NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design Review

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As many of you know, for my 30th birthday my parents gave me the gift of enrollment in the New York Institute of Art and Design’s Complete Course in Interior Design. I planned on writing a review when I finished it, but that won’t be for a while and a few readers have been asking about it, so I decided to share a bit about it now.

I was pretty hesitant to take the course because I couldn’t really find any reviews of it and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be good, but at this point I feel comfortable saying it’s a great course so far, I’m learning a lot, and I definitely recommend it. I think it’s great for anyone who’s interested in design or becoming a designer but has a full-time job and can’t go back to school for a Bachelors in Interior Design, or anyone who just wants to do it online due to location and the convenience factor. Second, quick point I’ll make is that Lauren Liess, who is now a hugely successful and talented designer and author, took the course and as far as I know that’s her only formal training. If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is! I have no idea why the school doesn’t advertise that fact. Anyway, now I’ll get into more details for those that are interested! 

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What It Is 

The New York Institute of Art and Design is an online design school based in New York City, offering online courses in various creative subjects including interior design, photography, jewelry design, and others. They are accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and licensed by the New York State Education Department.

The NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design is a comprehensive course covering all the basics of interior design. You have around 18 months to complete it (of course if you need extensions you can get them), and it’s all online. It is not for any sort of college credit. At the end you are eligible for the Designer Society of America’s Residential Interior Design Qualification Certification. This is not the same as being a Certified Interior Designer, which is a qualification you earn by doing a Bachelors Degree in Interior Design. There’s a lot of debate out there over whether or not a formal Bachelor’s degree is necessary in order to be a successful interior designer, and some of the best designers out there (in my opinion) like Nate Berkus, Erin Gates and the aforementioned Lauren Liess don’t have Bachelor’s degrees in interior design…but anyway, that’s a topic for another day!


The entire program cost a little over $1200. For comparison’s sake, the New York School of Interior Design costs $915 PER CREDIT. Their Basic Interior Design program is 24 credits – 24 times 915 = a little under $22,000. Yikes.

Basic Structure:

There are 6 “Units” in the course. Each unit has several “topics” within. At the end of each Unit, after you’ve gone through all of the topics, you do a project. You mail the project in to the school, and they mail it back to you with a grade and audio feedback. The audio feedback is a recording of your teacher, who has your work in front of you, and she talks to you as she goes over it, offering critiques and insight on how you did. That part is pretty cool, I have to say – it makes it feel totally personalized and it’s great to know an actual person is sitting down with your project.

One thing I like is how they mix up the course content. For example, you learn about furniture styles in the course, and you learn about how to run a design business (among tons of other things), but instead of going through all of the furniture styles in a row, then doing all of the business stuff, they do Early American Farmhouse furniture in one unit, then switch to a business topic, then they do another furniture style and another business topic in the next unit, and so on and so forth – so basically you get a break from furniture styles, and a break from business stuff, instead of all of each topic being chunked together. I like that a lot, as it just prevents all of the information from getting muddled together. It keeps it interesting – just when you’re maybe getting a little tired of one topic, they switch to another aspect of design.

Another thing that keeps it from getting monotonous is how they mix up the format. As you’re going through each Unit and each topic, the main way it’s structured is written content with pictures and diagrams. But there are also videos and audio recordings mixed in throughout, which is a great break from just reading through the topics. It also feels a little more personal, to hear designers talking about the topics and see them doing things like drafting or visiting a space or showroom. Not all of the videos are amazing, but most I’ve really enjoyed so far.

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In addition to the online material, the school sends you a bunch of physical materials that are necessary for completing your projects. First they send the graph paper and measuring tape you need for room sketches and floorplans, and the watercolors you use to work on color basics. Next they sent me a huge package that included all of the materials for the remainder of the course, including a stack of reference books, colored pencils, a T-square and drafting board, and all of the other drafting materials (erasing shield, special pencils, eraser, triangles, drafting brush, scale ruler, door template, etc).

Unit 1 Overview

In Unit 1, they teach you how to start from scratch: meeting a client, sitting down with them, doing a “Room Condition Checklist” (writing down details of the room), and a “Lifestyle Questionnaire,” (to help you understand how the client lives and uses their space). They teach you about the different ways designers charge, and talk about having the conversation about price with clients. Then they teach you how to measure a room and do a room sketch, not to scale -which by the way, is harder than it sounds! You also learn about real estate staging, an interesting aspect of design that I hadn’t thought about before, and color basics. They go over some aspects of picking furniture, such as, is it in harmony with the rest of the room? Is it suitable in terms of budget and function? There’s also some talk about determining the mood of the room – is it modern? Is it traditional…and how choosing furniture has to fit in with that.

