Essential Classes for Design Students: College Courses Every Interior Design Major Should Take

Interior designers, obviously, need to be educated in the practice of design, color and space planning. Yet, this is only the beginning of a designer’s education. Planning for future career goals, and making themselves marketable for many different types of design positions, is a wise move for any design student. While not every college or university will offer every course in the following categories, design students should find a wide array of classes to choose from.

Building and Construction Classes

Although interior designers do not typically perform the construction work for their clients, having a basic knowledge of how a building comes together is helpful for every designer. Because designers often design specific architectural details within a space, construction knowledge will help them understand what can be done – and what cannot be done – within a space.

In many regions of the United States, single family homes are constructed from wood lumber. This stands in contrast with commercial construction such as office buildings, restaurants and multi-family residences, which are typically built with metal studs. By understanding the bones of a structure, a designer can better judge the changes that can be made, as well as the relative costs to make those changes and ways to improve the energy efficiency of a space.

Construction classes also offer a more thorough examination of building codes. Although codes vary by region, many codes are universal, and will apply throughout the US. For example, getting a good background in the ADA Guidelines (Americans with Disabilities Act) will put an interior designer head and shoulders above her competition when searching for employment.

Lighting courses are not always required classes for interior designers. While it may not be something designers do everyday, knowing the basics about the types of lighting available, best locations for it and how to determine the light needs for a room will allow the designer to offer services her competition may not offer.


Designers Need to Learn the Business

Many universities offer courses specifically geared toward the business of interior design. Designers need to have a good handle on writing contracts, invoicing, legal issues, ethical considerations and client relations. Beyond these excellent basics, however, are courses that are very helpful to any designer thinking of someday going into business for himself.

Every designer takes part in marketing to some degree. Whether they actually market their business to potential clients, or they simply sell their design ideas to a client, having a working knowledge of marketing is helpful to interior designers.

Accounting classes will give the designer a helpful boost in understanding the business from a monetary standpoint. While designers do not need to be expert accountants, having a basic understanding of accounting practices will allow them to make sure their business is profitable. At the least, they will know when to call in the expert accountant for help.

Management classes are also helpful for designers who may manage other employees someday. Learning the best ways to handle conflicts and resolve differences is useful, also, in dealing with difficult clients.

Knowing the Real Estate Market

Designers planning to enter the residential marketplace will benefit from a cursory knowledge of the real estate business. Again, designers need not become real estate experts to be successful. However, learning about real estate transactions and the needs of new homeowners can be helpful in carving out a niche for themselves.

Some designers specialize in new home construction or home staging. Often, this means working with real estate agents to create an environment that works best for selling the property. Home staging is completely different from standard residential design, and real estate knowledge can help designers learn the details of this field.

It is also helpful to learn the basics of exploring the real estate market in the designer’s preferred location. By knowing how to find real estate information in their areas, designers can find out what neighborhoods may contain potential clients, where to locate their offices or how to contact local agents.