Becoming an Interior Designer

Interior Designer
While our interior designers do make great material and color selections, they do much more than that.

We all have our stereotyped image of what interior designers do from design shows, design magazines, and social media. However, the reality is much different.

A common misconception is that interior designers only select interior finishes, but structural knowledge of the building is necessary (and required) for understanding how interior spaces can be manipulated. Interior Designers think about the way a space functions and design it accordingly. They take a building shell and create a safe, functional, aesthetically pleasing space specific to each owner, in coordination with the architects and engineers.

From fixtures and furniture, to materials and finishes, Interior Designers help spaces come alive. A wide range of product knowledge is required for interior designers to make the most informed and appropriate decisions during the selection process.

But how to do they learn these skills? Registered Interior Designers begin with an education—either a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s degree in Interior Design.

There are many reputable universities with great Interior Design programs, but it is important for future students to do their research and find the right fit for what they need.

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) is an independent, non-profit accrediting organization for Interior Design programs in the United States and internationally. Not all Interior Design programs are CIDA-accredited—and this is a great way to help students compare programs. Some students will choose to enroll in a non-accredited program and still be just as successful; or some will start at one and move to the accredited program to finish. Every student has their own path, and there are a lot of options.

However, just because a college degree has been obtained, one is still not a registered interior designer.

Any professional with a degree in Interior Design looking to gain registration (not everyone chooses to pursue registration), must then begin gaining professional experience (3,520-5,280 hours, depending on the degree). This professional experience must be in the Interior Design field to qualify for sitting for the exam.

At different times throughout their education and professional experience, professionals must sit for all sections of the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.

This exam is broken into three sections:

  • The Practicum Exam (PRAC) – 4 Hours
    • Codes and Standards
    • Building Systems & Integration
    • Programming & Site Analysis
    • Contract Documents
  • Fundamentals Exam (IDFX) – 3 Hours
    • Design Communication
    • Building Systems & Construction
    • Programming & Site Analysis
    • Construction Drawings & Specification
    • Human Behavior & the Design Environment
    • Furniture, Finishes, Equipment, & Lighting
    • Technical Drawing Conventions
  • Professional Exam (IDPX) – 4 Hours
    • Professional Practice
    • Building Systems and Integration
    • Contract Administration
    • Project Coordination
    • Contract Documents
    • Product and Material Coordination
    • Codes and Standards

Each section is taken, and passed or failed, individually. Once the individual passes all sections and has met all the other requirements, he/she can apply for registration with the State of Indiana. Once this final hurdle has been cleared, the celebration can commence, and one can officially call him/herself a Registered Interior Designer.

Continued Education Units (CEU) are also required, similar to what other professions must do to keep their registration updated. Once CEU’s are obtained, each Registered Interior Designer is responsible for tracking and meeting the credit requirements.


Also see what it takes to become an architect.

NeoCon 2017 Update

NeoCon is a chance to see new products, immerse yourself in each showrooms’ unique design, mingle with other designers, and bring back inspiration for our clients. Whether it be ideas for comfortable, collaborative office breakout spaces or a twist on a traditional textile, this event showcases everything you could dream of as a designer. Consider it a small slice of a interior designer’s paradise!

With about one million ideas to take away from NeoCon, let’s hear from our team about a few of their favorite design trends from this year…

Liam Keesling

My favorite trends seen throughout the furniture showrooms were the combination of solid textiles and exposed wood frame construction in many of the side chairs and lounge furniture pieces. The furniture appeared lightweight but well-crafted, using interlocking joints that were celebrated rather than disguised or hidden. My favorite part of the craftsmanship was the natural wood finish used to see the beautiful grain.


Asia Coffee

I was really excited to see the Tandus/Centiva/Johnsonite showroom! This was their first year in a larger, more prominent showroom on one of the main floors of the Merchandise Mart. It was a fantastic space for them to display the wide variety of flooring options that they offer (i.e. carpet, luxury vinyl tile, rubber tile). I was especially impressed with the digital imaging capabilities that were showcased. They can take any image or photo and not only print it onto luxury vinyl tile but wall base as well! This capability allows us to be more creative in the ways we can bring an Owner’s brand into the design of their space.


Laura Hardin

I find myself trying to remember all of the carpet, textile, wall covering designs, and new furniture trends. But what I typically am in search of is unique glass design. I don’t get a chance to specify this product often but I do find it fascinating on the inspiration and overall design created for decorative glass. Skyline Glass doesn’t disappoint, this year’s glass designed by Suzanne Tick won two NeoCon gold awards. Two patterns in particular caught my eye, Diffuse & Disperse as they are simple and timeless with the ability to layer and scale to a design for the perfect fit into a project. I look forward to the official release of these new patterns as well as the other new exciting products we saw.

Interior Design that Encourages Collaboration in the Corporate Environment

When planning for corporate environments, the color of the walls and pattern of the carpet are important but not nearly as critical as creating an environment that encourages collaboration. Two main styles of collaborative spaces should be considered.

  1. Laid-back Lounge

Comfortable areas in business offices are trending within the interior design world. By using sofas, ottomans and smaller tables in place of the typical desk and chair, employees can feel more at home. Kicking back and propping your feet up for a casual meeting with a few colleagues can allow for creative juices to flow more naturally. Including a lounge-style setting in the workspace, breaking up the traditional use of cubicles and offices, is also more appealing to the younger employees. Millennials gravitate toward an open concept space because it meets their need for social interaction while brainstorming business ideas. Playful pops of color, patterns and use of different textures help bring the space together. Legos, writable furniture surfaces, and moveable furniture allow employees to interact with their environment. This type of collaboration setting naturally works for businesses like marketing agencies, sales-focused businesses and design firms — but should also be considered as an option for meeting spaces for much more traditional professionals.

