Thinking of studying Interior Design? Here’s what to expect

Study interior design and put your love for art, design, and decorating spaces to good use.

Do you spend countless hours on the Internet looking at beautiful houses, home inspirations, and decorating ideas? You might be interested in studying a course where you’ll learn about all those and more.

We asked practicing interior designers and educators to share their insights on what happens in design school and what it’s like to be a design professional.


PSID’s graduation exhibit are students’ culminating project for the interior design course


Why should you take up interior design?

“Interior design is a course that guarantees employment, and not only as a licensed interior designer,” says Jie Pambid, VP for Academic Affairs at the Philippine School of Interior Design. “A graduate of the course can be employed in other allied disciplines such as publishing, media, visual merchandising, styling, and product design, to name a few.”

According to Ciela Manimtim-Castillo, faculty member at Fine Arts and Interior Design of St. Scholastica’s College-Manila, interior design is a perfect fit for detail-oriented individuals. “If you’re creative and inclined to giving spaces life through color and form, then interior design is an excellent choice for you. Design is exciting because your options are practically limitless. You can focus on specific project types like hospitality, commercial, or residential. You can also specialize on lighting, furniture, kitchens, or bathrooms,” she explains.

How do you become an interior designer?

“You will need to take up a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design, then take the board exams to become a licensed interior designer. There are different colleges and universities here that offer the course. At PSID, we have the four year course if you’re fresh from high school, and a two and a half year program if you already have an undergraduate degree,” explains Carol Peña-Santos, Dean of Academic Affairs at the PSID-AHLEN.

What things should you expect if you decide to take the course? What challenges will you encounter?

“Those thinking of taking up design are typically intimidated because they feel they’re not competent enough in technical drawing. However, those skills are developed right from the beginning of the course. You’ll be introduced to the rudiments of drafting and design. Interior projects, or what we call ‘plates,’ progress in difficulty. They begin with residential design problems, hotels and restaurants, then move on to hospitals and schools. The most challenging thing would probably be juggling the numerous plate requirements. There are courses that require drawings, while some require actual output, like decor items,” says Ciela.

“Expect long hours of plates,” Jie laughs. “But if you’re really interested in it, you’ll be trained in theories and precepts, as well as technical and analytical skill. Students will also learn the practice and professional aspect of the course. Upon graduation, they’ll already be able to make a living out of the education they’ve received.”

“You should know that it’s definitely not easy. It has science, math, accounting, business, drafting, and art subjects. Expect to have plenty of sleepless nights because it really requires a lot of dedication and passion. You will absolutely enjoy it though, if your heart is in it,” Carol adds.

Aside from technical skills, students also learn about art history, color theory, furniture design, and their various applications for different types of projects


How do you start an interior design practice?

“My initial clients came from an exhibit I designed, which was my thesis for school. I’m a freelance interior designer. In 10 years of practice, I haven’t had a day that I didn’t have a client. Interior designers can’t advertise their services. However, if you practice with the highest integrity, have good judgment, and great technical and artistic skill, people will come to you,” she continues. “As long as you’re after your clients’ best interests and exercise excellence in your work, you’ll always have clients that will appreciate what you do and refer your work to others.”

“You become a professional once you pass the PRC-administered licensure exams. We are required to get our Professional Tax Receipt every year. You should register with the tax agency as a practicing professional if you want to go into private practice, and DTI or SEC if you want to put up a firm,” says Ciela.

“If you’re a fresh grad and don’t have a lot of responsibilities, such as a house to pay for or kids to put through school, working in a firm is a great stepping stone into the industry. It offers a chance to learn and gather experiences. You’ll also have mentors you can learn a lot from,” Carol adds.

What do you love most about being an interior designer?

“Seeing something developed from drawing board to reality is exciting. What I love most is the sense of fulfilment I get when delivering a project. One of the reasons I started teaching was because I wanted to share my professional experiences and learnings,” Ciela says.

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You will also be knowledgeable on different design styles, new technologies, and material finishes


Is interior design a lucrative profession?

According to Jie, design schools still don’t belong to the mainstream, or the more popular courses that high school graduates consider. “There are still a lot of parents who consider design as a course that will not pay the bills. Hopefully that perception is changing with how media and social networks are popularizing the design profession,” he says.

“There is a standard model for charging or fees prescribed by our professional association. There’s a wide variety of services where one can earn from: consultation, design services, or project management and supervision. However, I always encourage my students to take up an advocacy to give back,” explains Ciela.

What is a typical day for an interior designer?

“There really is no typical day for us. Sometimes, your week consists of meeting with clients, contractors, and suppliers. Other times you draw and render on your desk. You also go around home depots and furniture stores to look for material finishes, lighting, and accessories. There are days when you go to construction sites and talk to architects, engineers, and laborers. Or, you simply stay in your office and follow up quotations and deliveries over the phone,” Carol explains.

interior designer
There are many fields interior design graduates can specialize in. They can also go into visual merchandising, set design, and production design


What do you love most about being an educator?

“The most rewarding thing is that students are always employable after graduation. They have been equipped with an understanding of theories and the skills necessary to survive. That is predominantly because of what we teach them,” says Jie. “I always beam when I hear or read about a student making it big out there, and of course the school can take credit for that.”

“I love that I’m able to interact with young and creative minds, and somehow be a mentor to them. It’s great that what they can become in the future is partly–or largely–because of what I’ve been able to impart to them. Having the chance to be an inspiration and a role model to aspiring designers is amazing, as well,” he adds.

Would you recommend interior design as a course?

“Very much so,” exclaims Ciela. “It’s an exciting time for interior design with the booming construction industry in the country. Interior design services are much sought after.”

Carol says, “If you find yourself watching design programs on TV or reading magazines, rearranging or decorating your home and enjoying it, or even just paying attention to details in restaurants, hotels, or whenever you’re travelling, you should think about things and figure out why. Maybe you might just have a hidden passion for interior design.”

“I would definitely recommend it as a  course, not only because of the lucrative and monetary benefits, but also because it is a service-oriented profession,” adds Jie. “Interior designers help solve space problems, and make the living and working environment safe and comfortable.The benefits may not be obvious, but they become evident when one starts using a space. This is because of good interior design, and good interior designers,” he finishes.

Photos from the PSID 2015 Graduation Exhibit courtesy of William Ong. For more information, check out <> and <>.