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DI Details Newsletter NOV. 2009 Design Institute of San Diego

DI Senior Corine Maggio interviewed former DI student and Professional Interior Designer, Kelly Berg, about her school experience, her professional path and advice for DI students.

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DI Senior Corine Maggio interviewed former DI student and Professional Interior Designer, Kelly Berg, about her school experience, her professional path and advice for DI students.

Quick Sketch, Drawing and Composition, and Color Theory and Application were by far my favorite courses. I had never taken an art class before DI, and absolutely fell in love with all of these classes. I definitely utilize these skills on an almost daily basis. Quick Sketch, especially. When I'm meeting with a client, sometimes the best way to communicate is through a drawing. To have the ability to quickly draw something up is really valuable - even if the drawings aren't perfect, your clients get the idea. And you'd be surprised how impressed people are with some of my worst drawings!

Drawing and Composition was great because it really trained me how to look at objects differently. How to notice the slightest variations in color, texture, shading, shapes, and feelings in every physical object we come in contact with. I remember having to once draw a still life of a roll of toilet paper and thinking "why?" I still have that drawing, and it's strangely beautiful to me now. I think it's important to discard our initial aesthetic judgments and learn to see the beauty in all objects.

And I can't leave out Color Theory and Application. This course was tough! All that color mixing and matching and terminology. For someone who had never painted before (unless you count paint-by-number watercolor books) it was a lot to absorb in one semester. But the world of color is so fascinating and this course had a huge hand in making color a current passion of mine.

I've been all over the map since I graduated in 2002. After months of searching for a traditional job in interior design in San Diego, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles, where I worked for HGTV host and lifestyle expert, Susie Coelho. As her creative associate, much of my job was working as a stylist and set decorator behind the scenes on TV shows and photo shoots. The most valuable thing I learned at that job was that styling really is an art. Styling and decorating, as much as we interior designers sometimes belittle it, is a very challenging job, especially when you are working on a set with many different people who have many different opinions and who want the job done in very little time and with very little money. In 2003 I went out on my own and founded Arte Styling, originally as a set decorating and photo styling business. I have styled everything from creepy hanging doll parts in a short film to elegant background sets for Reba McEntire's clothing line. It's a great job, but very hard work. As a stylist, you have to be quick on your toes, physically able to lift at LEAST 50 pounds, and mentally able to withstand many different, sometimes extremely demanding, personalities. But it's a great job, and you can definitely work your way to success.

At a certain point I decided I wanted to do more interior design. I had moved back up to Northern California where I grew up and was tired of traveling to LA for jobs. As I started seeking out interior design jobs, they appeared. In the past few years, I have worked on kitchen and bath remodels, a medium sized health care, residential holiday styling, and color consulting for residential and commercial. Some projects take two hours and some take two years. It's nice to have the variety of depth of projects, since I get bored with routine very easily.

Advice for DI students? Follow your own path. Don't worry about being a traditional interior designer if that's not what you want to do. Don't think you have to work for a firm first. Or that you will be stuck doing AutoCAD for the first 5 years out of school (unless that is something you want to do). Focus on the skills that you are good at and the skills that you enjoy. And, don't give up. If you truly want to be a designer keep working at it until you get where you want to be. There might be some tough roads ahead, but you chose design because you love it, and it's worth the fight to pursue your passion.

DI provides a great interior design foundation. The program is well-rounded and exposes students to many different practical and artistic facets of both commercial and residential design. Although some courses can be tedious at times, it's great practice for heading out into the real world where you will be required to do many, many tedious things for your clients or bosses.

One of the most beneficial skills that I think can be acquired at DI is the ability to keep pushing yourself. When you think you have done a great job on a project and an instructor points out 100 things wrong with it you just need to use that criticism as fuel to be a better designer. If you can teach yourself to be the first critic of your own designs and then search for solutions to the problems you've found, you will ultimately come up with better designs. DI definitely taught me to be my own critic.

I am currently working on a small variety of projects. One job is a color consulting gig for an insurance office. The building used to be a mortuary. We've done our best to liven it up with some color. Lots of rich golds and oranges combined with a medium intensity blue to support the branding. And a great dark chocolate brown for all the trim.

I've also just started another kitchen remodel for a past color consulting client. I'm thrilled to be working with her again, as her home colors turned out so well. To all designers out there who may not want to take a small job, it's important to remember that sometimes the small jobs can lead to something larger!

I'm also working on a book about home design. It's a slow process that's been incubating for over a year. I am hoping that it will come to fruition within the next year. Some days I think I'm absolutely crazy for attempting this, but other days I am simply driven by my desire to help people live better in their homes. I think it's the same drive that I have every time I work with a client on a project. Isn't that what design is all about?

Check out Kelly's website,

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1-800-619-4337 or 1-858-566-1200
CIDA Accredited Interior Design BFA Degree Program