Part 1: QUESTIONS every interior design student should ask WHILE IN SCHOOL

There are so many questions interior design students and recent graduates have. Well I’ve found a wonderful source that taps into a wealth of knowledge that I am so excited to share it with you.

The Interior Design Community (IDC) is a social media network just for interior design professionals. Their mission “is to connect designers and give them a space to get advice from their peers, to find information about products, to support them through the difficult situations they face day to day”.

This series of articles highlights some of the best questions and answers for design students and those just graduating.  Part 1 is geared towards student internships and mentoring, Part 2 answers questions for recent graduates looking for employment in a design office and Part 3 addresses what it’s like for up and coming designers in the industry.

The 6 questions are:

1 What do you wish you learned at design school to prepare you for a career?

2 Have you ever had a bad mentor?

3 Do kitchen designers make more money than interior designers? Is it better to have a specialty?

4 What are your favorite design apps?

5 What skills does a modern design intern need to have?

6 We know some fantastic self-taught designers as well as those who attended design school. Should you have a design education to call yourself an interior designer?

 The questions and their answers included in this series are just are a fraction of the inquiries and replies on the site. For additional questions and the responses check out

  1. What do you wish you learned at design school to prepare you for a career?

Monetmasters: Business. Design is only 20%.

sudasistudio: Business & pricing

spaces_by_design@sudasistudio I agree 100%!!

Thriftychicmcm: Business!

Thatsyourqdesign: How to give my clients verbal smackdowns when they get cra cra.👊🏾

Jillseale: Business practices and negotiation. Always a good idea for people –especially those who love what they do and would do it for nothing.

apro_arch: business and material sourcing.

Slshomeinteriors: A few more psychology classes

Gruvercooleyinteriors: I wish they focused more on budgeting (mainly this) and also custom furniture.

Marbe:  how to deal with subs/workers/installers. It can be a nightmare especially when you are not only the designer but wearing other hats like contractor, superintendent, etc. It is crazy. I don’t think there is a book or a way to teach that.

kenziemac907: Self marketing

shakah_design: Revit

rbrennerl7325: How to charge the client without giving away your ideas!! 😞

robinsoninteriors: It seems like most designers know almost nothing about custom draperies after design school. It’s an important part of the process!!

timothy.kempf: That it isn’t all Cosmo’s, cocktail parties and gallery openings. Design is hard, HARD work. Often when I pass other designers in the hallways of our design center, loaded down with chic bags full of memo’s, or when we are loading carpet boards or wallpaper books into our respective cars, I will look, smile and say, “Remind me again about how glamorous our jobs are…

gordonandjohnsondesign: How to sell! Need more on this in school. If you can’t sell your design, you’re going to starve! Learning the various personality types and how to sell to each type is invaluable!

  1. Have you ever had a bad mentor?

Notannak: YES. The trick is to learn from them anyway. A bad mentor can still teach you soooo much. Mine has shown me exactly how I DON’T want to run a business, how important it is to remain honest, and that money is NOT the reason we do what we do. bad mentors can also make us so much stronger. Designers need strong backbones and thick skin and that is what my “bad” mentor has given me.

ilona_karneyenka: I think every experience is good for you, because you learn from it. The same is with mentors.

Ericcrook: YES. It nearly kept me from continuing in the design field.. I did however learn a lot about what not to do and how not to treat those around you. Money isn’t everything. Kindness, compassion and true sincerity are what is important in all aspects of life including running a successful interior design business.

Designerlebrity Fantastic question and yes I have. Still always a learning experience. Also makes for a great moment to share stories about both personally and publicly.

Jayaredrose: Any mentor is still subject to human behavior which may not always be respectful, inclusive or ethical. Evolving is a continuous process happening through a lifetime. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I will say as a teacher to young designers, the mentorship is a two person relationship. I learn from my students everyday as they learn from me. Abusive mentorship is never acceptable and a signal to move forward to the next learning opportunity, both as mentor and student. Relationships may have tough moments but they are rarely all or nothing. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Keep your focus forward and spread the design love regardless how folks respond.

