A few years ago I started taking an online interior design course called The Complete Course in Interior Design, through the New York Institute of Art and Design. It was a great program and I made it through all of the learning units, but for a variety of personal reasons I haven’t finished the final project (that’s another post, for another day!). Overall though, the course was a great intro to design and I feel like I learned a lot.
Because there aren’t too many reviews out there for the course, I receive a lot of emails from people who find my review and want further information. So today I’m going to go ahead and answer the most frequently asked questions I get about the course, and hopefully this will be helpful to anyone who’s interested in learning more!
Q: Should I take the course/do you need a 4 year degree to become a designer/will this course get you a design job?
A: Ok, so this is the biggest type of question I’ve received, and also one that doesn’t have an easy answer. The issue of whether or not you need a degree to be a successful designer and if so, which degree is best, is a hotly debated topic and if you ask five designers, you’ll get five different answers. I could write a whole post on the topic, but for now I’ll just share MY opinion and experiences.
Do you NEED a four year degree in interior design to be a successful designer? No. The reason I can say this is because there are tons of successful designers out there with either no degree in design, or a degree in a semi-related or unrelated field. Nate Berkus does not have an interior design degree. Neither does Erin Gates. Lauren Liess took the NYIAD program (which is a non-degree program). I’m sure there are tons more designers out there with the same history. So that puts that question to rest.
However – we don’t know the other circumstances of these designers. Maybe they grew up with a family that was in design or architecture (Erin Gates). Or maybe they didn’t! The point is, it’s not a NECESSITY. However, it might vastly help. I know that if you want to work in commercial design or for a big firm, a degree is basically a necessity. If you want to start your own business and you’re talented and hard-working, can it be done sans degree? Of course! Might it be a lot easier if you have a degree? I would think so!
Now let me tell you what I experienced-and keep in mind this was one experience with one group of people. I secured a design internship while taking the course. My experience was that the people I was working with did not seem to take the NYIAD program particularly seriously. There was an attitude where programs at Parsons and NYSID were clearly taken more seriously than what I was doing…I assume probably because they didn’t even know what my program was (despite my describing it), and because of the fact that it’s not a degree program.
Again, this was a very specific situation with a group of designers. The average layperson who might become your client may not know or care about the difference between a certification from NYIAD and a degree from NYSID. That said, the NYIAD course is not the same education as a four year degree from a school. That brings me to the second frequently asked question:
Q: What doesn’t the course teach?
A: During my internship I discovered that the biggest hole in the course is the lack of Autocad and Sketchup education. These are computer drafting programs you’ll need as a designer or even to pitch yourself as a design intern. So while I still think the course is a great intro, keep in one that you’ll want to learn those programs concurrently, either through another program or on your own (and there might be other computer programs you need that I’m not even aware of). Basics of construction is another missing piece – how to read blueprints, etc. I’m sure there are some other things missing from the NYIAD program versus a four year program but those were the big things I noticed.
Q: How long does it take to complete?
A: You’re given 18 months to complete the course. For someone working full-time, I’d say that’s accurate. If you really want to bang it out and devote a lot of time to it, you could finish it in a year. It depends on you and how fast you want to finish! My feeling is it’s not a CRAZY amount of coursework, so you could probably finish in 6 months or a year if you wanted to! It’s getting through Powerpoint type slides, which have pretty big fonts…not slogging through chapters and chapters of textbooks.
Q: Do you have to be good at drawing?
A: Nope! There is drafting but not drawing – they give you furniture cutouts to use on your floor plans.
Q: Is working with clients, what to charge, etc a big part of the course?
A: Yes! That’s a very big part. They’re training you in a real life kind of way, as if you’re going to stick your shingle out tomorrow. I found the “how to charge” section pretty confusing so you might want to consult real designers on that but they talk a lot about how to start and run your business, so it’s very real-life and action-oriented.
Q: Does the school help you secure a design internship?
A: As far as I know, they do not.
Q: What so you plan to do with the course?
A: At the moment I’m not sure what I plan to do about anything (that’s a whole nother post though!) but my sense is that after you finish the course you could pursue an internship in design and then try to parlay that into a paying job. Are you going to be as competitive a candidate as the person with a four-year degree? Perhaps not, but if you’re hard-working, and talented, educate yourself in drafting programs, and hit it off with the designer – perhaps you will be! Personally I think you could also, with this course, have the background and know-how to start taking on small design jobs for individual clients on your own. Some people do that with no formal training so you’d be ahead of the game in that arena! You can also apply for a certification afterwards, called the Residential Interior Design Qualification Certification – here are some facts on that.
Q: Are the supplies yours to keep?
Q: Are there hidden fees?
A: Not that I encountered.
Q: Do you have to finish each unit before moving onto the next?
A: You don’t have to – you could read the entire course at once if you want. You do have to finish each assignment before moving onto the next though.
Q: Do the grades go towards anything?
A: No – however, you do need to get a decent enough grade before they let you move on to the next assignment (which is good and makes sense). They’ll make you redo it and mail it back until you pass (like with a B or an A).
Q: Is there interaction with other students?
A: There is a student forum within the course site but I can’t speak to it much as I didn’t really utilize it.
Q: Are there accommodations for overseas students?
A: As far as I know, yes – I would email the school to clarify.
Q: Is hand-drafting a requirement?
Q: How much sketching and creating a real room layout do you do in the course?
A: Sketching rooms, little to none. Creating layouts, a lot. That forms the basis of all of the projects.
I hope this helps to answer any further questions that anyone might have about the NYIAD Complete Course in Interior Design!