  1. Flexible Structure

If designing for a more formal office setting, an enclosed conference room may be more accommodating for serious meetings. Employees may need to spread out papers, take notes on their laptops, or shut the doors for a call. While a large, wired work surface and more traditional work chairs may be more appropriate in these spaces — productivity can be enhanced through technology integration, operable partitions and a variety of display options including writeable wall surfaces, multiple monitors and accommodations for video conferencing. This type of collaboration setting works meetings where formal presentations are necessary.

B&T Conference Furniture

Barnes & Thornburg Conference Space

It is not uncommon to see a mixture of lounge and flexible structure settings worked into the interior design of an office. Both of these styles do require the element of flexibility in order to function properly. In both, employees need to be able to move the furniture around and customize the use of the pieces to best fit the function of the meeting.

Consideration of multiple types of different collaborative spaces can help your client function more effectively and feel at home in their office space.

Top Trends at NeoCon 2015

About NeoCon

For Laura and Liam, interior designers at Schmidt Associates, NeoCon is simply an event that can’t be missed. NeoCon is the largest commercial interiors show in North America, and has been held at The Merchandise Mart in Chicago since 1969. The three-day event, buzzing with over 1 million square feet of exhibition space, focuses on fostering connections and learning opportunities in the interiors industry. The event showcases more than 700 leading companies and attracts nearly 50,000 design professionals.

NeoCon features new products specific to each of the following:

  • Workplace
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Education
  • Public Spaces
  • Government


Top Trends for NeoCon 2015


1. lounge

Majority of the furniture throughout the showrooms trended towards designs reflecting the 1970’s in both the lines of the furniture and the colors. Further, residential furniture styles that embodied comfort and privacy started to creep into the commercial work place, focusing more on creating areas that provide a sense of relaxation and privacy that a person feels at home.

One such example of this “home to office” trend can be seen in the showroom’s lounge areas. The lounge pieces featured were geometrically shaped, yet comfortable and inviting. In addition, sofas and foot rests were also trending to really achieve that “homey” feel in the workplace.

2. floor

Carpet tile systems ruled the flooring category in residential and in the office. While carpet has been a primary floor covering in office spaces for some time, the new trending tile systems put a larger focus custom design. The carpets came in square tiles or planks with a lot of added texture and organic patterns. These tiles and planks could then be arranged however the designer pleased to match the look and feel of a specific room.

Carpet trends:

  • Mix and Match tiles and planks: Different colors, textures and patterns to make new, unique patterns. Allows for owner to choose how they want their tiles or planks arranged.
  • Deconstructed carpet: Backing shows through the raised texture to mimic the look of natural products like wood, stone, and cobblestone streets.
  • Modern floral patterns


3. Felt

Felt was featured in nearly every showroom and proved to serve a variety of purposes, especially in the workplace.

Felt was used for:

  • Desk and room separators
  •  Acoustics
  • Wall decorations and coverings


4. Ottomans

Bright colors and geometric shapes sum up the ottoman trend. Majority of the ottomans were displayed as sets with multiple geometric pieces, which allowed for the individual ottomans to be connected and arranged in a variety of ways.


5. Focus Spaces

Similar to the lounge areas, the focus spaces also provided privacy and comfort in the workplace. Many of the spaces were tall like old phone booths and formed some sort of cocoon around a person’s head to keep the sound in and block outside distractions. Majority were made with bright colored felts and featured comfy chairs and foot rests, once again pushing for that homey feel in the office.


Closing Thoughts

“NeoCon is a great opportunity to not only see new products and finishes, but also to see fresh ideas on how these components can be incorporated into different settings. The experience fuels our creative minds and strengthens our know-how for future projects here at Schmidt Associates.”
– Liam Keesling, Schmidt Associates Interior Designer




The Layers of Interior Design

After the dust settles and the walls have been constructed, your facility project is still far from done. This is when the work of the interior designers really starts to take shape. There are nine key layers to interior design.

•  Color – The most obvious layer is color. Establishing a theme or inspiration of a space is key in developing a color palette. Designers need to decide several factors, perhaps most importantly, whether the color scheme should be complementary or monochromatic.
•  Contrast – Regardless of the decision about complementary or monochromatic colors, contrast needs to be incorporated. This can be accomplished with paint, finishes, or even accessories.
•  Textures – Fabrics can be a vital piece of this layer. Mixing fabrics with various scales and patterns offers visual interest and can soften and add warmth to spaces.
•  Form & Function – A space should help the user fit into it without frustration. No matter how beautiful a room may be, without functionality it won’t be successful.
•  Furniture – The right furniture can make or break a space. It is a vital piece of finishing a room successfully.
•  Lighting – Whether you choose to go with overhead lighting or accent lighting, low-level and dimming are crucial elements in the design. We all know lighting is necessary, but have you ever thought of it as an accessory or an art piece as well?
•  Movement – The flow of a space must make sense. Your overall design must be well planned and thought out.
•  Accessories – In any space, accessories can play a major role in the finished product. Your space may feel incomplete until all pieces are in place, ranging from artwork and pillows to drapes and timepieces.
•  Architecture – And to us, it goes without saying that design inspiration has to work within the architecture. A direct decision needs to be made early in the process whether the designs will work together or dramatically contrast one another.

As you can see, this discipline is far from just picking the color of paint on the walls.