Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interior Design Job Interview Traps

Some interior design firms conducted job interviews can be for anything but looking for talents, some design firms contacted job seekers knowing they were not qualified but still asked the job seekers to come by with their portfolios anyway. The job seekers then would never hear anything from the design firms after the interview. Few months or years later, some job seekers would shockingly see some design ideas showing on the project photos published on the design magazines looked strikingly similar to his/her design ideas, and then realized that project photos were published by the design firms he/she did the job interviews with in the past.

To the newly graduates, please don't show your portfolios just to anyone, not even to the well-known designers. In the interior design world, everyone copies everyone. Never leave any copy of your portfolio behind to the design firms you went to do the job interview with. Always bring your portfolios with you, you come, portfolios come, you leave, portfolios leave. Also, only show some examples of your design ideas, don't show everything you have. Most of interior design firms will never teach you everything you need to know for running interior design business, so why give them your all?!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Interior designer, a creative driven career without the importance of being creative

When we talked about any design, the first thing came to our mind would be creativity, but the fact proves creativity does not play any important role in interior design business anymore. Instead, how well you can socialize, and how good the connection you have become the main factors for success. That is why we always can see the most stupid designs published on the magazines with no taste, no creativity, but full of mistakes and improper designs. Who else can we blame?! No one! Even NCIDQ exam does not test designers’ creativity. It is not like surgeons must be very good at what they do, interior designers can design ugly interior space, so what?! the clients will not die!!

Milk To The End

Construction business is suffering but at least construction companies or the workers that did big constructions will have the government’s Job Bills to help to work on infrastructures, the interior designers, architects, contractors, and the suppliers who usually did high end residential projects will have no such luxuries. Reckless spending cuts start to show its negative impact on the economy, and the congress gridlock will even worsen the already depressed market, so I really do not see anyone will spend big money on high end residential interior design in the near future. Many interior designers have started to advertise more aggressively and even turn themselves into business consultants to educate others how to survive in this tough economy and get more clients. Well, I admire those interior designers and design magazines can adjust their business strategies and goals quickly in order to survive themselves, but the fundamental problem of the market is not people can’t see or find your advertisements, but no one is willing to spend that kind of money even though they have seen your ads a thousand times, so under this kind of circumstance, all of those big talks in those marketing speeches, classes, strategy conferences to me are simply business agenda for those design magazines or interior designers turned business consultants. They knew there would be no one out there looking at those ads you spent a fortune on, and they also knew the possibilities for you to get a big client in this kind of economy climate would be nearly zero, but they are still trying to educate you how important it is to market yourself even more aggressively by asking you to pay to attend their seminars or to post your ads on their magazines. For me, they are just treating you like a big mama cow and milk you till you exhaust the last bit of money you have saved.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interior Designers' Backgrounds

Being in interior design business for more than a decade, I have heard all kinds of backgrounds the interior designers were from, from showroom sales, furniture store sales, department store sales, artists, hair stylists, make-up artists, to teachers and house wives, you name it, but when I learned a well-known interior designer from South Florida who used to be a truck driver, I was speechless.
I have to ask why the interior design field in the US is full of the designers who are not professionally trained, not NCIDQ certified, not state licensed but all can be design firm owners and make a fortune but those who are formally trained as interior designers, NCIDQ certified, and state licensed interior designers can barely survive?! Why has interior design become a profession that is un-professional leading professional? What is wrong with interior design business? Has any interior design organization been doing anything about it? Has any design school been doing anything about it? I am outraged to see those armatures who are making all the money while professionally trained designers are struggling to survive, not only it is wrong but unfair to the consumers.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Interior Design Career Blockers

Wanna pursue your career in interior design? It is not as easy as you think. You can be as creative as you can be, but these four interior design career blockers will delay or even prevent your dream from coming true:
  • The Economy: Interior design business is affected by the economy tremendously. Because interior design is not considered as the "essential", people think they can have it or not. Some people can die without seeing a doctor, some people can be in jail without hiring a lawyer, but what kind of serious emergency will happen to people without having their houses done by an interior designer? None. So, when the economy is down, interior design will be the first thing that consumers would like to cut down or cut off. Interior design has been portrayed as "Luxury" or "For the wealthy", so low income people usually do not even think about it even the economy is good, middle class people will completely cut it out because it is not essential, and wealthy people will put the projects on hold because they want to observe the market and wait. I had seen this phenomenon first hand in person in New York City back in 2001 after the 911 Attack, and the recession we are having now starting from 2008. Massive laid offs that forced many interior designers out of business. The lucky ones can hang on by becoming instructors for the CE classes or the marketing instructors. Those who are not so lucky will be forced to completely give up their careers and do something else that are totally have nothing to do with interior design.

  • Government's Regulations: Many countries around the world and most states in the US do not require interior designers to be licensed in order to practice interior design. In the US, the state of Florida has the most stringent regulations to regulate the professions including interior designers. However, the current law in Florida still allows the un-licensed interior designers to work on residential projects, and that makes licensed interior designers face tremendous competition from everyone including the people who are not necessarily creative or talented but just business or marketing savvy. Because these business and marketing savvy people are usually have the skills or money to open up their own design companies, they can just hire the licensed designers who are really creative and talented to work for them, and it creates an unique phenomenon in the interior design industry which is the un-professionals leading the professionals. Moreover, the income gap between interior design company owners and interior designers who work for someone else is huge. While the interior design company owners can make more than $200K/YR easily with minimum or no interior design related education or work experiences, those really creative and talented designers who work under the design company owners will be super fortunate if he/she can make $60K/YR with more than 10-year interior design related work experiences plus NCIDQ certified plus LEED AP plus 4-year bachelor's degree in interior design. If I were a parent who has a son or daughter wants to be an interior designer, do you think I will allow my kids spending my life savings to study interior design in the college after knowing all these?! Of course not! I'd rather having my kids major in business administration instead.

