How to choose what you want to focus on in your interior design career

How you look at things in general and how you frame the expression of your thoughts reveals information about them that you would not generate nor learn otherwise.


All things being equal, there are many similarities and many differences between the various areas of interior design. Simply put, the commonalities have to do with their humanity, present in the fact that all interiors are our physiological extension. The differences have to do with the changing functions that they need to perform in order to serve people as society deems it necessary at any point in time.


Design by Dochia interior design & Photography by Peter Sellar

As the professions of architecture and design evolved, these differences however have slipped away from us and distanced somewhat from a purpose and a connection that I believe is not only valid but much more important than isolating the function they perform as the overarching criteria for categorization.


The scientific world of measurable data and demonstrable proof we live in is slowly starting to shake and with that as we open up toward truths that can be accessed in other ways than scientifically, it is worth considering looking at interiors in a fresh – old-way.


Taxonomies have been plenty yet the one that I find the most useful in explaining an interior to those that did not formally study design, is the one that I’ve created myself for the very purpose of communicating design and its hierarchy of representation to non-designers.


It breaks down spaces based on our connection with it at a more biological level and it looks something like this: places of passage, grooming, admiration, repose, thinking, learning, socializing, solitude, making, sleeping, eating, pleasure, healing, punishment or crisis. These are places that our bodies relate to through natural or reactive responses of body or mind.


Pragmatically speaking, all interior spaces are sums of multiple functions and you rarely have one space designated solely for one activity or emotion. And professionally thinking about space this way, creates a different type of categorization that gives you insight into the type of clients you will have and their interests.


Photography by Olivia Fedele

For instance, in the spaces designed for socializing you will find a lot of interest in positive and fun energy. The ones for learning tend to be quiet for individual learning and cozy and casual for group learning. Places for making tend to be curated for optimum action and effectiveness while places for grooming are aimed at unleashing all our senses.


Caught up in the swirl of the modern era we’ve put the pragmatic categorization above the personal, both physical and sensorial, and as a result, we’ve distanced ourselves from the interiors we occupy. We reduced the personal to ergonomics and space psychology and made them pawns.


It is more common to think of interiors as pleasant, elaborate pictures that perform to serve us instead of spaces directly connected to our biological universe that through the very success of that connection makes us perform better, feel better, and overall, improve our experience of living.


As a practitioner, you will be not only designing the spaces that you prefer but also be absorbed in a certain dynamic of teams, processes, deadlines that are the side effects of this very categorization I propose.Β  It will set up the tone of your day-to-day as you do your work and live your life. To give an extreme example, working on a prison or a palliative care ward is much more troublesome than working on restaurants and places of entertainment.


Image courtesy of Dochia Media

I’ve never been one to be able to see suffering day in and day out. I find it difficult to distance myself from the pain visible around me and mentally I take it on more than I should. I would not want to be involved in institutional design other than possibly schools. I’ve done that in my youth and ran into some sad moments that I remember even now. Be careful what memories you collect from your work, they should never haunt you.


We don’t even need to go so extreme. Differences exist even if more nuanced, between office design and restaurant design. Between clients that are extremely stressed and under pressure that can potentially inflict that on your life as well.


So aside from the projects that you want to design in themselves, consider what you can detach from and what you cannot, what processes you want to absorb in your life, and whatnot.


While choosing your specialization, this is one aspect of this profession that is not taught or talked about enough. An area that can use a little more attention and with that, I believe will reveal truths that are important and useful for a better career.


This article first appeared in My 2 cents on design
how to curate a better lifestyle through design
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