Lea's work...Living Room Perspective
I recently met with Lea Cummins, a senior in the Interior Design program at SIBA (Stevens Institute of Business & Arts…formerly known as Patricia Stevens. I asked her some questions that have been brewing in my mind for quite a while now regarding the level of preparedness an interior design student feels as they are approaching graduation.
Has the school in which the interior design student is attending made them adequately prepared to face the competitive world of Interior Design?
I also gave Lea the opportunity to ask me, as a professional Interior Designer, any questions she may have regarding the industry. Below is our conversation and my answers to her questions.
(ME) How prepared do you feel you are to take on the real world of Interior Design, outside of the confinements of a scholastic atmosphere?
(LEA) I do feel prepared to be working in the field. I actually worked for Wright’s Furniture and Flooring in Dieterich, Illinois (near my hometown) right after I graduated high school and up until moving to St. Louis in October of 2009. So when I started interior design school I actually felt ahead of the game. I had taught myself so many things and learned so much about products out in the industry that when I was taking my first few classes on materials and practices of design I was really in sync with what was going on.
(ME) How do you set yourself apart from design trends and what your colleagues are working on?
(LEA) I have really forced myself to try to think out of the box on my projects. I absolutely am a CAD and Photoshop lover and I also love doing Illustrations and perspectives! I know that to sell any project it is always beneficial to have more elevations, more perspectives, etc. to be able to explain and show the client your ideas.
(ME) In what ways do you feel ill-prepared for working in the Interior Design Industry?
Lea's work....Wine Bar
(LEA)It can be a big challenge in school to balance out all of your projects, which is a question I have for the professionals. How do you balance them? As a student at SIBA I have 10 weeks from the time I am given my project assignment until my presentation. I have always just juggled back and forth in between my projects doing all my floor plans, then choosing fabrics, etc., and although I do always get everything done. It’s in that last week that I’m still pulling all nighters to finish everything up. Is there a better way?
(ME) When you are working on multiple clients’ projects, which you will be doing on a very consistent basis as an Interior Designer, these projects are rarely at the exact same point in the design process. This is one way that having multiple projects can be manageable, each project is focusing on something entirely different. Another aspect to consider is that you will no longer have the extra small assignments (which take up any extra time you may have) that your professors may give you. When you are working on your clients’ projects, they are your main concern and job. Lastly, you will have to come up with your own system for balancing out your clients’ projects. Each of us works differently and you will have to figure out how you work best to manage your time and get your work done on a timely basis while balancing your family, friends, and other activities.
(ME) Do you have any other questions for me?
(LEA) A question I have is when an Interior Designer is running their own company, how long did it take you to get there? What kind of companies did you work for before getting to your ideal job position?
(ME) While I was attending design school, I worked at a home furnishing rep. firm for a year and a half. I left this company when I was offered a job as a design assistant at an Interior Design firm. I was also able to use this design assistant position as my internship, which gave me the opportunity to learn all I could while I was there, instead of running from that job, to school, to a separate internship. Upon graduation, I was promoted to full-time Interior Designer at this firm. I worked here for 3 1/2 years until I moved here to St. Louis. Once arriving here, I worked the odd job to make money, but immersed myself in the design world and networking. I started my own Interior Design business in October of 2010 and am working on gaining more clientele. The journey is never over and you have to work hard to accomplish your goals. Getting your foot in the door by networking and assisting either at a firm or with an independent Interior Designer will gain you more than you know in this industry.
(LEA) Are there things you feel that you just absolutely cannot learn in a school setting that you must learn out in the field? If so, like what?
(ME) What stands out to me most is being on a real field measure with my boss spouting out measurements for me to write down and draw out a floor plan at the same time. It was stressful and scary for me at the time. I later understood that if you are not “thrown into the pit” you will not be able to appreciate the skill and hard work it takes to do this job. Another event that stands out for me is my first client meeting presenting my very first kitchen design. Again, it was scary, but so fulfilling in the end and I learned so much! The difference between presenting to your classmates and professor whom you are familiar with and your first real client is huge.
(LEA) How do you feel is the best way to present your presentation? Is it just the preference of the designer or does it depend on the kind of project you are working on?
(ME) I would say it is a bit of both. Each designer will have their own way of presenting to their clients. The presentation process is definitely not like presenting in a school setting. When I was in Interior Design school, we had to make design boards. At this point in my career, I do not make design boards, unless I am just putting together a concept board, which is rare. I usually have most of my items separate from one another and present them to the client as such. I present floor plans first and follow with materials, etc.
(LEA) As I am going into my last year at SIBA I am definitely starting to think about my career and what I’m going to be doing at this time next year. I have big dreams and want to take on the design world. But I feel I am in for a reality check. I think that is one thing I don’t feel prepared for, is the networking part of the business. And it is not that our school hasn’t encouraged us to join ASID and IIDA and attend meetings etc., because I do those things! I just don’t know how to get myself our there when I am in those positions. I still feel like until I have graduated, promoting yourself (or your company) is such a hard thing to do. Am I wrong?
(ME) I would say that getting out and networking while you are in school is a great way to get your name out there, get noticed, and show that you are a go-getter. You make a statement about yourself while you are a student and attending networking events that you will do what it takes to succeed in this business and that you are wanting to learn and experience all that you can while you are still attending school. My advice would be to go out there and get noticed!!