I recently spoke to an audience of interior design students at a local college, as well as the head of a local university's design program.
My talk at the college was about how to get from the chairs those students were currently sitting in -- their school’s nice drafting stools -- to their dream, to their version of success, to their career goals.
When I met with the head of the university’s design program, she had come over to my studio to discuss how my intern's experience was going, as well as their academic program as a whole.
During both engagements, there were two things I mentioned that caused me to think about what is most important in a design education...
Two things students should concentrate on as they prepare to begin a career in this business...
Two things they should they take with them as their most important assets upon graduation.
001 The Art
This is the basis for it all.
There is no way to get around this. If you don’t understand the elements of design, and how they can be applied to any artistic endeavor, you cannot play the role of the designer or artist.
You must learn how to SEE. You must work to get past what your brain tells you and see things for what they really are.
You must learn how to explain the reasons behind your artistic decisions - and if you can’t get those across verbally or with visuals, then you can’t call yourself a professional. If you have a full understanding of how the elements of design can work to produce a good design then you can communicate that. Understanding is key.
In order to have complete understanding, you need practice. You need practice to apply those elements on a regular basis to see what the outcome will be. You get that practice in school, with projects and activities. You also get it in training, in internships, and in a first job. Practice is essential.
The art of interior design is what has helped sustain my career - it’s the one constant, the one thing that never changes. The elements of design are your tools. Once you learn these and master their use, they will last for an entire career. Everything is based on the artistic nature of design. You won’t have to go back to school to learn this. You will use the art of design in each project throughout your career.
Master the art. Practice the art. Develop the art.
That’s what people will pay you for.
002 The Love of Learning
If you think this business has changed in the last five years, just think about how it will change in the next ten!
These days, to imagine that after you graduate you will have mastered everything you think you will have to know in this business is ludicrous. You must love learning, because the business will never allow you to stop. You must be instinctively searching, curious, and open, at all times.
Take technology for example: When I graduated from college we didn’t have CAD. Or email. Or a computer at our desks! Can you imagine! How did we get any work done!
Just think of how things will work ten years from now - or twenty! There will be all sorts of new ways to do business that we have yet to dream up. There will be new skills to learn and new tools to master. You have to constantly learn new things to keep up and compete in this business, in any business. Never will you be able to afford to sit back and rest on your laurels thinking you’ve mastered it all.
A love of learning, a natural curiosity, an openness to a new way of doing things is forever an asset to anyone. A higher education can give you that insatiable desire to learn and move forward and explore. It can create a craving for more knowledge -- And throughout all your working days, that craving will do you more good, and keep you on the edge of your work more than anything else.
Develop a craving for new knowledge.
Get a good education. Learn your art. The principles. The rules.
Don’t ever set yourself on autopilot. Forever be the student. Live to learn.
This is some d*mn good advice I've just laid out for you, so take it for what it's worth, with your diploma in hand, and get yourself out there in the real world so you can do some really great work ;-)