11 Skills Needed To Become An Interior Designer

By AALofts Design

If you’re an interior designer, your skills & ability to find solutions are consistently challenged & for that reason; the job is exciting & varied. A great interior designer’s goal is creating environments for clients that satisfy & inspire. These designers make indoor spaces functional, safe, & beautiful by determining space requirements & selecting essential & decorative items, such as colours, lighting, & materials. 

If you become an interior designer, you will be working with colleagues & collaborators who are highly skilled people & who also appreciate the craft. Your day to day life will be dealing with different tastes, technology, & designing spaces to affect people positively. Are you thinking about embarking on this career but you’re unsure what skillsets you need to develop to become successful? This article is a comprehensive guide to all the technical & intrinsic skillsets all great interior designers have.

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Interior Designer's iMac

1 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need A Discerning Eye.

While good taste is not the sole requirement to be an interior designer, it’s certainly a prerequisite. Wherever you go, it’s immediately apparent that many people need help arranging furniture, selecting window treatments or rugs, & hanging art. Interior designers have to focus on both the little details & the big picture simultaneously to craft cohesive spaces. Most designers possess a natural creative flair or at least, a keen interest in design. Interior designers will use colour, form, light, line, pattern, texture & space to create unity.

There’s no way not to see it. Too often there are such glaring mismatches or outright misplaced items. Keep in mind that this is not confined to residential décor (one of the more egregious offenders). The upside to all of this is when you encounter innovative interior design. Well-arranged furniture or commercial displays can be truly gratifying to see. They will inspire you for future projects & represent a golden opportunity to compliment aesthetically beautiful spaces.

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2 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need People Skills.

Strong communication skills are an absolute must when it comes to succeeding in interior design. You’ll need frequently communicate your design intentions & why you think they’re an effective solution to your client’s problems. I’ve seen many talented designers never get full recognition & autonomy because they couldn’t effectively communicate with clients & other staff members. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed less hard-working designers flow from project to project because they know how to network- it’s the way of the world.

Interior designers often work collaboratively, meaning you’ll be working alongside other designers from various disciplines, manufacturers, marketers, you name it. Your ability to work well with different teams will dictate the project’s success & as they say- it’s a small world out there. You want to increase future project opportunities by leaving a long-lasting, great impression with as many people as possible.

Ultimately, interior design is a people-based service. That is, you are creating spaces that are fit for purpose but more importantly, people enjoy living/ working in. You may not be interacting with the general public every day, but it certainly helps to adopt some front of house mannerisms in a job like this. People are more likely to trust you & your decisions if you can present yourself well to others. When it comes to residential projects, people tend to hire people they like.

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3 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Patience & Tenacity.

This goes for most jobs, but especially design jobs where many successful results are based on subjective opinions. There are some jobs where you’ll be asked to redo the same thing over & over until a client is happy. These circumstances require professional detachment & the ability to see the bigger picture or else you might experience despair & frustration. While designers regularly exercise creative expression, many tedious & mundane tasks come with the territory.

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4 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need to Be Tech Savvy.

To do well in the industry that is currently integrating BIM & virtual reality displays, you will need to keep up to date with all the latest industry software & manufacturing processes. While you can learn & develop your tech skills, working knowledge of a wide range of industry-standard software is usually the norm among designers.

During the pre-information age; designers used to draft by hand. But now drafting tables have firmly been replaced with software such as AutoCAD, Revit, 3Ds Max & Vectorworks. That said, hand drawings have not been completely eliminated from the creative process & beautiful illustrations are still used in presentations to convey the space’s mood or general arrangement. Coupling artistic skills with tech can give a designer a competitive edge.

Unless you have been hired to illustrate by hand explicitly, you are unlikely to go very far without knowing your way around a computer. Skills in CAD software are now mandatory for most if not all interior designers. These tech skills are taught at universities & on both free & paid online courses. For example, there are fantastic courses available on LinkedIn learning courses.

However, I wanted to highlight that an initial lack of technical ability shouldn’t stop you from getting into this profession if it genuinely inspires you. Instead, ask yourself whether you have a willingness to learn. I have been a professional designer for years & I’m not even close to knowing it all, but over the years I picked up many technical skills that couldn’t conceive of in the beginning because I felt driven to do so. Start with what you have & grow with the development of technology.

This leads me nicely into my next point…

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5 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Drive.

Successful designers show up to work ready to think of solutions, learn & exercise their creativity. Design is not an easy profession & to succeed; you need to stay on top of your game. A genuine desire to succeed in this discipline will keep you going during the dull tasks or when you come up against challenging clients.

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6 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need A Thick Skin.

