How to Become a Commercial Interior Designer

HBAI03Creating solutions for business spaces, both in style and practicality, is not an easy task, but if you are interested in understanding how to use color, texture and materials in a professional workplace, then you may find a career as an interior commercial designer a fascinating profession. Learning how to use design principles and the right materials as an expert is only the first step towards becoming a professional designer for business spaces; creating your own business and becoming a self-motivated professional is a large part of any successful interior designer’s career.



Interior commercial designers focus on creating retail and office building spaces rather than residential spaces. Many interior designers work in both industries, but commercial interior designers have focused their career on gaining clientele with business and retail spatial design needs.

Bachelor's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements and Education

Many states require interior designers to pass an exam from the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, typically in interior design or in art or design with a focus on interior design.

An education in design will give the background needed in the art and science of design. Fully understanding design materials, building code laws, and elements of design, are all very important to the design profession and taught through higher education. A post-secondary degree ensures an in-depth understanding of factors important to businesses and retail stores, such as designing for the target market and professional design theory.

Many businesses want to see what experience a designer has before employing them for a job, so building up a portfolio of work is very important. Many designers first work as an intern or apprentice to gain experience under an established designer.

Salary and Job Outlook

The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 40,750 interior designers (not counting those self-employed, and including those focused on residential interior design) with an average salary of $52,970. The interior design industry is expected to grow at a rate of 19 percent (about average for all industries) as projected by the BLS as commercial and retail locations continue to need modifications and updates in their design.

The highest paid industry is the Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation) with an average salary of $73,590 and 280 hired interior designers.

Additional Tips for Becoming a Commercial Interior Designer:

  • Join a local group. Whether it’s your local chapter of ASID, or a non-profit charity, find groups that will help you connect with people and network. If you don’t get your name out there, then who will? Realize, you will have to start building connections to build a business.
  • Find resources. What is going to make your design different? If you just stick to the local shops and examples, then you will be like any other designer around you. Think large. With the internet and the ability to even purchase items online, you have a much easier way to think outside of your own area. Don’t forget to travel around a bit as well.
  • Study color, texture and pattern—not just in school, but on your own time. Learn how colors affect people and what colors are currently used in popular interior designs.
  • Become business savvy. Understanding the world of retail and business will go a long way in understanding what your clients are going to expect from you and your designs. Consider adding a few business-related or marketing classes that might help you better understand the mindset and customers of businesses you will design for. Make sure you do plenty of research on any specific business you are working with, in order to better understand what will benefit them.


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