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Getting Started in Interior Design Without a Degree


Everyone’s goal in life is to have a job that they view more as a hobby. A profession that they enjoy doing all the time. This is why most peoples’ motto is “if you love what you do, you won’t have to work a day in your life”. But mixing talent with any profession is a tightrope, and you have to find the right balance, that fine line between hobby and work. One of the best investments when it comes to creative people is diving into interior design.

Apart from it being a huge asset in anyone’s personal life, it’s also very valuable in office environments. Companies everywhere are beginning to realize that an optimized office space not only promotes productivity but is a marketing tool that they can work with. The same businesses also value talent over paperwork, which is why graphic designers, interior designers, and other talent-based artists in professional areas let their portfolios speak for themselves instead of a college degree. But while interior designers don’t necessarily need a college degree, they do need some sort of education that proves their knowledge of this craft.

Having a feel for what goes where, and what shapes clash, spiced with God-given talent is a great start, but sadly isn’t enough to be called a professional. To become a successful self-taught interior designer, you’d have to have in-depth knowledge of:

  • The behavior of light, shapes, and spaces
  • Psychology of colors
  • The proper combination of colors
  • Ventilation and airflow
  • Safety measures
  • Utility services such as plumbing, constructions of walls, false ceilings, and carpentry
  • How to sketch a blueprint

These are no small feat for someone who doesn’t want to sit through years of college courses, but it’s doable nonetheless.

It all starts with deep research of what these entail, and what are the absolutely indispensable information. After that, a great investment would be searching for online, or summer courses that teach them. For example, the psychology of colors can be researched and studied at home through online course platforms for instance. But maybe sketching a blueprint or knowledge of construction is worth investing in, especially if you go to a short course that gives you a certificate.

As a self-taught professional, it is your responsibility to separate the knowledge you can learn at home, and the information you need to dive deeper into. Another very important aspect to take into consideration is what employers will look for. Most people hiring interior designers don’t know the in-depth requirements of the profession, but they will know that you’ll need knowledge of construction and safety measures, so it’s smart to have a few – however small – certificates in your pocket.

At the end of the day, your portfolio will be the loudest paperwork in your hand. Results are the language of companies, and if you can show shining, proper, quality, and safe results, chances are, you’ll get the job. And as a freelancer, the most important building blocks are gigs that help raise the quality of your portfolio. If you don’t have anything in your portfolio as of now, don’t be afraid to start at home, or at a friend’s place. Document your work, and embellish it with some descriptions and your thought process throughout the design. Step out of your comfort zone, and look for areas where you can grow. Try to sketch out the blueprints, or factor in utilities like electricity, plumbing, heat. Lastly, decide the area which you want to focus on. Maybe it’s lofts, penthouses, suburban houses, or office spaces. Look into what’s most important in that area, and dive into that. You can also invest in some easy-to-use design software, like Adobe, AutoCAD, SketchUp, or SolidWorks. Learning how to use these is a profitable skill on its own!

Another amazing opportunity for self-taught professionals is internships. While a lot of companies look for college graduates or students as interns, there are opportunities for those who are self-taught. Look for opportunities on every platform possible, and reach out to all interior designers in your area. Pick their minds, ask for help and suggestions. The smallest comment will make a huge difference coming from them.

Overall, being self-taught in any area of profession is harder than just going to a 4-year college, but it can be more profitable and motivating for more ambitious people. You can chart your own path, and learn what you need without having to study what you don’t care for. You get to pick and choose areas you excel in and throw out what is unnecessary. It can also be a way to save up money, depending on the cost of university in your area. But it will be harder because you’ll have to do all the research and work without much help handed to you. If you have the talent, the motivation, and the interest in this profession, as the wise people say, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.


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