trade tales | Apr 30, 2021 |
7 designers on what they wish design schools would teach

While design schools inarguably play an important role in a designer’s education, no program can teach you everything you’ll need to know in your career. With that in mind, we asked seven interior designers—Matt Donahoe, Amanda Evans, Rebecca Hay, Letecia E. Haywood, Peti Lau, Kara Miller and Risha Walden—what skills they wish design schools would cover.

Risha Walden
Risha WaldenCourtesy of Risha Walden

Trust the process
“Financials and marketing are two components of owning a design firm that are not a focus at design school, but they’re extremely important to being successful as a business owner. I would encourage design schools to teach students how to create a straightforward, easy client-onboarding process. From initial consultations to the final touches of the space, having a set process to work with your clients makes the creative part of interior design a lot easier to accomplish.” —Risha Walden, Walden Interiors, Millburn, New Jersey

Peti Lau
Peti LauCourtesy of Peti Lau

Practical experience
“I wish that the schools would teach students more practical operational skills by requiring an internship program where students get to work with a design firm. I got the most valuable hands-on experience and understanding of how the business of design actually worked when I was interning, and that was so useful when I had to run my own business. Just learning about the different vendors out there is such a huge piece of the business that the schools don’t teach you. It’s something you learn by doing or being exposed to.” —Peti Lau, New York

Amanda Evans
Amanda EvansCourtesy of Amanda Evans

Live and learn
“There is a lot of focus on the technical skill of becoming an interior designer, but not enough on the business side of things or running a project from start to finish. Not everyone wants to run their own design firm, but I think it is safe to say that most designers aspire to have their own business one day. There are no standard business practices in the interior design world, and a lot of growing your business is trial and error. Most of this could be avoided with more knowledge taught in school about how the business of design works.” —Amanda Evans, Amanda Evans Interiors, Vancouver

Kara Miller
Kara MillerCourtesy of Kara Miller

Gut feeling
“[They should teach you] how important instincts are! From design selections to making sure you are taking on the right kind of clients, instincts are everything. You have to trust your gut and stick to it. Also, personality management and relationship building: You can have all the design skills in the world, but if you aren’t good at building trust, it will be hard to maintain longevity with clients.” —Kara Miller, Kara Miller Interiors, Jupiter, Florida

Letecia E. Haywood
Letecia E. HaywoodCourtesy of Letecia E. Haywood

A numbers game
“As a business owner and employer, I wish design schools would tackle in-depth business accounting courses and time management. While I understand that you can hire someone to do the job, it is imperative to know the ins and outs of the design business. Regarding time management, it's one thing to meet the final deadline—however, the time spent in each design phase to get to the finish line is a different story altogether!” —Letecia E. Haywood, Letecia Ellis Haywood Interior Design, Houston

Matt Donahoe
Matt DonahoeCourtesy of Matt Donahoe

Keep growing
“[Schools should teach students that] design is not static. Our industry is constantly shifting, and maintaining pace and cadence can prove challenging for designers who expect a direct path. Within our team, each individual, including myself, has grown in tremendous ways since our education or prior work experience because we embrace change and non-convention. Junior members of our team initially rely on rote skills in lieu of creative thought. I am personally a big believer in ‘following your gut,’ and a designer’s intuition is what separates one from the pack.” —Matt Donahoe, Bureau Interior Design and Architectural Consulting, Nashville, TN

Rebecca Hay
Rebecca HayCourtesy of Rebecca Hay

All systems go
“The power of process [should be taught]. Systems are integral to any business, and unfortunately, most design schools don't spend a lot of time teaching designers how to run their own business. It's not enough to be a talented designer these days—you must also fine-tune your business practices to create those raving fan clients.” —Rebecca Hay, Rebecca Hay Designs, Toronto, Ontario

Homepage photo: A project by Rebecca Hay | Courtesy of Rebecca Hay

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