a lot of inherent problems with it. Then, your creative attention is turned towards masking the unpleasant parts and minimizing what is undesirable about the space first. By doing this you can turn it into something better: something that is practical, functional and also aesthetically pleasing.
Design keeps restless creatives busy
Many creative people are naturally drawn toward wanting to change the world. We do this by challenging common perceptions, by opening people’s eyes to something, or just by making things more beautiful.
Not having enough creative challenges or creative problems to solve can make us creatives antsy and uncomfortable. We want to do creative work!
The designer can do this creative work in a practical way and get paid for it.
How art and design complement one another
Your sense of art will always be valuable in interior design. Whether it’s artwork that you create yourself for projects that you do, or whether you’re sourcing from other artists, having a good artist’s eye is a huge bonus in interior design.
Many people who hire interior designers are art collectors themselves, or people who have an interest in the art world. So, if that’s a language that you can speak and an industry that you understand, your design practice will only be made better when you integrate art into your design.
Keeping a good balance between art and design
Many artists would love to focus on real-world solutions, but don’t know where to start. Design is a good foray for these people.
Designers too, should never lose sight of their artistic natures or they’ll wind up creating cookie-cutter, boring sterile and industrial-type designs that don’t have any soul.
Coming back to our main point, what I love most about interior design is that it involves a really good mix between practical and aesthetic considerations.
For better or worse, I do feel that my artistic sense has been enhanced and changed through my experience of learning technical drawings, and working with three dimensional space. My drawing skills have improved, too!
3. Interior Design is Concerned with Solving Real-World Problems Like Quality of Life
It’s easy for interior design to be relegated to a useless kind of profession that is only concerned with beautifying living rooms or creating spaces for rich people in interesting, weird and novel styles.
A lot of what we see of interior design in the media tends to be decorating, and while there’s nothing wrong with decoration at all, there is a much deeper and more robust industry that is concerned with the very real practical details of living and occupying space.
Designers are taught to “think big”
In school designers are taught to think in much broader terms. We learn to design for public spaces and for more complex needs so that in our careers in the future we’re able to tackle almost any design challenge.
The industry requires that people who work in commercial interior design have to work their way up to becoming senior designers before being able to be responsible for large-scale projects in the public domain.
This is a good thing.
Beyond the glamorous and even the practical needs of public space, design itself is actually way more philosophical than frivolous. Good design is concerned with the human condition.
In design school we learn how the greatest design heroes focused on the needs of people. There’s always been something of a push-pull between those who see design as purely practical and as a solution-oriented methodology, and those who see design is being more about the aesthetics.
Like many designers who study this subject in school come to see, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We can’t do away with history with the styles of the past with the methods and the beauty that we’ve inherited from thousands of years of rich cultural history.
Neither, however, should we be a slave to them.
Asking the right questions
As designers we are taught not that any one message or one way is right, but rather how to ask the right questions if we want to be good designers. We do this many times when formulating our design directives or briefs. Like scientists we observe, measure, study and then contemplate and ideate.
To me the design process is as close as we can come to magic in the everyday world.
As children we daydream about things that we would like to make come true, we almost live in our imaginative worlds. Later, as adults, we give up on those dreams and forget about them.
Design and vision
A designer has a superpower. We learn how to accumulate and studying all the data, and then through a very specific process come up with a possible solution. This starts as an idea or concept for how a better version of reality might look, and later we apply practical method.
Designers are visionaries. While many artists are visionaries too, designers need to put landing gear on the ideas that they come up with. Design is literally to “create a plan for”.
When it comes to making the world a better place there is no better way to do this than to observe what currently is, what needs to change, and then to come up with a plan for how that can be executed.
As far as I’m concerned about the biggest hurdle that designers might have in creating a better world for all of us is simply who’s going to pay for it.
4. Interior Design Has Many Ranges of Proficiency and Levels of Practice
Having spoken of designers at the architectural, stage design and exhibition design levels, the “starchitects”, it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re just starting out on your journey as a designer.
If you’re able to go to school for design you can learn everything you need to know in a good university program. But what if this is not available to you or not something you can see yourself being able to do in the near future? Well, another of the many wonderful things about interior design is that there are many starting points and ways to access becoming an interior designer, at different levels.
How to progress through levels of design
My personal feeling is that if you have no design experience you should set your sights on first learning interior decoration and styling. If you are proficient in decoration, learn the practical methodology of design. If you are already a designer, or have an education in interior design set your sites toward learning landscaping and architecture.
Yes, I said it. I’m not suggesting that you will become an architect that is able to design in the public realm if you’ve only studied interior design. Neither am I suggesting that you could be a contract or commercial interior designer if you’ve only ever been a decorator.
I’m also not going to say that either of those are impossible.
Start small and grow from there
What I do want to say is that you can start out at almost any point in your journey of being a designer and if it’s something that you’re very serious about and something that you truly want to do, you can always continue to educate yourself.
