Interior designers make indoor spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting essential and decorative items.
What they do
Interior designers make indoor spaces functional, safe, and beautiful by determining space requirements and selecting essential and decorative items, such as colors, lighting, and materials. They must be able to draw, read, and edit blueprints. They also must be aware of building codes, inspection regulations, and other considerations, such as accessibility standards.
Interior designers typically do the following:
- Search for and bid on new projects
- Determine the client’s goals and requirements for the project
- Consider how the space will be used and how people will move through the space
- Sketch preliminary design plans, including electrical and partition layouts
- Specify materials and furnishings, such as lighting, furniture, wall finishes, flooring, and plumbing fixtures
- Create a timeline for the interior design project and estimate project costs
- Place orders for materials and oversee the installation of the design elements
- Oversee construction and coordinate with general building contractors to implement the plans and specifications for the project
- Visit the site after the project is complete, to ensure that the client is satisfied
Interior designers work closely with architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, and construction laborers and helpers to determine how interior spaces will function, look, and be furnished. Interior designers read blueprints and must be aware of building codes and inspection regulations.
Although some sketches may be freehand, most interior designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software for most of their drawings. Throughout the design process, interior designers often use building information modeling (BIM) software to create three-dimensional visualizations that include construction elements such as walls or roofs.
Many designers specialize in particular types of buildings, such as homes, hospitals, or hotels; specific rooms, such as bathrooms or kitchens; or a specific style. Some designers work for home-furnishings stores, providing design services to help customers choose materials and furnishings.
Some interior designers produce designs, plans, and drawings for construction and installation. These products may include information for construction and demolition, electrical layouts, and building permits. Interior designers may draft the preliminary design into documents ranging from simple sketches to construction schedules and attachments.
The following are examples of types of interior designers:
Corporate designers create interior designs for professional workplaces in a variety of settings, from small offices to large buildings. They focus on creating spaces that are efficient, functional, and safe for employees. In their designs, they may incorporate elements of a company’s brand.
Healthcare designers plan and renovate healthcare centers, clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals, and residential care facilities. They specialize in evidence-based design, which uses data and research in design decisionmaking to achieve positive results for patients, residents, and facilities.
Kitchen and bath designers specialize in kitchens and bathrooms and have expert knowledge of cabinet, fixture, appliance, plumbing, and electrical solutions for these rooms.
Sustainable designers suggest strategies to improve energy and water efficiencies and indoor air quality as well as environmentally sustainable products, such as bamboo and cork for floors. They may obtain certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. Such certification indicates expertise in designing buildings and spaces with sustainable practices in mind.
Universal designers renovate spaces in order to make them more accessible. Often, these designs are used to renovate spaces for elderly people and people with special needs; however, universal designs benefit everyone. For example, an entryway without steps may be necessary for someone in a wheelchair, but it is also helpful for someone pushing a baby stroller.
Most interior designers work in offices, but technology has changed the way many designers work. For example, interior designers now use software rather than drafting tables to create two- or three-dimensional images.
Interior designers also travel to clients’ design sites. Interior designers may need to adjust their workday to suit their clients’ schedules and deadlines, including meeting with clients in the evening and on weekends.
How to become an Interior Designer
Interior designers usually need a bachelor’s degree with a focus in interior design or interior architecture.
Interior designers entering the occupation usually need a bachelor’s degree in any field. Coursework should include classes in interior design, drawing, and computer-aided design (CAD).
Programs in interior design are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Applicants to these programs may need to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits more than 360 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes that have programs in art and design. The Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredits about 180 professional-level (bachelor’s or master’s degree) interior design programs.
The National Kitchen & Bath Association accredits kitchen and bath design specialty programs (certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree levels) in nearly 100 colleges and universities.
Licensure requirements vary by state. In some states, only licensed designers may do interior design work. In other states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may do such work; however, only licensed designers may use the title “interior designer.” In still other states, both licensed and unlicensed designers may call themselves interior designers and do interior design work.
In states with laws restricting the use of the title ”interior designer,” only candidates who pass their state-approved exam, most commonly the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, may call themselves registered interior designers. Candidate eligibility for taking the NCIDQ exam includes having at least a bachelor’s degree in interior design and 2 years of full-time work experience.
California requires a different exam, administered by the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC). To take this exam, eligible candidates must have a combination of education and experience.
Voluntary certification in an interior design specialty, such as environmental design, allows designers to demonstrate expertise in a particular area of the occupation. Interior designers often specialize to distinguish the type of design work they do and to promote their expertise. Certifications usually are available through professional and trade associations and are independent of the NCIDQ licensing examination.
The median annual wage for interior designers was $56,040 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,470.
Employment of interior designers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2019 to 2029.
There may be some demand created by new construction, but opportunities for self-employed interior designers to renovate existing homes, commercial buildings, and other facilities should be limited. Relatively few interior designers are directly employed in the construction industry, but many of these workers depend heavily on that industry to generate new projects.
Similar Job Titles
Decorating Consultant, Design Manager, Designer, Interior Design Consultant, Interior Design Coordinator, Interior Design Director, Interior Design Principal, Interior Design Project Manager, Interior Designer, Showroom Executive Director
Marketing Manager, Purchasing Manager, Purchasing Agent (except Wholesale, Retail and Farm Products), Landscape Architect, Set and Exhibit Designer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designers
- American Society of Interior Designers
- Council for Interior Design Qualification
- International Interior Design Association
- National Kitchen and Bath Association
- The American Institute of Architects
- S. Green Building Council
Magazines and Publications
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Whether visualizing a brand-new building or giving a fresh look to a tired room, interior designers are artists who play with space to create attractive, functional interiors. Interior designers select the elements that define an interior space, from furniture and paint colors to lighting and floor coverings. They may sketch freehand or use design software to create a plan that suits the client’s needs and preferences… and reflects how the space will be used. Interior designers draft project timelines and estimate costs, place orders for materials, and oversee the installation of design elements. At project completion, they follow up with clients to ensure their satisfaction. Designers must be familiar with building codes, local regulations, and universal accessibility standards. They may work with architects and builders to define permanent aspects of a space, such as the room size and wall or window placement. Some interior designers specialize, for example, in designing healthcare facilities, kitchens and bathrooms, or in using sustainability principles in their work. Meeting with clients during evening and weekend hours may be necessary. A number are self-employed. Typical employers include design firms, architects, and furniture stores. To enter the field, interior designers usually need a bachelor’s degree with a focus on interior design. Some states require licensure.