  • The Market Norms: The government regulations are not so friendly to interior designers, but the market norms are even more cruel to interior designers. The consumers usually think interior designers are "decorators", what they do are just selecting fabrics, paint colors, furniture, light fixtures, and accessories not knowing interior design actually involves lots of structural and architectural related knowledge. Lack of understanding what interior designers do discourages the consumers to hire interior designers who usually charge slightly higher fees but hire usually less expensive decorators to do interior design work which often involves construction, electrical, plumbing, HVAC as well as ADA requirements and LEED certification requirements that will directly affect the occupants' health, safety, and well-being. For residential projects, in many occasions, interior decorators got more business opportunities than interior designers even though the projects involve construction, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC.

  • Your Employers: You might be wondering how can employers be career blockers since they are supposed to serve the role as your career mentors, but in reality, they can be just the opposite. This career blocker is the bi-product of the 3 career blocks I discussed above. Because of the bad economy, because of the government regulations, and because of the market norms, interior design becomes an extremely competitive business, everyone is trying to survive in this tough business and everyone becomes your competitor no matter who he/she is. If you are a business/marketing savvy business owner, you will do whatever you can to prevent those interior designers who work under you from learning how to run interior design business or do the marketing, you will never let them do any task that relates to marketing, and you will never ever even let those interior designers work under you see a copy of your letter of agreement or contract, you will divide the tasks for different designers, one designer will only do drafting, one will only do purchasing, and another one will only do job site supervising, and they will never learn anything else but just that one task or few tasks you signed them to do, and when those real creative and talented designers who worked under you designed any project, you will publish the project on the magazines and take all of the credits but will never ever mention your employees' names. Also, when those design companies hire interns or junior designers, they will teach the junior designers or interns as least as possible so that they will not create their own future competitors. Well, you might think that is ridiculous, how much threats a junior level designer or an intern can put on an interior design firm owner or an interior designer who has let's say 15-year interior design related work experience? How about an intern or a junior level designer who is coming from a very well connected and wealthy family?! those people can basically open up a design firm funded by their affluent parents with large numbers of client sources introduced by their parents 1 month after they graduated from college, they can be market ready and beat your company anytime! How about the intern or junior designer who sucked on interior design with no creativity or talent but business/marketing savvy?! You think they can kick your butt fast? then good luck on mentoring those who are not only business/marketing savvy but also creative, talented, and rich. So, in this dog-eat-dog interior design field, you really think anyone will mentor you?! dream on!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Career Coach or the Problem Source?

When I heard the career coach at the seminar said interior designers must have their own firms in order to succeed, so her job was to teach interior designers how to run their own businesses. I wondered why interior designers must have their own businesses? why can’t they make good living by working for someone else? why can’t they be successful by working for someone else? why is the income difference between the interior design firm owners and interior designers who work for someone else is so great?
At first, I thought the career coach just wanted to say that so she could get more businesses since she makes the living by coaching interior designers to run their own businesses, but when I think deeper, the career coach, who was a furniture sales before becoming an interior designer, was actually the source of the problem.

There are too many people in interior design business who were not educated as interior designers, they didn’t study interior design in colleges, they are not NCIDQ certified, they have no interior design related credentials or educations, many of them are just bunch of business savvy people who want to share a piece of pie in the design market, so what they do?! they hire someone who had educations in interior design, they hire someone who is NCIDQ certified or state licensed to work for them, after few years learning from those real interior designers, those business owners have learned whole bunch, so they thought, if I can make lots of money and run a successful interior design business without any formal interior design education or training, I probably can find someone who is like me to work for me but pay him/her much less, and because there are so many none interior design majored or licensed interior designers out there who share the job market with those real interior design educated ones, the salary level for interior designers will never get higher.

Interior designers who had formal interior design educations and trainings do not have the leverage to negotiate salary with their employers because they can be quickly replaced by those designers who are not interior design majored or certified but learned their experiences through other real interior designers while worked as a secretary, a sales person, or whatever in a furniture store or in a store that sells kitchen cabinets or bath accessories. If we have too many people like the career coach keep jumping into the interior design market to share the pie, there is no way interior designers will be able to make good living by working for someone else, and it will be a huge disadvantage especially to those very creative designers since most creative people are not naturally business savvy, and slowly, there won’t be any creative people left in our business but just bunch of businessmen. Will that be good for interior design profession if this industry is leading by bunch of businessmen? is that fair for the clients who are looking for creative individuals but what they can get only are those business savvy businessmen?! You be the judge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Need a good interior design career advice

My boss has promised me to give me minimum $10,000 US Dollars bonus after the project I am working on is completed. However, my Christmas bonus this year is just half of the amount I got last year, and the reason according to my boss is that the company does not make any money this year, so I wonder how I can be sure my boss will not use the same excuse and cut my bonus to half or not to give me any bonus at all after the project is completed?! It just does not make any sense. Moreover, I have been asking my boss to put whatever she promised in writing but she refused. Can anyone give me a good advice whether I should stay and work on the project till the end and hope my boss will not screw me over or I should just resign as soon as I get another job offer?