  1. Do kitchen designers make more money than interior designers? Is it better to have a specialty?

interiordesigncommunity@dannyrusso I thought this was kind of tricky because I do not many kitchen and bath designers but many interior designers do kitchen and bath also.

torrentekitchenBoth are necessary

designbuildbrooklynI specialized in kitchen and bath design before becoming a contractor. In my case, it did help because it’s a bit more technical, and people in my target area were using architects but didn’t have a budget for interior design.

designbuildbrooklyn@interiordesigncommunity Yes!! I wanted to be able to have more control of my designs throughout the build process, and I’m such a hands on person, that it was a natural transition for me. Also, clients appreciate the “one stop shopping” that I’m able to offer. Not to mention I make more $$ 😊

susanserrackd@dannyrusso Curious, what do you mean that they are the same?

tawnaallredI am mostly on the construction part of design. Kitchens are my favorite thing to design, along with the bones of a home. I think it’s more stressful and projects take longer. My most profitable jobs happen when clients purchase furniture, but many don’t get that far. I’m thinking that it’s not when you consider time, but I do believe we will be the ones to survive this period of “market upset”. Our services can’t be commoditized like furniture.

interiordesigncommunity@tawnaallred That is so true. Kitchen Design is probably seen as the more stable of the two. I hadn’t considered that.

northshirelivingHaving been both separately and now both together – I would say people are more willing to pay for your design work as an interior designer than a kitchen designer where people expect it to be rolled into the kitchen….

tristatekitchensThere are independent kitchen designers, who work more like interior designers. Kitchen designers that sell cabinetry, earn an income through the sale as well. With our company the kitchen designers are ones with lots of experience and work on a salary+ commission basis, without the headache of finding clients. There are lots of details & practicality aspects in addition to looks when it comes to kitchens. Sometimes clients bring along their hired interior designers, who sometimes make it easier & sometimes harder to get to a final working design


laura_abrams_designMaybe if you have a general contractors license and you are overseeing the whole project and making a profit on the cabinetry, etc.

dannyrusso@susanserrackd interior design is all about kitchen and bath design. At least in my world. Yes there are specific KBIS designers but I think any designer should be able to execute all interior spaces. Just my opinion. 🤷🏻‍😎🖤

susanserrackd@dannyrusso Thank you for clarifying. Got it!

tradedgedesignsI love doing kitchens and baths!!! In my experience it’s a toss up. Because it’s depends on overall budget. There’s been a few projects I’ve done last year that were profitable that weren’t kitchen design. However I did a gut kitchen design and that was my biggest project ever on my own. I did a large living room and my clients budget was expansive; that was fun! It’s all in the budget.

divinedesign_interiordesignNot in ireland! Interior designers do everything.

kimberleyseldonWe do it all and we are more profitable in other rooms because there is frequently more fabric, area carpets and artwork.


aimeeleonidodesign@alibrookedesign ?

marycurtainladyNot sure if they always make more money, but the employment rate of our Kitchen and Bath Design grads is almost 100%. The future’s so bright 😎

yssinteriordesignDitto @tomsamet.

carolinemccade@antoninadmagggg this is a great page for you to follow! They ask a lot of great questions with open discussion. 😉

antoninadmagggg@carolinemccade thank you!!

kisserbirdy@designbuildbrooklyn I am considering this as I am finding that I am finding/hiring all the subs anyway, and because a few vendors I use do not allow customer or designer to purchase without a contractors license

designbuildbrooklyn@kisserbirdy Absolutely. It solved so many of my logistical problems!!

  1. What are your favorite design apps

Lenakroupnikint: My measure pro

Binomiodesignrd: Love polyvore for moodboards. Vectorworks for design

Designinkredible: @morpholio @polyvore

Ericcrook: @morpholio

Motivohome: Definitely @morpholio and @houzz I also couldn’t live without @wunderlist for staying organized and my timer app for when I’m working hourly

Interiordesigncommunity: I love the Color911 app by color expert @amywax for carrying colors with you. I like @Instagram for marketing @wordswag for making word graphics like this. @adobepost for photo graphics.

Homewithkek: Polyvore. Trello for staying organized. Color911 too!

