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  • Writer's pictureJustine Rowbotham-Belot

A Day in the Life of a Design Student

Choosing a career can be very challenging and stressful. To assist those deciding if a career in Interior Design is a good fit for them, we interviewed a recent graduate of Calgary’s Mount Royal University’s Bachelor of Interior Design program. Here’s what she had to say:

How did you know you wanted to become an Interior designer?

Throughout high school I took architecture courses and realized early on that I had a passion for design, and I was good at it. I preferred interior design over architecture because I liked the interactive aspect of interiors, and how people interact and move within a space or structure. I love the world of design in its entirety, but I wanted to focus more on how people move within a space, how it is utilized for each individual user and how boundaries of an interior volume can be pushed to create something unique. Interior design was the perfect way to be creative while focusing on incorporating the building elements without the boundaries of city parameters.

What are the different kinds of classes one should expect to take throughout the program?

During my degree there were two main practices in design, theory based, and functionality based. Theory based practice focuses more on design technique through research and is geared towards enhancing your understanding of design. Whereas functionality classes focus on hands on, collaborative studio time where professors are there to assist you whenever you need.

Describe a typical day

Each year is different but for the most part the day starts early with 8:30am classes, most often starting with studio time for three hours, lunch break, then more classes that vary depending on your year such as design theory or design tools. We usually head back into studio afterwards to work on projects at that point or go home to work on them. Nights are always late, usually in bed past midnight and then all over again the next day. The projects don’t stop so you need to manage your time very effectively, including sleep and getting proper meals. I wouldn’t change anything or do anything differently; I am extremely proud of my degree and the projects I completed throughout my four years.

How did you find the workload?

The workload for an interior design degree completely depends on the school and the program itself. My experience with first year wasn’t as heavy as the others, but it was abstract and creatively focused. Whereas second year pushed the students to see who had real passion for the program, which they did in third year as well. Third year focused more on the physical and technical aspects of interior design. Fourth year was all about your thesis and your individual designs and intentions. It is hard to fit all the knowledge you need for success into just four years, design is constantly changing and developing, there were a lot of late nights and “all-nighters” trying to get all the assignments finished.

Give an example of a typical assignment

One of my favourites was in third year. The assignment was to re-brand an existing coffee shop and re-vamp it in its entirety and design a new café storefront and floorplan which I found really fun to do.

How much school were you able to take into the workplace?

I would say I have taken almost 90% of my education to the workplace, school is very important, but I am also a believer in learning on the job as well and learning through experience.

Were you able to make lasting connections in the industry?

I was able to make connections with my professors who work and socialize in the industry outside of school, it is important to use them as a resource if the opportunity presents itself. I was lucky enough to have a job lined up for me after graduation, but a lot of my classmates had to rely on networking and connecting in the industry. Making lasting connections with your classmates is also very important, which I was able to do with many of them. They become your colleagues and resources you may need to rely on later on in life.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while in design school?

The biggest challenge was the amount of work required for my degree program, lots of late nights and all-nighters, which is a normal occurrence in a design program – it shows who is passionate and committed and who is not.

What was your greatest accomplishment while in design school?

My greatest accomplishment was being able to persevere through the late nights and find my passion remained in the grueling schedule of the program. I managed to never miss a deadline, maintained top grades amongst my peers, and received recognition from the schools Deans List and Honour Roll. The pressure and tight deadlines spark a fire in you that I believe you need in order to be unique and push the boundaries of traditional design practice.

Did you find the teachers prepared you well for the workplace?

There were some technical things such as design budget and constraints that we needed for the workplace that were often neglected in our school projects, but like I said it is hard to squish everything into four years. The professors did a great job at pulling creativity out of us and our designs and pushing our boundaries to think outside the box.

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