Interior Designer

What does an Interior Designer do?

Interior designers enhance the function, safety and aesthetics of interior spaces, while taking into account how different colours, textures, furniture, lighting and space work together to meet clients’ needs. They work with both private and public spaces, including residences, shopping malls, schools, offices and hospitals. Some interior designers specialise in certain rooms, like bathrooms and kitchens, while others may specialise in a certain type of design, like feng shui design or eco-friendly design.

An interior designer’s tasks include:

  • meeting with clients to clarify what their needs and budget are
  • creating a design plan, usually using computer-aided-design (CAD), and a budget estimate
  • producing ‘sample’ or ‘mood’ boards for presentations
  • sourcing products and materials
  • submitting drawings to a building inspector to make sure the drawings adhere to building codes
  • hiring architects to do structural work and other contractors to handle technical work
  • supervising the project to make sure it is done correctly and according to the timeline.

Interview with an Interior Designer

Natalie Du Toit | FOUNDER & DESIGNER | Indigi Designs – Self-Employed

Why furniture design?
I’ve had an interest in design from childhood. When I was young I wanted to be a fashion designer, then considered studying architecture after high school, but ended up going with interior design. I never ended up practicing interior design though, not many of my classmates actually did. I moved into retail and was a homeware buyer before taking a position as creative director for a décor manufacturing company. After that I started my own design label – Indigi Designs.

What training did you do?
I studied Interior Design at Boston House College and have a Purchasing Management Diploma from Damelin.

Describe a typical day
I run around a lot! Because we supply and manufacture a variety of products, I’m often driving around seeing suppliers, picking up materials, dropping things off, or overseeing our own production line. I often get up at the crack of dawn to attend to my emails and/or work until after midnight.

What do you enjoy most?
When we have happy customers and people love our products. Most importantly, being able to create employment.

What don’t you like?
The long working hours (which I am trying to improve), and the snootiness that comes with some people in the design industry.

Hurdles you have overcome?
Every small business has to endure a host of issues in order to grow. If you cannot get through the hurdles you will not survive, so you need high energy levels, a lot of determination and persistence. The biggest challenge for me was starting a business while I was pregnant and being in the foundation stage with a newborn baby and a toddler! I hardly slept for a year and had no social life. Examples of hurdles would be: supplier issues with bad quality; late deliveries and just plain bad service jeopardising our relationships with our clients; raw material supply challenges; staff problems; cash-flow issues; and, finding the energy to get up in the morning and do it all again.

Career highlights to date?
There have been a lot and I’m grateful that all my hard work has paid off. House & Leisure nominated me as one of their Rising Stars last year; being one of Woolworths’ artisans; and, being selected to show my product at 100% Design in London, along with some of the UK’s best furniture designers.

Experience vs training?
I would say a bit of both, but if you have a good eye for design, business savvy, people skills and work very hard, you can go far with little experience.

What personality traits should a designer possess?
I call this the ‘4 P’s’: Passion (the driving force that will keep you going through all challenges); Purpose (no brand or company can survive without a clear vision); Persistence (be determined and never give up); People (be good to people and yourself). You can’t just be creative, you also need a good understanding of business to run a successful company.

Your job in three words
Dynamic, demanding, rewarding.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

Training to become an interior designer takes two to four years and is available at professional design schools or colleges and universities. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree or diploma would most likely begin a one to three year apprenticeship programme at a design or architecture firm and work under the supervision of an experienced interior designer. Graduates with a certificate would usually start their career as an assistant to an interior designer. Practical experience is indispensable in this profession, and registering with a renowned organisation adds credibility.

WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Visual Arts

WHERE CAN I STUDY?

University of Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts)
www.wits.ac.za

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts)
www.uj.ac.za

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts)
www.up.ac.za

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Interior Design
www.cput.ac.za

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Interior Design
www.tut.ac.za

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Architectural Technology and Interior Design
www.nmmu.ac.za

Michaelis – University Of Cape Town
Bachelor of Fine Art
www.michaelis.uct.ac.za

Ruth Prowse School of Art
Diploma in Fine Art
www.ruthprowse.co.za

Central University of Technology
National Diploma: Fine Art
www.cut.ac.za

The Design School Southern Africa
Various Courses
www.designschoolsa.co.za

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

Greenside Design Center – www.designcenter.co.za
The South African Institute of the Interior Design Professions (IID) – www.iidprofessions.org.za

Sources:
www.theartcareerproject.com
www.careerplanning.about.com
www.prospects.ac.uk