Interiordesignmasterclass: Camera+, Dropbox, Bitly, Evernote are just a few of our faves for business 🙂

Erikabonnell: I use the moodboard app all the time. Can do quick concept boards to share with clients from my iPad.

Juneeightstudio: Measures to draw dimensions on photos, the match color apps from Benjamin Moore and sherwin williams.

chrissys_lifestyle: Color911 and @houzz 😍

jtwdesignllc: @pinterest for sharing ideas with clients!

Suzannesuszie: Polyvore

amywaxGreat post, I am so glad to see people mentioning Color911 ! (Thanks !)

sonianicolestyle@polyvore is essential for quickly accessing favorite go-to home decor quickly for design

  1. What skills does a modern design intern need to have?

Gruenfelds: I want them using pinterest…

Jnodesigns; Interpersonal skills, technically inclined and social media guru…

Interiordesigncommunity: I was thinking Social Media, Blogging, computer skills would be really important. Someone ALWAYS seeking inspiration, ability to take risks “design wise”, ability tow work with other design disciplines (lighting designers😉), and technically savvy “social media wise” and “design program wise”.

Summerthorntondesign: Self-sufficiency and ability to self-motivate and ‘figure it out’. Must be a helper/servant mindset – you’re there to make everyone else better and faster.

Irvininteriordesign: AutoCAD is definitely a must

kirchhoff_architects: AutoCAD and willingness to learn!

Notannak: As an interiors intern, I’d say a great attitude and willingness to go above and beyond what is required of you is highly valued. As an intern your role is not only to learn and gain experience but also to be a helping hand. Take the initiative, do the dirty work no one else will, and do it with a smile! Basically, if you are flexible and willing to learn and be your own motivation you can do anything. And never forget to absorb every word your supervisor says; he/she is full of valuable wisdom that you can’t get from college.

Tristanremodeling: Listening

Mrserikaward: Proactive and a spirit of productivity!

Mrserikaward: Good attitude

jowita_k: A hunger for knowledge, drive and willingness to think outside the box. I’ve found that a lot of interns I’ve worked with had very high expectations yet didn’t want to go the extra step; it’s a lot like something they have to do. Outlook matters. Make it a positive one!

Barbourspangle: We want interns eager to learn, to be exposed and to ask questions! We invest our time with interns as a way to give back to the industry we love. We try to engage them in all facets of the process – the good, the bad, the ugly. We all know this isn’t a glamorous job (on most days) and there is a lot of dirty, hard work. We LOVE our interns and want them to learn and grow while they are with us.

Thirdspaces: Willing to work + good attitude + thinking outside the box!

Accentsbayarea: Creative | Respectful | Eager to learn | Humble | Intelligent 💖

misscanady2u: As an intern I would want to exercise being a Jack of all trades, from autocad to photography to historical reference in design. As an aspiring designer, I want to be as well rounded as possible, and a limitless internship (experience in each department) would be the most beneficial I feel for everyone. 😍 love this post btw!

Meridiendesignmarie: Team player!

Justshilps: Other than AutoCAD, is any other software a must? Like Revit or sketch up?

Lisaescobar: Reliability is #1 for me, strong sourcing skills, autoCAD, must take initiative and finally they must be open about their career goals. My team and I share our goals monthly, it also helps when delegating tasks and to understand where strengths/weaknesses lie in each person. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. By lifting them, it empowers the team.

interiordesigncommunity@floecono: It’s a HUGE responsibility to teach what you know. At the same time, it can be an opportunity for the intern to teach… Especially things that involve new technology. Internships should develop into lasting mentor relationships for years to come.

LauraboisvertIs: common sense a skill? It seems to be lacking lol. For example- doing a 3D floor plan for a client and putting the shower head ON the shower floor…D’oh!

Lenakroupnikint: I want them to be attentive to details, have computer drawing skills , be reliable and learn/ be able to listen😘✨

Designinkredible: Style…is that a skill? Lol

Jonathonscoastalliving: A Good work ethic and a humble attitude are important skills that can make a good intern a great one!

gatti_design: Vision, listening, understanding and implementing ideas/concepts. They cannot perform these if they do not have creativity!