For the Unit 1 project you need to make a room sketch of a real living room, which includes all of the measurements of walls, windows, doors, and fireplaces, along with all of the symbols for outlets and light switches and such. You also hand in a Lifestyle Questionnaire for the living room client, a Room Condition Checklist for the living room, and a couple of color exercises where you paint a color wheel and such. You have the option of handing in elevations for the living room, but they aren’t required. The good thing is that they talk you through it all step-by-step, so everything is very clear.

Unit 2 Overview

In Unit 2, you learn how to take a room sketch (from Unit 1) and make a to-scale floorplan from it. Which by the way, is WAY harder than it sounds! Well, for me anyway. You learn how to use all of the drafting materials to do the to-scale floorplan. You also learn about how to make a letter of agreement for working with a client (and how to present it to them), and they delve into the first furniture style being covered: Early American Farmhouse (ladderback chairs, trestle tables, etc). They also talk a bit about antiques and reproductions, and proportion and scale for furniture.

For the Unit 2 project, you build upon your Unit 1 living room by taking that room sketch you did and creating a to-scale floorplan of that living room. You also do a bedroom. So you do a room sketch of a bedroom, along with a Room Condition Checklist for it, and the to-scale floorplan for that. Then you also hand in some more color exercises that have to do with value and hue (really interesting, actually), and you hand in some sort of quiz about Early American Farmhouse furniture (I haven’t gotten to that yet). So as you can see, each Unit builds upon the last.

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Things to Note:
When I first started the program I was slightly perturbed to learn that it doesn’t cover any computer programs like Autocad, Sketchup, or InDesign, which as far as I know are standard for designers today. However, it didn’t take me long to understand that to learn those would require courses in and of themselves (and interestingly, NYIAD recently started offering a separate Autocad course). Those programs are beyond the scope of the course, and what they’re really teaching you here are the basics – drawing and drafting a room from scratch, by hand. I think you need to understand those fundamentals in order to function and later move on to utilizing programs like Autocad.

A great aspect of the course is that it deals with both design basics and practical concerns, such as how to charge, how to write a letter of agreement, and how to talk to clients. It’s very real-life, job-oriented, which makes it feel immediately useful, versus just being theoretical.

Another good aspect: Your advisor is just an email away and I found that they answered questions I sent via email very quickly. I also received the feedback for my Unit 1 Project promptly.

One thing I wish is that they didn’t actually grade you. Since the course isn’t for credit, the grade doesn’t matter, and I find it more discouraging than anything else. I like getting the feedback and the constructive criticism but I would prefer not to be graded…that’s just my opinion!

My Feelings on It 

So far the biggest thing I’ve realized from this course is how much I don’t know about design, and how much I have to learn! Which is really exciting for me. However, I do vacillate between feelings of enjoyment and frustration while going through this. I love what I’m learning, but I am struggling with feelings of frustration when it comes to the drafting. It’s just really not in my wheelhouse – I have a lifelong hatred of math, and I’m just not good with measurements and numbers. I find the measuring to be a bit boring and the drafting makes me stressed because every line and measurement has to be so precise. I’m trying not to let it get to me though…and not to let it make me feel like this is something I shouldn’t be pursuing. I don’t think anyone gets into design because they love math and measuring, right? I’m looking forward to working on the actual decorating part.

But, as much as I don’t like the drafting, I really appreciate that the course is making me learn the fundamentals. This is the groundwork. You can’t decorate if you don’t have measurements, and you can’t communicate with contractors and other professionals in your field if you don’t understand floor plans and elevations. I think I wouldn’t mind the drafting as much if I was better at it, but practice makes perfect so I just have to keep pushing.

The course is totally self-guided, no deadlines or anything, so it’s totally on me to stay motivated and put the time in. That can be a bit of a challenge as I’m usually really tired after work, but since the course is overall enjoyable (aside from the dang drafting!), it’s not too hard to set aside a few hours on weekends to devote to it.  At times, it can feel hard sacrificing time to something when I’m not sure if it’s going to actually result in any positive outcome. But I try to remind myself, there is no guaranteed outcome for this…and that’s okay! It’s more about learning so much valuable information, and less about whatever’s going to happen at the end. Whoever knows what’s going to happen with anything? Trite though it may be, in this situation, it’s true: it’s more about the journey than the destination. No knowledge is ever wasted, and the more I know about design, the better!

