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Become an Interior Designer in 3 Easy Steps: A Student's Perspective

OK, so it’s not that simple, but these pointers from the IIDA Student of the Year will put you on the right path

Jennifer Pinto
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Interior design students certainly have unique perspectives on how to make it in the industry. Read Lindzey Duval's.

Sure, great interior design can take a space from just so-so to absolutely stunning faster than you can say “Pantone color pairings,” but don’t be fooled by its good looks and pretty style. Interior designers have a big job with some serious responsibilities. 

“It’s critical for interior designers to understand the power of design to connect people and make a positive and lasting impact on society,’ said International Interior Design Assn. Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP. “Ultimately, designers must put humanity at the forefront of every project,” 

Each year, the IIDA recognizes a student of the year who not only gets the importance of interior design but who significantly impacts their school’s interior design program through outstanding leadership, insight and involvement. This year, Texas State University student Lindzey Duval fit the bill.

Armed with the prestigious honor (and $5,000 worth of reward money in her pocket), Duval set off last spring to begin her interior design career with design firm HDR in Chicago. We caught up with the busy professional to get her best advice for other aspiring interior designers. 

1. Get into it for the right reasons

Interior designers may create spaces that exude peace and tranquility, but behind the scenes, there can be a lot of stress. There are decisions, deadlines and deadbeat subcontractors, and that’s just before noon. To be a designer is to take the good with the bad, and at the end of the day, you have to want in for more than just fabric and fun. 

“I wanted to become an interior designer for the same reason I fell in love with design in the beginning,” said Duval. “I wanted to have a lasting impact on people’s everyday lives while embracing my creative side.” 

Duval’s insider tip: Do your research! Interior design can lead you to many career paths, so knowing your options will help you to understand where you’ll find your niche in the field.

2. Earn a design degree and make the experience your own

Anyone can be a decorator, but an interior designer must have a degree from an accredited college or university. 

“When I started at Texas State University, I was an education major. I knew I loved working with people, and I wanted to do something that would make their lives better,” Duval said. “I became more and more interested in interior design and ended up changing my major freshman year.” 

The design program at TSU introduced Duval to a variety of design disciplines from residential to healthcare. Duval took advantage of student projects and internships, learning all she could about how to execute a design project from beginning to end. 

Duval’s insider tip: Interior design programs are rigorous, but don’t give up if you’re passionate about it. It will be worth it in the end. In the meantime, find a mentor or someone you can connect with when late nights and stress have you wondering why you’re doing this.

3. Make big moves

Whether it’s suggesting a gutsy wall covering or knocking down a wall or two, the best interior designers are fearless when it comes to making the most out of any given space. And they’re equally as daring when it comes to their career choices, as well. 

“I graduated in May 2017, and in July, I moved to Chicago to purse my dreams," Duval said. "The city has amazing architecture and a reputation for design. After a month of living here, I accepted an interior design position with the design firm HDR.”

Duval’s insider tip: Dream big, be confident and make fearless design decisions. 

Calling all interior designers! What advice would you offer to those thinking about a career in the field? Leave your tips in the comments below.

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