10 Realities of Studying Interior Design

By: Dina Badawi


As the semester wraps up, myself and many other students struggle to find time to sleep. If you don’t know me personally, I am finishing up my second year studying interior design at Ryerson University - but if I hear one more person tell me “Wow it must be fun picking colours,” I am gonna start ripping out my eyebrows (you know, because all my hair has fallen out from the stress). 

Before I start explaining, please beware of the fact that I am not belittling any effort that anyone is putting into their program.

  1. 1. What is it like to study interior design?

    To be in a program like interior design, you need to be creative, innovative, and understand practicality. You will not be picking between a light green and a dark green paint swatch, you are going to be thinking of concepts and meaning behind the space and you will be pushed to create things that have never been done before. Amazing, right? Yes! But you can’t go into this program thinking you are going to pick colours in the morning and party at night.

  2. 2. Interior design students are like ghosts.

    The reason you don’t know anyone in this program is because we don’t leave the interior design building on campus (yes it exists, it’s the tiny little brown building next to the big pretty Daphne Coxwell School of Health Sciences building - it’s fine, we’re not mad about that). If we socialize, it’s between sobs while working at the studio. On the bright side, having seen every one of your classmates cry at least once creates a very strong bond. 

  3. 3. Studio culture means pulling all-nighters at school and ordering a pizza for all the other poor souls struggling there with you.

    During these nights when it feels like nothing will be done, everyone really sympathizes with each other, and many things get passed around. You think it, we name it: pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, phone chargers, and blankets are just some of the first things that come to mind. That's the deal that was made with the devil - you enter this school, you make amazing connections and meet some of the kindest people ever, but you lose a part of your soul due to a lack of sleep.

  4. 4. You know how they tell you to “think outside the box?” Interior designers have to think outside the circle that’s outside of that box.

    We all came into studying interior design with creativity being our strong suit - being told over and over again that we are creative has given us a bit of confidence. Little did we know, we needed that confidence as a pillow before it was shredded. All of a sudden, you are surrounded by people who you feel are even more creative than you. The most common thought you’ll be having as you are looking at other people’s projects will be, “You’re kidding?! How did they even come up with that?” The nice thing is, as you’re talking to your classmates, you will realize that you are all having the same thoughts.

  5. 5. Interior design is interior architecture, but the name depends on the country you are in.

    Due to stigma, people are more likely to be impressed with what you do if you tell them you are studying interior architecture rather than interior design. Reality is, it’s the same thing. At least here at Ryerson, interior design matches with what other countries call interior architecture. So the next time you ask someone what they’re studying and they sigh then say interior architecture, they just don’t want to explain the whole thing because they’ve done it so many times, especially after our favourite comment about “picking colours.”

  6. 6. Interior design students can understand the mechanical, structural, and electrical components of buildings.

    This is one of the major things that distinguish interior design from interior decorating. I am not saying decorating is easy, it most definitely is not. However, interior designers are expected to understand more of the technical side of the things because they work directly with engineers in the field to make sure you don’t have things like a light switch behind your door.

  7. 7. Interior designers make sure you are safe in a building.

    One of our responsibilities as interior designers is to make sure that you are safe, that you can go up the stairs comfortably, and that you can safely leave a building that is on fire. Of course we are not coming up with those things on the spot, but we are following building codes to do so.

  8. 8. Interior design students want to be social too, there’s just not enough time.

    Reality is, I’ve heard lots of stories about people getting offended because their friends in this program won’t go out and party like they used to. Trust me, it is not personal. First of all, we are always working, if it is not at the studio then it is at home or at the library or wherever the wind takes us. The occasional two minutes of free time we do get, we just want to sleep - or if we want to go a little crazy once in a while, we might watch some Netflix. So your friend still loves you, they just don’t have time to look at their reflection in the mirror, and they most definitely don’t have time to be partying every weekend.

  9. 9. Interior design students don’t have as much free time as you think during this quarantine.

    While everyone is bored in quarantine because they have nothing to do, interior design students are working harder than ever. While other student’s exams are being cancelled left and right, we still have to do projects, but now with limited materials. What we really want is to be able to catch up on sleep with no additional responsibilities, once class is over, of course.

  10. 10. Interior design students have a strong love/hate relationship with what we are doing.

    I still love this program, and during the summer - once I start to forget about the back pain and the sleep deprivation - I always tell people about how amazing this program is. I mean, I could definitely ask for a bit more sleep, but I love it. I love looking at my projects that I’ve been working on all semester. I love walking into this old building at the beginning of the year. I love that we all know each other and that we can all cry and then laugh about what we are going through. But just like any relationship, the one between interior design students and their program can go through bumps (and big ones).

All jokes aside, everyone deserves respect. Even if we were “just picking colours” that would not make us any less than what we are now. It doesn’t matter what you are studying, as long as you are enjoying it now or will be enjoying it once you graduate. So forget the haters, do what you like, and remember to never make someone feel bad for what they are studying!