Any questions, leave ’em in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer!

EDITOR’S NOTE 4/14/2017:
I’ve had a lot of people e-mailing me to see if I’m still in the course and how it’s going, so I wanted to answer that here – I’m still in it, and it’s still going great! I’m still learning a lot, which is exactly what my goal was when starting the course. My opinion hasn’t changed since writing this post – I would recommend the course and am hoping to write a follow-up on Unit 3 soon, so stay tuned for that :). 


  1. Brigid says: July 13, 2016

    Thanks so much for posting this, Jackie! I was one of the ones asking about it so I appreciate the in-depth review. I made a career switch about 2 years ago and work for an interior designer. It’s been difficult to find the right classes/programs that aren’t full-time and super intensive.

    If there are any referral codes that would help you (or me!) feel free to pass them along 🙂 I’m actually thinking of signing up for either the Interior Design or AutoCAD course soon.

  2. heather says: July 13, 2016

    I also asked about this–love this post and all the detail. I need to get my act together and sign up! (I also bought Habitat–SO good!

  3. April says: July 14, 2016

    Hi Jackie,

    I signed on to your blog today specifically to re-read your initial post about the course. So, this was perfect timing!

    I’m currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kosovo, and I’m looking for projects to work on during the long, cold, mountain winters. $1,200 is more money than I can really spend at the moment, but I will definitely keep this is mind for the future!

    1. Dawn says: November 15, 2016

      The $1200 can be broken up into affordable monthly payments. I pay $49/month.

  4. Megan Tiede says: July 14, 2016

    Oh, sounds fun (and challenging)!
    I love design of all sorts, but I really don’t know how good I am at interior design.
    One of my favorite books for design inspiration is Erin Swift’s “French Accents”. I love flipping through it =)
    Have fun with your course!
    Megan @ http://www.blingelegance.wordpress.com

  5. Maria Fernanda says: July 14, 2016


    thanks so much for sharing your experience so far with us. I am 100% with you on the drafting + math; it makes me question whether I should go into ID, as well. Hang in there! 🙂

    I hope you enjoy the course and can learn many new things.

    great job with the pictures, the post, and your floorplan.

  6. A Few Good Links - York Avenue says: July 22, 2016

    […] little design education: Ever since starting my design course I’ve been interested in learning more about architectural design styles (Tudor, Colonial, […]

  7. Lindsay Taylor says: August 19, 2016

    Is the RIDQC certification only available when you register for $495. Or is this offered upon completion as well? And from what you have learned, is this necessary? Thank you!

  8. jp says: September 7, 2016


    Im an Architect and im thinking of enrolling for an online ID course, NYIAD is one of my options. I previously enrolled in The Institute of Interior Design San Francisco but I find it too basic and boring. So I want to switch to NYIAD.

    Do you have the prospectus of the whole course? Can you send me the copy? Just an outline of the what I can learn.

    How long was the shipping before you got your learning materials? Im only in US until Sept 19, so Im not sure if they will be able to send it to me in time.

    I hope you respond. Thanks.


  9. Kim says: September 20, 2016

    HI,I happened upon this blog and so happy I did. I’m very very interested in interior decorating. The math and drafting info is a little scary but I won’t let it deter me. I’m looking for a career change and I really feel this is it!! Thank you for the very detailed write up and best of luck to you😊

    1. Kim says: September 23, 2016

      Hi, did you purchase the hard copies of the material? I am wondering if it’s necessary or is it something I can just print myself.

  10. Leslie Manning says: September 27, 2016

    I graduated from NYIAD in June of 2015. I thought the school and the design program were excellent. I was a very dedicated student and even though I work full-time I completed the course in 11 month to the day. I got an A+ on my final project and I won a design excellence award from NYIAD. I was very proud of myself! NYIAD also filmed my final project and added it to the revised curriculum.

    I’ve done well since graduation. I am actually working on a multi million dollar senior living project. My education has really paid off!

    1. Tina says: January 6, 2017

      Congratulations on your success! To land your deal; did you have other educational credentials to back you up or was it strictly based on you interior ed at NYIAD?

