Studying Interior and Spatial Design in the UK

Chelsea College of Art and Design

This month, I spoke with my friend Hana Fiona Tindjau, who recently graduated with a degree in Interior and Spatial design at Chelsea College of Arts and Design in London. Hana shared with me her love for London, and how her degree developed herself as a designer. For those of you who are aspiring designers, let’s see what tips she has for submitting portfolios and on how to survive studying Design in the UK!

So, let’s start with telling us a little bit about yourself, and why did you chose to study in London?

Well, I’ve always been interested in UK, mainly because I’ve always adored the European culture. I chose London because it’s a type of city that is big enough and important enough for events to happen. Studying in London would be perfect for me so I enrolled myself in the study of Interior and Spatial Design in Chelsea College of Arts and Design, which is part of University of the Arts London. It was definitely an incredible experience, and it wasn’t just because I was living in London, but the school and the program itself made it very valuable.

Can you share with us your experience of studying Interior and Spatial Design?

To start with, I think when I mention Interior Design, a lot of people would immediately think of it as being “decorative”. But, what I learned was a lot more conceptual and definitely developed what kind of designer I want to be. For instance, our project briefs were never very straight-forward and it involved a lot of research. Of course, unlike in academia, research in the arts industry doesn’t involve a lot of writing, but it’s a lot of sketching and drawings. For example, I once got a project brief to transform a former prison into a functional space. There are a lot of possibilities on what I could make, but first off I had to do a lot of background research and go through historical archives of the site.

Furthermore, what was interesting for me is that with every project brief, every student have different approach to it and will come up with completely different final design in the end. So, I guess the main thing about studying design in the UK is that you’re allowed to explore in your own ways and develop who you are as a designer.

What would you tell prospective students and aspiring designers who wants to pursue a degree in Design in the UK?

First of all, a very good mindset to have before you go is to be very independent. I think that for most students in Indonesia, we’re quite used to being told what we should do and are mostly given clear directives. In design school, you are given a lot of open briefs and the projects are long-term. Design students should develop a mindset of working for you, instead of relying on your tutors. Because honestly, tutors won’t ever tell you what to do. They would help you with providing guidelines for your projects. But, in my experience, being a design student would have you relying a lot on your intuition and self-motivation.

Also, you have to explore a lot and be open to a lot of things. For instance, I thought that I would only look at interior references. But, when I came to the UK, I realised that the design industry is very flexible and overlapped with each other. So, really, you will find inspiration from books, film, photographs – places that you wouldn’t think of finding inspiration for interior projects from. In short, it would definitely help you a lot to grow as a designer when you open yourself up to what’s around you.

As with most Art and Design degrees, you’ll have to submit a portfolio as entry requirement. What advice would you give to prospective Design students for preparing their portfolios?

Besides showing your skills, your portfolio should be able to show who you are as an artist. It would also matter how you layout your work. There’s no set ways to present your portfolios: you can make a book, poster or journals – though it’s important to thoroughly check with the requirements set by the university. But, like I’ve said, show off your creativity and your personality in your portfolio, in order for you to stand out from other candidates.

In what ways do you think this course has helped you in preparing yourself for future workplace or career?

Networking is the number one skill that is very important and which I have developed during my studies. The design industry is very competitive and there are plenty other people who are as talented as you are, if not more. So, besides having a good CV and portfolio of studio work, strong networking skills will help you a lot in getting you where you want to be in your career. It’s important to put on the extra effort to talk to your tutors, go to exhibitions, talk to people, and set up a website for your portfolio. It’s really quite similar with jobs in any fields, really.

What’s also important is to explore other activities outside of school. I mean, if you’d apply to a big architecture or design firm, there would be hundreds of other candidates who would probably have similar skills as you do. What would make you stand out is what you do outside of your studies. It could be anything, really, such as joining the student council, taking up calligraphy or whatever it is that interests you!

I’d like to thank Hana for taking the time to share with me her stories of studying Interior and Spatial Design in London. Hopefully her experiences has given some aspiring designers out there insights on pursuing your dream of becoming a successful artist and designer!


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