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Understanding the role of an Interior Designer

An interior designer’s role is multi-faceted, but fundamentally commences with providing accurate design advice for the optimal safe occupation of those who work, live or use an interior space. Operating across a variety of sectors with different laws for product use and specification between residential and contract use, an interior designer must be cognisant of and comply with all building, health & safety and product regulations.

A interior designer might advise on the interior layout of a building and propose various reconfigurations, as well as recommending products and surfaces. The designer may also generate 2D or 3D plans and schedules for each product, layout plans for tiles, heating and electrical socket plans for location and functions. Depending on the complexity and the commission, a designer may also be the point of contact for contractors, as well as a member of the Design Team alongside engineers, architects, electrical and mechanical experts etc.

specialist skills

Assessing the impact of an interior design

As a designer’s choice directly impacts on the wellbeing and safety of those who will occupy an interior dwelling, the advice offered must be accurate and where necessary, obtain independently verified and transparent advice to support recommendations. Inaccurate advice and inappropriate specification may breach laws, incur additional cost, generate delays or increase risks to those who invest and ultimately use the space. Error will impact on the designer, their suppliers reputation and generate industry complaints. For example, when a PC (provisional costs) price is quoted for a light fitting, additional costs may be necessary for the designer to instruct expert, independent advice so as to be confident that the design specification is compliant, as well as safe.

Consulting with specialist stakeholders

An interior designer is not only an advisor to the client, but often, also a consultant to the contractor and experts. Designers from time to time are also expected to negotiate with various industry experts in their procurement of products and installation of materials, such as structural engineers when commissioning a light fitting or Asbestos reports before commissioning wall panelling. Designers also need to consult with planners due to compliance obligations from changes generated in the design scheme. A designer must therefore possess knowledge of a multitude of skills. These skills include a strong grasp of mathematics for measuring, calculating dimensions, quantities and budgets for financial control. This is regarded by SBID as ‘basic knowledge’ and is a tested requirement of experience to obtain full SBID Accreditation status.

This multi-faceted profession of design specialisms and the specific laws that apply to each is not simply ‘a flair’ as many assume, but it requires practical training and experience. Find out more about membership requirements and training opportunities.

Providing the interior design service

A professional designer’s minimum task is to define the space and safety performance of the interior, as well as produce plans to demonstrate proposed layouts for clients to review before agreeing to the design. This is known as the design scheme. The designer should also include schedules of the materials required to procure the design scheme, including CAD drawings and tested ability or use codes. When the scheme is approved by the client, the designer generates specification schedules which the client approves before declaring ‘design freeze’.

Some designers also act as the Project Manager by giving instructions to the contractor and specialists, this is a different role to interior design and should not be confused as part of a designers role. Interior Designers should plan the space to maximise the function and safe movement within it as well as take airflow, heat, extraction, electrical and plumbing regulations into account.

The distinctions within the profession of interior design:

International differences in the responsibilities of an Interior Designer

In many countries, the title ‘Interior Designer’ refers to the skills and remit of what the UK describe as an ‘Interior Decorator. The confusion relates to protection of title. In Europe, an Interior Architect describes the same remit and skill of a British interior designer, but as ‘Architect’ is a protected title in the UK it cannot be used to describe an interior designer. Descriptions of the role and skills of interior designers differ around the world, unlike that of an Architect, Lawyer or Doctor where the title is clearly identified.

SBID aimed to clarify the role and definition by identifying the various sector specialisms within interior design that require specific compliance laws. A clear understanding of roles and obligations is core to the teaching structures and course content which trains new professionals. SBID continues to work towards title recognition for an Interior Designer in the UK.

What qualifications do you need to become an interior designer? 

In the UK, anyone can describe themselves as an ‘interior designer’. Therefore for consumer protection, separation and distinction from the masses of hobbyists is paramount.

SBID is the leading organisation and accreditation body for Interior Design in the UK. SBID Accreditation denotes an enhanced level of professional qualification and work experience beyond university education. Designers can join at any stage in their career and progress through the membership levels to achieve the highest level of practice as an SBID Accredited professional.

SBID also accredits university course content as fit for professional practice, offering students enrolled at any recognised interior design course free student membership.

What training is required to become an SBID Accredited Interior Designer?

Independently qualified, an SBID Accredited Designer is equipped to provide optimal design services for the public’s protection. To be recognised at the highest level of competence within SBID Accreditation, a minimum of three years full-time learning, plus three and a half years’ work experience is required. SBID Accreditation also involves an annual commitment to acquire 24 hours of SBID Approved CPD.

SBID Designers must pass rigorous background checks to ensure they are awarded a category of accreditation aligned to their experience and training according to their specialism of design and the scale of projects they undertake. Each member is professionally insured, skilled and abides to the SBID Code of Conduct and Ethics.

To find an SBID Accredited Interior Design Practice, explore the Designer Directory.

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Accreditation

Accreditation helps you or your practice demonstrate a level of expertise. It separates qualified professionals from social influencers and hobbyists.
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Code of Conduct

The SBID Code of Conduct aims to maintain the global standing of British interior design and improve consumer protection.

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Becoming ‘SBID Accredited’ means that you have achieved the highest industry-assessed benchmark in a specialist interior design category.
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