    2. Natasha Dupres says: January 15, 2017

      Hello, am very interested. .am enrolled in the program newly started,looks fun,using my tablet and libraries to study, going thr limited resources in a year,last year ! Designing it’s in my blood decorating, vrafts,design,cooking.,my mom florist,cake making and decorative cakes.,my brother and nephew art painter! wondering is you could send me names of books so I can purchase used.

  11. Amber Irene Beatryce Maag says: September 29, 2016

    This helps! I always have been super creative. Drawing, cooking, design, so on. I’m currently full time and I spent a lot of money at art schools and a cooking school getting certificates in things I’m not using…the price doesn’t sound bad at all and if it’ll give me knowledge I don’t know yet, that sounds super helpful!
    Hopefully good things come to both of us for signing up for this! 🙂

  12. Veronica Leach says: October 30, 2016

    Thank you so much Jackie for the wonderful informative information. I have always had a love for design and I always wanted to go to school for this field but I had babies young and old..LOL Now that my youngest is 16 I can move forward with my career. I have worked as a teachers aide for the last 20 years so I could be home when my kids were home….Now it’s ME time….

  13. Iqra says: November 1, 2016

    Hi. Thanks for a nice detailed review. I wanna ask that if we r from some other country even then they will send us the material? Or is it only for new yorkers?

  14. Jane says: November 3, 2016

    Thank you so much for your detailed info on the school! Greatly appreciated!

  15. Marina says: November 3, 2016

    Hey Jackie! How far through the course are you? Are you done already? Just want to check if your feelings have changed by now about it… I applied yesterday, seeking a carreer change and want to know if I’m doing the right move! Thanks!

  16. Sarah says: November 3, 2016

    What is the percentage of people getting a job after they graduate from this program?

  17. RITU SHARMA says: November 6, 2016


  18. Briana Strickland says: November 16, 2016

    Thank you so much for this review! I do have a question – how long does it take to finish? I know they give you 18 months, but do you foresee it taking that long?

  19. Deb says: December 18, 2016

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a helpful review! I’ve been considering taking this course for a few years. I’m not looking to become a professional, but to improve my game significantly on my house and an apartment we have overseas. And the process of learning is always fun, and who knows, maybe the course would inspire me to think bigger about future possibilities. It’s easy to get skeptical about online courses, but this sounds very legit, useful and worth the money. All the best to you as you go through the course!

  20. melissa says: January 2, 2017

    HI! I am torn between doing this course or one at Rhodec. Does anyone know anything about Rhodec?

  21. Anda says: January 5, 2017


    I am interested in this online interior design course. I want to mention that I am not from United States. I am living in Europe ( Romania more precisely). I want to know if it possible for me to take part of this course and if they can send me all the materials considering I am not from United States.
    Thank you.


  22. Tina says: January 6, 2017

    Yes, Jackie. Thank you so much for your time; very informative, esp since their aren’t many reviews to reference. I’m strong considering. I already do a few odds and ends for clients; but I want to expand my knowledge as interior designing is my passion by far and start my personal small business.

    May I ask; how have your put your credentials to work since you’ve finished the course?

    Thanks again of your time.

  23. Natasha Dupres says: January 15, 2017

    I need text book names,really can’t afford books,only used!! Please help its the interior design program. Mylifeinjersey at g mail. Please that would be a blessing..

  24. Ridhima says: January 24, 2017

    Thank you so much for this detailed review. I have been wanting to study Interior Design but have 2 young kids at home with me, so I thought doing it online is quite possible. I am gonna go ahead with this decision and start a new journey.

    Thanks for your time.
    Truly appreciated.

  25. Christina Calle says: February 4, 2017

    Congrats on your course!! I have a silly question… Do you have to be really good at drawing for this career?

  26. Mari says: February 15, 2017

    Thank you for this!

  27. Katie says: February 16, 2017

    Thanks so much for posting this; thinking about registering and it is really great to hear someone’s experience with it.

  28. Tiago says: February 21, 2017

    Thank you so much for this Review… I am an Architect with more them 15 years of experience in Trade Show business, and I hate when people ask me to make a project of a Interior Design… “That’s not my kind of job, sorry…” is always my answer. So I was looking for a Interior Design specialization and fond NYIAD… Your Review is by far the best one I’ve found, thanks for that. I don’t think drafting will be a problem for me, and I REALLY need to learn more about different styles and how to put things together with harmony. Lets say that I’ve been working so far with my “instinct”, and now is time for real learning.
    Thank you, and best of luck.!
    Tiago Bezerra.

