10 Questions to Determine if an Interior Design Career is Right for You

As an individual with a calling to create, finding your niche can be challenging. However, if you have a knack for creating interior spaces that are beautiful and functional and love sketching out spaces, then interior design may be right for you.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind before deciding to pursue a career in interior design.

We interviewed a few Design Institute of San Diego faculty members, including Kate Lindberg, Senior Designer at McCormick and Wright, and Jeni Champion, Associate and Senior Designer at ID Studios, for their professional insights. Take a look at the questions they asked themselves, and recommend aspiring designers to ask themselves, before pursuing an education and launching a career in interior design.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start an Interior Design Career

What Do I Know About Interior Design?

Interior design is more than just decorating—it’s the skilled art of creating functional, inspiring, and structurally sound spaces for businesses, individuals, and the public to experience.

Interior designers study and explore how people live, work, play and experience spaces. Successful design solutions are accomplished by tying together the aesthetically pleasing with the functional aspects.

There are various specialties of interior design available to explore, some that you may not even think of, including but not limited to:

  • Hospitality Design (including hotels and restaurants)
  • Workplace Design (corporate offices and coworking spaces)
  • Healthcare Design (medical offices and waiting rooms)
  • Amusement and Theme-parks Design (waterparks and rollercoasters)
  • Cruise line and Private Watercraft (luxury yachts and cruise ships)
  • Stadiums and Sports Arenas Design (football stadiums, hockey rinks and more)
  • Institutional Design (including schools, libraries and more)
  • Sustainable Design (eco-friendly and energy efficiency)
  • Residential Design (private homes and outdoor areas)

Jeni Champion, NCIDQ invites students currently considering the profession to pay attention to the types of design and spaces that they’re drawn to:

“What type of Design am I interested in? Commercial or Residential? 

If I’m interested in commercial design, is it workplace and corporate office, education, hospitality, health care, life science and/or lab, government, or multi-family? 

If I’m interested in residential design, is it high-end residential, kitchen & bath specialization, custom furniture and built-ins, or another type?”

Do I Have a Knack for Design?

While this may seem like an obvious question, many of our budding designers describe their journey to DI’s bachelor’s degree program in interior design as their calling, or what they were born to do.

Some of our current students and DI graduates share their commitment to contributing to and building a sustainable future led them to explore a design career and they were excited to see their values reflected in the green or sustainable interior design field; others landed on interior design after noticing that they can combine a variety of their talents, such as communication, creativity and spatial awareness, instead of focusing on only one skill.

So, if you find yourself constantly wondering what it is that makes well-designed spaces work well, why a specific material was used in your favorite restaurant’s dining area or how to create spaces that are comfortable for different types of people, then you may be naturally drawn to interior design.

Do I Enjoy Working One-On-One with People?

Professional interior designers work in a variety of different spaces: some work for an architecture or design firm, corporation or even by themselves.

One of the top questions Jeni advises prospective designers to ask is, “am I a ‘people person,’” meaning, “do I enjoy working directly with clients?” All designers work directly with people who are their clients, even designers that work independently on residential projects. While these projects don’t require huge design teams, the work experience involves interacting with clients frequently, inside of their homes.

Interior design is an engaging and collaborative process that is focused on understanding a client’s wants, creating the design, and relaying that information to builders, painters and anyone else you decide to bring in on your project to transform a space into your client’s vision.

Am I Inspired by My Surroundings?

From the soft, serene shapes in a Scandinavian forest to the clean, bold lines of modern architecture, inspiration drawn from designers’ surroundings is quite common in the field of design. Kate Lindberg, NCIDQ, mentions, “whether it be in the built environment or nature,” our surroundings have a huge impact on the way people behave and feel.

Kate also asks: “Are you sensitive to your surroundings?” Do you pick up on small details in your surroundings that others may not notice? For example, well-placed accent pieces, lighting that’s slightly off, or even ways that spaces can be optimized for better use. Interior designers have an eye for these small details and are excited and inspired as they explore spaces.