This one isn’t an obligatory requirement, but it will make your life a lot easier if you can take knock backs on the chin. Taste is subjective & therefore, not everyone will appreciate what you do. You spend years perfecting your signature style, but it won’t always be everyone’s cup of tea. A professional designer will know & accept this & adapt their choices to suit the clients’ wishes where appropriate.

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7 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Strong Spatial Awareness.

Designers have to envision & interact with their surroundings. Strong spatial awareness is fundamental in accomplishing this. Spatial awareness is the understanding & use of space in an effective way. It sounds simple, but it requires a high level of mastering to get correct. You can develop spatial awareness by exercising the use of whitespace, for example, or grouping elements to create compositions. Designers will often have a natural ability to do this.

Designers who are good at using space to is maximum functionality will find that objects can be placed in all sorts of unconventional ways still work. Often, beginner designers place elements based on what “looks” or “feels” right; however, this should only be used as a guide. Later on down the line, there will need to be revisions for accuracy & consistency are very low.

You can start to develop better spatial awareness by creating a grid system. A grid divides your canvas into small sections consisting of margins, columns, modules, flowlines and spatial zones. The canvas then ends up looking like a series of boxes with columns. With this grid, you can now find where elements should be placed on the page to activate & take advantage of space. Because you are using space in a consistent mathematical way, the design’s overall composition feels much more consistent & unified.

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8 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need to Be Organized.

Interior designers must be extremely organized to complete projects on time & within budget. If the projects exceed the deadline or the resources, you will struggle to find repeat business. Designers need to stick to a strict schedule. Although unexpected delays & expenses will inevitably pop up, you’ll need to allow for these surprises in your plans ahead of time.

Depending on the scale of the studio or the projects you are working on, you might be responsible for multiple areas & multiple projects simultaneously. An ability to multi-task, problem-solve & schedule tasks & deliveries efficiently is also vital. An interior designer will need to coordinate various aspects of the project, & will need to liaise with several different parties. Including clients, architects, construction workers, engineers, plumbers, suppliers, project managers, etc.), as well as ensuring project completion within the budget & deadline set.

Elegant Interior Design Scheme

9 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Diplomacy.

Interior designers frequently have to balance their design ideas with their clients’ wishes. Part of the interior designer’s job is to guide the client towards the right design choice while ensuring that they feel in charge of any final decisions. While designers can offer clients various design styles to consider, they must always remember that the client has the last word on a result that works for them.

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10 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Awareness.

Trends come and go, & you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. Being able to identify & predict trends will help you remain relevant & in-demand. Plus, being able to detect fleeting trends will ensure your career stays resilient for years to come.

Keeping up with trends is essential to offer the best & most modern solutions to your client. For example, at the moment, there is a massive movement focused on environmental consciousness. Residential & business clients often ask interior designers to use recycled & environmentally friendly materials as much as possible.

Eco-friendly projects are becoming common & mainstream. It is in an interior designer’s best interest to already know product availability, cost & effectiveness. Designers should work towards having an excellent working knowledge of these desirable design features & technologies. Clients will rely on designers to make the best decisions, so this knowledge is vital for overall satisfaction.

Following the topic of awareness, interior designers will also need a working knowledge of the basic principles of design & the ability to apply them effectively. This includes developing an orderly look/ feel, & a proper flow of eye movement in a room. It also consists of an overall sense of unity among space & emphasis on signature pieces of furniture or features. Combining these principles is crucial to a functional & beautiful design.

elegant interior design scheme lounge aalofts design scaled

11 | To Become An Interior Designer, You Need Problem-Solving Skills.

Interior designers are critical thinkers who must use their time wisely & make appropriate decisions on the go. Some homes or offices have impediments, like wall supports or limited space, that get in the way of client requests. Designers need to develop strategies to work around these problems or discuss other ideas with clients when getting around these challenges is not possible. Delays in shipments & installations can also cause schedule conflicts, forcing the designer to work with the client & supplier on best possible solutions.

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Wrapping it All Up.

If you’re looking at becoming an interior designer, at first this list might seem daunting but don’t be too concerned. If you possess some of these traits & are willing to learn, you have the potential to succeed.

If you’re interested in further reading, please see the links to my trusted resources page & related articles below. To find out more about AALofts Design, please click here. If you found this content helpful, want to collaborate on a project, or would like to request an article topic, please click here to get in touch via the contact form. Feel free to share & connect on social media, if you found this content helpful.

Article by Amy Lofts.

Article by Amy Lofts.

Owner of AALofts Design

Welcome! I am a graphic designer & digital marketer with over ten years of experience within a range of industries including; e-commerce, architecture, cruise liners, textiles & interior design. Having grown with exposure to various disciplines of art & design, my brand reflects my love of elegance, beauty & exploration. Get in touch or learn more.

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