If you know in a very broad and general sense that you love design, you can start off with what feels good to you and what is easy to learn. Start where you are, with what you have, and what is available. Access free resources, take a few free or short courses that don’t cost a lot of money at first. See how you go with it.
If you find you love it and you want to continue on, there’s no end to what else you can learn!
Moving from interior design into architecture
After 3 years of intensive design study I’ve reached the point where, although I don’t feel that I “know it all” when it comes to interior design, I have learned enough that I feel comfortable setting my sights further, on architecture. I’m doing this first with interior architecture, exhibition space design, and then with possible concept and fantasy architecture for the metaverse.
Architecture for the metaverse is on a whole other level! I’m especially excited about creating architectural concepts and models for virtual worlds which don’t have the same constraints that real world architecture does. Learning design –whatever type of design it happens to be– really does equip you with the basic tools that you need to get started on almost any path of design.
The example of Tadao Ando
Although most people will cite this as a major exception, I was very interested to learn that my one of my favorite Japanese architects, Tadao Ando, actually studied interior design in order to become an architect. This might surprise some people but it doesn’t surprise me. Ando read an entire library of books on architecture after finishing design school.
I’m not suggesting that self study or spending hours in the library can replace a traditional or classical architectural school education. Neither am I going to say that it precludes somebody from becoming an amazing architect in the future.
The design industry is changing
As the tools to build become ever more digital and more accessible to people outside of the traditional trades of architecture and design we will find more and more people entering the space who don’t have the traditional education or background that we’ve seen in the past.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t need architects and interior designers who have had classical or formal school training. It just means that designers of more and more types are starting to learn design and the path to becoming a designer is no longer a structured or simple as it once was.
We have to believe that there is a place for all of us in this brave New World. From real-world designers who work with real plans and have a hand and pouring real foundations, to those who designed the concepts that will fascinate us in virtual worlds that we are yet to explore, there is a place for all of us in the design world of the future!
5. Interior Design is a Crossroads Profession with Many Exciting Possibilities for Expansion
Not long ago, I ran a poll on my Twitter account in which I asked people in the tech world which of the major visual art forms they considered to be the “highest” form of art.
The categories I included were architecture, painting, sculpture and digital art.
Now, each of these are related in a certain sense. Digital art can be painted, sculpted or architectural. Architecture includes painting and is often sculptural. Most of the design process today is digital before it is built. Painting is an old art form which is still of fundamental importance to culture as well as concept. It also has practical real world use.
Sculpture was a tricky one, but I felt it was important because it is not tied to practical use the way architecture is, but it is a three dimensional art form.
So, on the one hand we have architecture and digital art which require technical knowledge, and on the other hand we have the very visceral, physical art forms of painting and sculpture.
The underlying question here is:
Is concept and imagination more important, or art combined with discipline and science?
The comments below my poll were interesting. Some folks thought is was impossible to choose between the art forms, as they were all equally important. A friend of mine who is an industrial designer felt that it should be represented.
He might be right. I offered my reason for not including my own design discipline, interior design, to the list. I felt that interior design fell somewhere between architecture and art. He concurred that industrial design fell between art and engineering. I believe that architects might find the same distinction accurate for their profession.
This discourse brings me to my point. Interior design is an incredible profession because it stands at the crossroads of many others. Here are some of the ones that come to mind:
-Construction and remodeling
-Construction plans drawing
-Design drawing and sketching
-Furniture, fittings and equipment specification
-Research and report writing
If you like any of these hobbies, careers or industries interior design would be right up your alley! You can work across these fields or focus on any of them in greater detail.
6. Interior Design Offers a Well-Rounded Education and Makes Earning a Living for Creatives More Possible
As you can see from the list above, a trained interior designer has many areas of potential employment. Interior design requires that you know a little about a lot of subjects, but you can always specialize more in any of those that you find more interesting.
After design school you have many possible paths to the future that is right for you. You also have strong and in-demand skill sets that will take you many places.
Should you prefer, you are also in a good position to start working as an entrepreneur and run a remote business. Something we are a big fan of here on Design Baddie.
In short, we believe that an interior design education puts creative people on an excellent path to making a living doing creative work.
Check out: 10 Great Interior Design Careers
7. Interior Design Has a Strong Future Ahead of It
I read recently that the field of interior design education is somewhat in decline. That is, we have seen a drop in interest across learning institutions for this subject.
One reason may be that there are now an abundance of shorter courses available online, on platforms like Domestika and Skillshare. This gives students interested in the decorating side of interior design the chance to get their education and training outside of the universities.
It’s important to note that the demand for interior designers is still going up. This means that if we don’t get more people interested in the subject, interior designers in the future will be in higher demand. Good news for those of us who are doing design, or thinking of getting into it, but bad news for the world.
The new digital applications for design work in the metaverse will no doubt draw quite a few architects and designers into the new design frontier. Those that continue with real world design will have their hands full too, not to mention loads of new opportunities as tech and tools for our industry just gets better and better.
Finally, if you don’t like the world you’re living in, why not help to build a better one? If this is something that interests you be sure to read our articles on the topic.
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