Am I a Multitasker?

As an interior designer, you’ll find yourself working on multiple projects at a time, as well as:

  • Meeting with clients
  • Sketching design ideas
  • Estimating project costs and managing budgets
  • Setting project timelines
  • Coordinating with contractors, painters, electricians and other professionals
  • Marketing and advertising to find new clients

In short, a career in interior design is exciting and ever changing and may be for you if you thrive when you have a lot on your plate on an ongoing basis.

Do I Enjoy Doing Research?

From scoping out colleges and universities to discovering where to find unique fabrics and flooring, interior design is an industry that requires a lot of research.

Beyond the logistics of becoming a designer and finding your go-to material suppliers, interior design projects themselves involve research at every step.

Each design project begins with assessing what the client wants and researching the perfect design solution, also being careful to ensure that building codes, regulations, and accessibility standards are met—and that the solution you’re presenting is the best decision for the space.

In addition to research, there are a lot of different skills utilized as an interior designer—Jeni Champion adds that skills like “concept development, rendering, drafting, selecting finishes and furniture, presenting, client relations, the ability to understand building codes and sustainable design” are necessary for designers that want to stand out for a design position.

How Detail-Oriented Am I?

The line that sets quality design work apart from the rest is all in the details—what you’ll find in this industry is that when care and attention go into every step, the smallest features work together to create a perfectly finished space. From finishes and embellishments to wall textures and crown molding, details matter.

Kate recommends going one step further and considering the following:

“Design is more than what something looks like; It is how it makes you feel, not only when you physically touch something or sit on a piece of furniture, but how you feel when you are in a space and what level of ease or not there is when interacting with the space.

What do you like or not like about a space, its details, and its feeling?

Being sensitive to your environment, inquisitive, and a researcher will take you great places in this field.”

Do I Follow Design Accounts on Social Media?

Always have HGTV on in the background? Subscribe to a plethora of design magazines? Follow along with computer-aided design (CAD) tutorials on YouTube or TikTok?

If you’re already keeping up to date with the latest trends, projects and design elements, then that means you’re interested in what’s going on in the industry. And that’s a habit that makes a great interior designer.

Am I Curious About How and What Material Furniture is Made of?

Furniture is integral to the function of a space: it’s an industrial design product used to support human activities. Furniture also establishes a sense of order in any space, as well as spatial planning. For example, grouping a sofa with armchairs, side tables, a coffee table, etc. creates a sitting area that’s intended for conversation.

From built-ins and existing furniture to new, custom-designed and even ready-made, furniture is available in several different options. And interior designers use it all.

Because of how important furniture is to a space, it’s natural for interior designers to be curious about the way that furniture is built and the materials that went into its production. This is especially true for interior design work in the field of green interior design and when embracing sustainability. 

Can I Create Outside of My Own Style?

While having a great sense of taste is important to being a successful designer, the ability to work in other styles is, as well.

One of the most exciting aspects of being an interior designer is the challenge of transforming various client style preferences into cohesive and effortless spaces. Would you be willing to design spaces that are different from your own style and follow client specifications?

Am I Nodding Along with these Questions?

Then a career in interior design may be for you!

Before you get started with a career in interior design, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve got all the necessary qualifications—like a degree in interior design. 

“Design Institute of San Diego creates an environment that shows students the different facets of interior design,” advises Kate. “They provide education that helps with not only the knowledge one needs to hold a degree in interior design, but also the tangible tools that one will use to turn designs from the conceptual stage to reality.”

Your next step is to start working on your design education and experience with an interior design program that’s accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), as this accrediting council ensures that a school’s interior design program is developed and delivered utilizing quality standards for interior design education.  

Design Institute of San Diego is devoted to design and we pride ourselves on putting students first as they seek a BFA in Interior Design or a Master of Interior Design program. Our faculty is composed of working design professionals, bringing current design into the classroom, and connecting students to the profession from the very start. 

Ready to turn your calling into your career? Reach out today for more information.