  29. Eva M. Knox says: March 5, 2017

    Thank you so much for this review! This seems like the best online program but your review gave me the info I wanted to feel confident about it!

  30. Erin says: March 8, 2017

    Finding you blog & review on this program was SO helpful! I attended 3 years of college pursuing a bachelors in interior design at an accredited school, and decided at that time in my life other things were more important (ugh) and have regretted not finishing ever since. Unfortunately I do not have the money to finish, but this program sounds perfect for wanting to be more on the decorating side anyways! I have taken many drafting and autocad classes and it’s not really my thing either – I more want to know how to meet with clients and what to charge, etc. Is this a large part of the course do you think? I still want to call myself a “C.I.D” and wondering if I should just do their program to be able to call myself that, or pay more to have that certification but still have the knowledge from NYIAD. Yikes thats confusing. haha! Thanks 🙂

  31. Karen says: March 21, 2017

    Thank you very much about your comments on course. I’ve been very interested and even checked out local tech college offering electrician course. Always felt interior design combined with electrician knowledge would be great. They cancelled that course just recently. There is nothing locally with interior design and even gave thought to architecture class instead. I really feel with my schedule, though, that this course is best fitted to me.

  32. Piera G says: April 18, 2017

    Omg thank you so much for this! I am changing careers and want to go into interior design. I’m in southwest Florida and the only school near me is 40 minutes away and is charging me 35k for only an associates! This would work much better than a student loan on my head for the next 10 years. And I’m so glad that you were very transparent on your thoughts. Thank you!

  33. April A. says: April 21, 2017

    Thank you so much for making this review. I have been contemplating, for the longest time, if I should push through with this course. Your review is so detailed and was very helpful. I have decided to finally do it next month. You provided me with answers to questions I haven’t even thought of asking (does that make sense?)
    I currently live in Turks & Caicos Islands (somewhere in the Caribbean) and one of my concerns was where to buy the materials for the course. This is a very small island country where most, if not all, of the stuff on island are imported. Thank you so much for providing so much information about the course. I have decided to enroll this coming May 2017. God bless you! I wish you all the best in you endeavors.

  34. Stevie Holgate says: May 5, 2017


    I have been on the hunt for a long time now for a flexible online program in Interior Design, the idea of a 4 year program where I would potentially have to take BS classes like english 101 and history 101 (again) and pay out the wahzoo, really turns me off. I have come across this program a few times but often wonder how accredited it is. I don’t see that is accredited by CID, which in some states means that you can’t take the test to become a licensed Interior Designer. Which has been my only reason for not jumping on the gun and doing the program (everything about it sounds great but I struggle with the fact that companies may not take it seriously when I am looking for a job after the course) My main question is, what do you plan to do with the knowledge you learn once you finish the program, and how likely do you think you are to get a job in Interior design without a 4 yr. program degree (if you dont already have one)? I hope all this makes sense. I have been to college before but never finished due to different circumstances and I just hate to think I will be waisting my time and money on classes that don’t actually have anything to do with design. Thank you! This article made me want to do the program more then ever, but I still get nervous to pull the trigger!

  35. Olivia Smith says: May 7, 2017


    Loved your review! I’m looking into taking the NYIAD Interior Design course in my spare time, as I already have a full time career. Between nights and weekends, how long do you anticipate this will take me?

    Separately, do you think the next step after completing this program and becoming RIDQC certified will be taking an AutoCad/other technical class and THEN you’ll be qualified to work in design? I’d love to know the generally accepted timeline for this type of career.

    Thank you!

  36. Sandra says: May 11, 2017

    Thank you for your review! I was so hard to find anything on this course.
    I started in December and had a slight set back, but just finished Unit3.
    I agree with you on drafting and math(hate!!!) 🙂 I’m also not crazy about color excercises, lol.
    Everything else is great! Very helpful.
    I am self thought Interior Decorator, already working for myself and having fun! I wanted this course to help me with my business.
    Good luck everyone!

  37. Danielly says: May 21, 2017

    Hi Jackie! Thanks for sharing! I heard about NYIAD was looking for reviews and found yours! 🙂 How is it going so far? Still loving it? X

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