Do You Need A Degree To Become An Interior Designer?

By Incbald School,Interior,December 17, 2018

By Jacqueline Duncan OBE, Dean & Founder.

The foundation of a pioneering centre of design education has involved much-determined enthusiasm and perhaps a benign ignorance in terms of the pitfalls that accrue over the years in any endeavour. Over some sixty years of involvement in this absorbing subject, I have learned a great deal about the requirements of design education and the practice of the profession.  Thus the basics of the Inchbald philosophy have been refined over time and can be summarized under these six main headings which are the stated aims of the college.

It is the Inchbald responsibility:

1. To provide a professional education for those who wish to work in high-end Interior Design or Garden Design

2. To teach the skills of ongoing learning so that students continue to extend their knowledge both culturally and technically after the Inchbald experience.

3. To inform students of the Designer/Client relationship and to identify the psychology of empathy in such a relationship

4. To expose students to the experience and perspectives of senior Designer

5. To encourage work experience so that students may learn the realities of studio work and methodology

6. Finally to develop the individual skills of each student with an emphasis on the fact that style/fashion is secondary to talent and inspiration.

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“The achievements of the Inchbald Alumni are internationally renowned”

The work of the Inchbald alumni is evidence of an extensive variety of talents and skills. There is no uniformity in their achievements, only the shared experience of a structured education together with a considered introduction to the profession and its major practitioners. Henrietta Spencer Churchill is the doyenne of the English style, Tatiana Tafur an innovative artist designer whose work has a myriad of facets and Kelly Hoppen is a master of sophisticated modernity. They are all very successful and very different; but together with many hundreds of Inchbald alumni, these are people who have built on a sound educational basis to develop their own inimitable style.

Principal Alan Hughes takes particular interest in the designer/client relationship; “it is vital” he remarks, “to demonstrate to the student how they may develop their own ideas whilst taking note of the client’s background, experience and taste.” Contrary to many opinions in the art world, there is no-one who lacks taste, however, that taste may be judged.

“Once identified, personal taste or choice can be engaged and developed further, so that the space reflects the client’s attitudes;  it is the designer who articulates those attitudes in order to coax experience and opinion into a robust and coherent result.”


This fundamental lesson encourages the students, not only to accord their clients the privilege of their own views but serves to expand the young designer’s thought process and perspective.

I have always taken the view that we can learn and benefit from the brilliance of past designers who have laid down principles of style development which it is impossible to ignore. The history of design is the very grammar of the profession and I was saddened at the last BIID General Meeting that the audience did not seem to have assimilated the importance of this learning source. Is the Parthenon not significant in the development of Western architecture? Is Morris not still regarded as a master of pattern and weave and do we not still use his designs to this day? Surely then these forerunners of today’s designers are more than worthy, indeed are vital, to the study which involves not only styles through the centuries but also the technological developments that accompany all innovation – and innovation is the very essence of design.

The technological advances of the recent years have been startling in the celerity with which so much has been achieved but these advances are not limited to the last two or three generations – what incredible and unsung engineer in 3,100 BC masterminded the movement of the stones of the blue mountains of Wales to Dorset, what brilliant Japanese mind devised the system of stone cutting which built castles with perfect joins, the stones processed off the site?

“No matter how talented, how experienced, how successful, we have a great deal to learn on a daily basis and learning is surely the greatest joy”


This article first appeared in Interior Design Yearbook 2017