Interior Designer

The training and function of interior designers should not be confused with that of interior decorators. Whereas the decorator’s function usually begins once planning and building are completed, an interior designers' function should ideally begin with the concept and continue through the planning and technical details to completion of the project.

Interior designers plan attractive and functional domestic and commercial human environments in buildings, taking into account the function, space available and space required by their clients.

Interior designers’ work is influenced by many factors, such as:

  • the people who are going to use the space
  • the function for which the space is intended
  • the limits to expansion of an existing building
  • the design of the building, if new
  • liaison and interaction with the architect and the builder

Thus, designers need to have a thorough knowledge of architectural design, technical service, technical drawing and construction methods, as well as building materials, to assist in the planning and execution of the project.

Once the interior space has been planned to suit the client’s needs, the coordination of colour schemes, finishes for walls, floors and ceilings, as well as the choice of furniture and accessories, must be completed in order to create a satisfactory and functional total environment. Each room is planned separately, bearing in mind the purpose and intended function of the room, who the occupants will be, which colours are suitable, and whether the atmosphere is to be formal or informal.

Ideally, interior designers should consult with their clients personally, to obtain enough information concerning the people who will occupy the building to satisfy their requirements. A central theme is usually chosen and furniture and colour schemes are planned accordingly.

To achieve harmony, colours need to be chosen carefully. Although interior designers follow modern trends and fashions, they also need some knowledge of earlier styles in order to satisfy clients who prefer retrospective classical periods, for example, Victorian or Regency.

Practical considerations, such as the prevailing climate, location of the building, and the available budget are some of the factors that have to be borne in mind. It is, therefore, advisable that the designer, the owner and the architect all become acquainted with the building site.

Before work begins, the interior designer must produce detailed drawings and sketches of the design, specifications for the work to be done, the material and finishes needed, together with an analysis of the costs, for acceptance and approval by the owner and architect. The interior designer must also attend to any problems that may arise once the work has begun, and do a final check to ensure that all the requirements and specifications have been adhered to and completed.

The nature of the work also necessitates visits to shops and factories, as the designer needs to be well informed about new developments and products on the market. Business can be transacted in offices, at sites during construction or in clients’ homes.

Personal Requirements

  • artistic, creative and imaginative
  • good business sense
  • technical aptitude
  • flair for three-dimensional design
  • patient, flexible and sensitive to client requirements / preferences
  • get along well with others
  • able to accept criticism
  • initiative and strong organisational skills
  • good eye for colour, line, form and design
  • dedicated and hard-working

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Art or a related subjects is highly recommended
Recommended subjects: Art, Design Studies, Engineering and Graphic Design


  • An art portfolio is required to demonstrate your creativity, abilities and commitment.
  • If you intend studying towards a degree in Fine Art at university, you will need to a Bachelor's pass in matric. If you intend studying a diploma in an art-related field, then you will need a Diploma pass in matric.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university or requirements set by the college.


What to Study

Degree: 4-year BA (Fine Arts) - all universities. Subjects should include History of Art and Architecture.

Diploma: N.Dip: Interior Design - CPUT, DUT, TUT, UJ, NMMU. Fine Arts - CUT, DUT, TUT, VUT.
Architectural Technology and Interior Design - NMMU, DUT.

Certificate: Port Elizabeth TVET ollege

Practising interior designers may provide in-service training to employees. Interior design courses are also offered at Private Colleges, such as Design School, The Design Centre and Inscape. These interior design courses prepare students for careers in a wide range of disciplines related to the fields of architecture, domestic housing and commercial interiors, as well as special purpose interiors. Exhibition-stand design and general display work are included in the course of study.

A degree or diploma in Fine Arts from a university, university of technology or college provides a useful background. Most of the courses offered only provide a basic background that needs to be supplemented with practical experience. Those planning to become consultant interior designers are advised to widen their practical experience as much as possible as this is indispensable in this profession.


  • departmental stores
  • interior decorating firms
  • design studios and display art studios
  • home furnishing stores
  • architectural firms
  • large companies
  • television and film studios
  • hotels and restaurant chains
  • performing art councils
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can start own business

Further Information

Design Centre
118 Greenway
Tel: (011) 646-1984

Getting Started

  • find holiday or part-time work in a departmental store, furniture, paint shop or other related business
  • study designing and decorating trends in magazines and stores
  • call on colleges to see what final year interior design students are doing

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

University of Johannesburg: Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture

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