I have realised a while back that people have this perception that interior design is about choosing paint and furniture that goes together; but that's far from reality. Yes, we do choose paint and furniture but our job is so much more advanced than that.
Every time I mention that I study interior design, the response is always the same; 'oh, so you will be able to decorate my house when you graduate' and no matter how nice they are trying to be about it, it really annoys us since they have no idea what our job really involves.
So let me break it down for you...
I wrote a post a while back on 'Why you should study interior design' The post covered the basis of what the course is like and what you should expect when you start University, so have a read if you're interested in the course or if you want to know what it's like!
Whenever I start a project, I am always given a brief - what I have to create. I am going to use my current brief as the example throughout the post to make it easier to understand. My current brief is to design a 'sensory hotel' in Nottingham. That's it. Once you are given the brief, you have to do some background research on the potential target audience which usually results in demographics, and a little survey. Most of the time in practice you are told who the client is and what they want, but since this is my major project at University, I get to choose the details but they need to be backed up by solid reasons which were conducted within the research process. All of this information is then combined together within a feasibility report.
After that has been settled, that's when the design starts. You start off with doing research based on your project; in my case I researched hotels, student accommodation and student hotels since my idea is to create a hotel for students. Once research is completed, you move onto zonal plans, sketches and concept models that will then develop into the final design. This process is the most time consuming one since you need to make sure that everything is to a high standard and in line with the Government and health regulations.
Once your whole design is agreed on, you start making your final model, your visuals, sample boards and prepare the presentation for the client.
Overall, at University this process lasts around four to five months since the project is so big and complex. In practice, some projects could last longer while others could have a very short deadline.