How do you develop your interior design career?

If you’re an aspiring or established interior designer you will be constantly thinking about how you’re going to develop your career. What comes next? How do you raise your professional profile?

To give you some starting points, we thought we’d ask one of our long-standing tutors, Jenny Grove, to give us her thoughts. Jenny is the author of Interior Design: A Professional Guide, published by the RIBA. Having worked for years as a designer, Jenny now helps interior designers find their professional voice through strategic content writing. Her website explains what she does in more detail.

Jenny recommends asking yourself four questions:


Nick Roberts, graduated 2012. Product Development Manager at Brinkworth Design. With a ‘making’ background he also works independently on his own projects at Atelier Kenelm.

1. What makes me different – and how can I make a difference?
Knowing who you are, who you want to work with, what type of projects you want to do, and how you want to present yourself will drive all your design and career decisions. This is not about your personal ‘design style’. This is deeper and answering these questions truthfully will form your usp and give you a clear set of criteria that you can base decisions on. For example, whether a new client or project fits your personal values, whether you are suited to running your own business or might feel more comfortable progressing your career within a design practice. This bit takes time and won’t come easily but it really helps to give you foundations for your career.

2. What am I missing in my knowledge bank?

Practising successfully as a designer means a careful balancing act of creative project work, project administration and business management. This means that our toolkit of skills and knowledge needs to be continually topped up and is never big enough as technology, materials, regulations etc are continually shifting and developing.The key is to take a curious and creative attitude to everything and learn from others, take top-up courses and CPDs, become a specialist. Be comfortable with not knowing it all but make it your business to connect with people who can fill in the gaps in your toolkit – collaboration is key.

3. How does my work benefit people, planet and profit?
Consideration of the three P’s – people, planet and profit – should underpin every decision you make in your career – on projects, for your business, for life generally.
People are at the heart of everything we do and we should aim to improve their lives – through their interior spaces and through their living and working conditions. This applies to our clients and the people who use the spaces we design and, very importantly, the people who make the elements that we specify for our interiors.

Beach house designed by Ron Design – Ryoko Ogoshi – graduated from our Professional Development Diploma 2015. She is an architect interior designer and this wonderful new build project is nominated for an international design award

We all have to consider our planet – and not harm it any more. We need to change our attitudes and those of our clients to thinking long-term, authentic, reuse, recycle, remodel – not short-term disposable and trend-led.

Profit is not just about the money (which of course we all need to survive) – it’s about value. Value is what you bring to your projects and your own business and directly relates to question one – you need to identify how you want to make a difference to add value and authenticity to your work.

4. How do I find clients and collaborators?
Word of mouth is by far the best way to get your first independent jobs and meet collaborators. Building relationships with other designers can often lead to them passing on a job that might be too small or they don’t have the capacity for. Once you have a project or two under your belt, make sure they are photographed professionally and beautifully styled, then get a press release prepared to send out to the key magazines. Remember that your clients might have friends or colleagues looking for a designer – keep your clients informed of what you are doing, invite them for social events. And best of all repeat business is the best business – keep an eye on your clients and see if their circumstances change so you can prompt them into thinking about another project with you. Be proactive and look for clients.

Basically it all comes down to people. Learn to make connections and make it your job to meet people, seek out collaborators and possible clients. Go out and socialise!

If you’d like to try out interior design and want to learn the basic skills of how to write a project brief, how to find inspiration, how to draw, and how to put together materials and furniture – then an evening class might work for you. We have the first of our modular evening courses starting on Tuesday 25th September, or Thursday 4th October. Give us a call if you’d like more information.

“An exceptional year with students who are not only talented, but with good personal skills that are so often lacking.  All of them would be highly employable and it was heartening to see how they had considered social responsibility and need in their designs.”                                                          

Diana Yakeley  –  Past President of the BIID