Some students—especially older, second-career students—have business
education and experience that they bring to their design studies. They may have
already owned their own business or worked in management, sales, retail, or
finance. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of students doing a
dual major in design and business, and a few schools now offer majors or certifi-
cates in design management. After several years of tight job markets, students
today are eager to gain whatever advantage they can to make themselves more
employable. Whether their goal is to work in a firm or start their own business, they
know they will benefit from acquiring business skills and experience.
“My MBA has been invaluable to me,” said Charrisse Johnston, principal at
Steinberg Architects. She holds a BA in behavioral sciences from Johns Hopkins
University and a MBA in management and marketing from Columbia Business
School, and had a career on Wall Street before deciding to study interior design
at UCLA. “Especially working in commercial design, I have a better understanding
of my clients, the pressures they’re under, the accounting and finance aspects of
a project they have to consider, the importance of branding and key differentiation
from one’s competitors. For example, I can explain to them how they can amortize
a project to minimize the impact on their bottom line. That’s a very real concern.”
In addition to learning design business practices, Johnston believes students
need to have a general understanding of the business world, including economics,
financial markets, and human resources. “What’s missing is an understanding of
business with a capital ‘B,’” she said. “I encourage students to read everything
they can in the business press, so they have things they can talk about with a client.
Designers today need an understanding of their clients’ industry, lifestyle and
demographic trends, user experience, and technology. Because they impact our
clients, they impact what we do as designers.”
tioned having some understanding of how a design business operates, knowledge
of a typical career path, good work habits, and a strong work ethic as important
traits. Recent graduates often remark that they wish they had acquired more train-
ing in how to market interior design services and work effectively with clients.
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