  1. We know some fantastic self-taught designers as well as those who attended design school. Should you have a design education to call yourself an interior designer?

Analirg: YES, otherwise you are a decorator

d2interieurs: Yes and no. I truly believe that no one can be great at everything. I surround myself with the most talented people I can find (architects, builders, craftsman) to get the best possible results). Yes, I went to school but it was in no means my real education!

Qatmer: No! You can be an artist without studying art.

Nelijaniga: In VA you can’t call yourself or have business advertising without an Interior Designer degree. Many decorators don’t know it and continue calling themselves Designers.

krista.mellett: Yes! There is SO much more that goes into being a designer besides decorating

hayleybug05: Yes… I worked hard for my degree.

Tuscanbluedesign: Yes. I am always learning from but in the end it’s my 4 years at design school that gave me a great understanding of interior design & architecture.

Patrishahymaninteriors: Working experience much more important that a degree. The longer you work with clients the more aware you are of things that can go wrong !!i think the industry is over saturated with unqualified so called designers!!💗

Gdinteriorsca: Yes absolutely, you have to be knowledgeable about building codes to design and provide a safe space for people who will use the space.

Frahminteriors: Not necessarily but there should be a distinction between a designer with educational training and self thought. A standard accreditation for having graduated design school without having to take the NCIDQ.

Stellerheller: I could write a book on this one! If your talent and passion are there then you got it and can call your self whatever you want. School is not the real world of design and this is what i try to teach students…

Wymanhaus: Yes! Natural talent is great, but I work with so many decorators that have no idea of space planning or textiles! All the yes answers maybe all of us that went to college , but the education plus experience is extra valuable! Knowledge is power.

Buildingmiami: That’s like saying, it’s not necessary to hire a licensed contractor, my handyman can do it!

Jsbeauchampdesign: For some, a formal education is a must. For others, a combination of studies and experience work. That does not take away from anyone’s hard work for their diploma. Some people simply have a lot of talent (technical, artistic or otherwise). I agree that you need basic knowledge of space design, but that can come from other experience. As for building codes, you should be aware of them, but so should the contractor.

danzy.ds: I’m educated in both business and design. I pursued the more formal education in design as I wanted a more concrete knowledge base and confidence especially as I was venturing into the commercial market. That’s just me but at the end of the day clients don’t necessarily ask to see your ‘papers’ they want to see your work and feedback from others about you. Its really is a personal choice…. for me the education is working.

ellenwinteriorconcepts: NO!!!! NO!!!!! Did I say NO? I am an Interior Designer. I’ve never set foot in a class to get formerly trained. I’m self taught in everything I do. I mean having “the eye”’is a gift but you don’t have to have a degree to learn. The library, internet and mentorship are wonderful tools. I love the construction side of design and I’ve learned through experience. Plus as someone stated codes do change. If you’re passionate about it you’ll do what needed to learn. But I do think there’s a difference between a designer and decorator. I don’t think you need a degree to be called a designer.

Latoyaatpanachedesign: I’ve got an MBA and an MA in interior design. My undergrad was pre law. I think my pre law and MBA have been more helpful in both of my design businesses, and I’m not knocking anyone at all, but I do believe that the title should belong to those that obtain the education. Then again – I clearly love education 😊 On the flip side talent cannot be taught which is why I would never knock anyone’s line of thinking on this topic.

Tiffhunterhome: Interesting discussion. Surprised no one has mentioned the fiduciary aspects. We often handle huge sums of money that our clients entrust us with to purchase furniture and finishes etc… Let alone the cost of an expensive remodel. I do not have a 4-year design degree (just a certificate and lots of hands on experience) but I do have an MBA from an Ivy League school. I am constantly surprised by how many designers and/or decorators do not know how to run a business. I would think consumers would want to know their money is being handled professionally, that they are receiving items purchased, and that a project is within budget. I am for licensing in the sense it provides a layer of protection for the public, a formal complaints process Etc…. Because a couple bad eggs can taint the whole industry. Multiple stories here in SoCal of designers who took their clients money and ran….clients never received the goods they paid for.

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