As new projects come in and businesses grow, the skills employers look for evolves too. The core design competencies remain constant; knowledge of the design process, good technical skills and boundless creativity, but employers are also looking for skills that enable designers to provide a greater contribution to their businesses. I work with interior design clients across all sectors and their requirements can vary enormously. However, there are several key themes emerging, so I’ve put together my round up of the most sought after design skills in 2017:
A commercial mindset. All projects work to budgets and this usually incorporates the design time as well as the interiors and installation. Controlling project budgets is a critical element for any interior design studio; so even if the remit of your role doesn’t require you to manage a budget, show that you understand the commercial aspects of design. It will also assist your progression to a more senior role within the company.
Practical knowledge. Whilst the core components of design are the space planning and creating a scheme, the feasibility is a fundamental aspect that informs whether a project is even viable. Can it be made and delivered on time? Timescales are increasingly squeezed for projects, so designers need to show they are realistic about what is achievable and understand the timescales involved.
Process oriented. Knowledge of the design process is a standard requirement by employers. However, my clients also tell me they want designers who have worked at each stage of the process and can demonstrate they understand the different challenges. They look for designers who think ahead and consider what needs to happen in the project at the next stage.
Developed technical skills. Technology is constantly advancing and it pays to stay on top of current trends. Right now, skills in Revit are sought after alongside a broader knowledge of business information modelling. These skills are particular desirable amongst hotel clients but are likely to grow in importance in other sectors too, so it’s worth increasing your technical ability in this area.
Company commitment. Staff retention can be an issue in the design industry as employees typically move for projects. To help address this, a number of interior design studios are investing in training and benefits for their staff. This is positive news for designers, but it also means that employers are also looking beyond the design skillset. They want designers who have a genuine interest in the company and who want to stay longer than the duration of a single project.
Client facing skills. This is one area that has grown in importance for employers year after year and has become a real sought after skill for designers at all levels. When it comes to client liaison at a junior or mid-level, employers favour designers who have a good telephone manner, clear communication and the ability to jump on the phone to proactively resolve issues.
Good hand sketching. With advancements in technology, the ability to hand sketch has moved down the priority list in recent years. However, the demand for sketching skills is coming back. Whilst full perspective drawings have been replaced with CGIs, hand drawing is still a quick and efficient way to communicate ideas or explain a technical detail. Incorporating this element into your portfolio will prove a valuable addition, particularly if you are a junior designer with limited project examples.
Culturally aware. There are very few design studios that only work on projects in the UK. Clients tell me their work is increasingly international and as a result, they are looking for designers who have travelled and can provide a more international perspective. Exposure to architecture and design around the world opens the mind and enriches creativity; employers appreciate the value that a well-rounded, international approach brings.
Language skills. The demand for multilingual designers is showing no signs of abating. A second or third language improves employability because it adds another dimension to a designer’s skillset. If you’re a mid-weight with Russian, Chinese or Arabic language skills, you will likely get more exposure to a client and this will help accelerate your career development. Make sure you include your language skills on your CV and be prepared to converse in an interview if you have stated fluency.