How do you decide what interior design course to take?

There are so many on offer out there that it’s difficult to sift through all the possibilities. Here are our five key factors that will help you consider the pro’s and con’s of a degree vs an intensive one-year course.

Yes, obviously there’s a slight bias to one-year intensive courses, as this is what we offer, but these five factors are crucial considerations when you are deciding what type of course you want to take. This is a big decision that your future career depends on and will cost a significant amount of money, so not to be taken lightly!

1. Time and cost

Do you have three years to study a degree, or would you prefer to fast track your career with an intensive one-year diploma?

On the face of it, a one year diploma looks expensive. However if you add up what it would cost to take a degree the numbers come out even higher (3 years of fees, 3 years of living costs, 3 years of material costs).

Most importantly, by taking a degree, you are delaying getting into the workplace by two years – two years which will give you invaluable experience to fast track your career, or even start your own business.

2. Reputation

The reputation of a course is built over a period of time and depends on a number of factors:

  • how is the course perceived by the design profession?
  • who teaches on the course? Academics, or practising designers?
  • where are graduates working and how successful are they as interior designers? Check out our graduates page to see how well they are doing as professional interior designers.

Academic rankings are all very well, but at the end of your studies you want a job, to work as an interior designer so you need to make sure the course you are considering gives you the best opportunity to do that.

The Interior Design School was founded in 1991 and regularly comes in the top ten in industry polls, for example Arch20 – Architecture and Design Magazine.

3. Relevance

How relevant is the course content to actually working in the profession?

Carefully examine the course content and structure. How does it build on your skills and knowledge? What type of projects do you design? Many degree courses can be incredibly hypothetical and more like architecture courses than interior design where a lot of time is spent ‘thinking’ and the pace is fairly slow (unlike the real world of interiors).

At the Interior Design School our students learn at an amazingly fast rate – the learning curve is dramatic.

Each project builds on the previous one and covers residential, commercial, creative, branded and detailed design, along with professional practice. We teach skills and how to generate and explore ideas, and work with students who have never done anything creative previously, alongside others who have arts or architecture backgrounds. Read more about how the content of our courses is structured.

Our students leave with digital and paper folios that demonstrate the full gamut of skills and knowledge needed to work as an interior designer.

“The structure and intensity of the course combined with the maturity of the student means that they are useful and supportive to the design teams immediately”   Rachel Bowyer – Brinkworth

4. Facilities

It’s worth considering whether you want to be one of many on a degree, or one of a few on an intensive course. This decision has an impact on key factors of your course experience.

Many degree courses are now incredibly popular and regularly have 40+ students in a year group. This mean the facilities and teaching time available to you are minimal. Questions to consider are:

  • how many students are on the course – are you comfortable in a large group or would you like focused individual tuition?
  • what is the tutor/student ratio?
  • what is the quality of studio facilities – is there dedicated desk space?

The amount of hours each student spends individually with a tutor on a degree course can be as little as an hour per week (in some cases even less). Much of the learning is lecture based, or group work.

On an intensive one year diploma, the tutor/student ratio is dramatically better, and at the Interior Design School we aim to achieve an average of about half an hour per day individual tuition – usually at the drawing board, or computer, working directly to inspire, guide and advise the direction of your work and ideas. Combined with regular talks, workshops, visits, this is how our students achieve so much in so little time.

After having worked in marketing, I was attracted to the one year course at The Interior Design School. Its condensed curriculum covered every aspect of interior design (space planning, lighting, furniture detailing, materials). The high ratio of teachers to students meant a very personal approach and enabled me to build up a portfolio of work in residential, office and retail design. The course gave me the confidence to effectively change careers and built the skills needed to do so.         Annemarie van Rietgraduate 2000

Physical facilities are also important – what is the studio like? Will you have a dedicated workspace, or is it first come first served? And library facilities – is there a dedicated sample and product library along with extensive books on and around the subject area. Does the studio feel like an art school or like a professional workplace? Computer facilities – many one year courses include a computer in the course fee.

The final exhibition is your chance to show the world what you have achieved. Is it alongside all the other art courses in the university campus, or is it at an industry supplier showroom supported by the industry with a large number of the profession in attendance?

5. People

The people you meet when studying can become life-long friends and mentors – both students and tutors. So by being in an environment where you have the best opportunities to meet key players in the interiors profession, and work alongside motivated colleagues, is another critical factor when choosing a course.

Most degree courses are lead by academics, not practising designers, and are geared towards offering more ‘life education” than specific interior design training. At the Interior Design School, all our tutors are practising designers, artists, architects, writers as well as having academic experience. This keeps our courses fresh and relevant to the industry, our tutors feed back what the industry needs from it’s new designers.

Our Expertise page has a short bio of all our tutors and visiting critics and how we are connected to the profession.

After completing each project, our students present it to a practising visiting designer – many of whom go on to offer work placements at the end of the course. All our Diploma students will get workplace experience upon graduating, and many go on to full-time positions with these companies.

These are just a few of our successful graduates all now successfully working with some of London’s leading design companies – MoreySmith, Base Interiors and Brinkworth, – or who have started their own successful companies –  Marcel Eberharter, Jessica Gething and Yoko Kloeden,

Our supportive design practices like our students because they can fit right into a busy workplace, understand the pace of a design project, and are able to take decisions and responsibility having had previous careers.

“The Diploma in Interior Design and the ‘studio style’ set up of the school provide an excellent stepping stone into the world of becoming a full time designer. Many of the techniques and processes used are exactly as we work in our company which meant I felt immediately comfortable and confident when I came into my role and could add value from day one.”

Summer Mughrabi   – graduate 2010

Our students are generally career changers and often older than degree students – who may be changing from a career in finance or law, or are working in a related field but want to specialise in interiors. They come with life skills and transferable skills which help to accelerate the rate of learning and why they can complete the course in such a short space of time. They are incredibly motivated and support each other throughout the course.

At The Interior Design School life-long friendships are formed and you become part of the interior design family from the start. So if you’d like to kick-start your career in interior design give us a call to explore your options.

If you want to read more you might like to have a look at some related blog posts – Thinking about becoming an interior designer? and How do I start my interior design career?