The difference between an interior designer and an architect is that architects work on structures and are trained to build them from scratch. Interior designers, on the other hand, work with a space's existing layout, materials, and other décor items to make them look what you imagine them to be rather than building it from scratch.
While both architects and interior designers are creative people making a difference in the lives of others, their roles are vastly different. Let’s explore these differences now:
Who is an architect?
An architect is a skilled professional trained in the art and science of building design. The work of an architect involves developing concepts for structures and turning those concepts into elaborate plans – plans which eventually turn into commercial buildings, residential homes, and offices.
An architect works out the overall appearance and aesthetic of a structure, but their work involves far more than that. The structures they design need to be safe, economical, and must meet the needs of the people who use them. And most importantly, they need to be designed with the public’s health and safety in mind.
What exactly does an architect do?
Here are some of the roles of an architect:
- Meet with clients to discuss their objectives, budget, and requirements for their specific projects.
- Provide counseling and advisory services to clients. You’ll need to advise your clients on the type of designs that work best with their building or the steps they need to take with their construction. This way, you’ll enable your clients to achieve the best possible result with their construction.
- Creating elaborate drawings and testing the feasibility of projects with different architect apps. CAD software can help speed up the process, but you’ll often find it’s the most labor-intensive part of the job. Based on your client’s budget and needs, you may have to make multiple revisions and drawings.
- Ensuring that your designs conform with the various building requirements in the state and locality the construction is to take place. Such requirements include building codes, city laws, construction innovations, fire regulations, and zoning codes. Since these regulations are constantly evolving, you’ll need to stay up to date with the new laws and requirements.
- Getting involved in the construction process to ensure the process is a success. During this stage, you can take on a consulting role, where you’ll help answer some of the questions that may arise, resolve any problems, and sign off on several pieces of work. You’ll often have to visit the construction site to oversee the project and manage the subcontractors on behalf of your client.
Who is an interior designer?
An interior designer is a professional trained in creating cohesive, aesthetically pleasing, and harmonious designs for home interiors. They know how to transform spaces, and using their expertise, they create designs that not only enhance the human experience but also promote the welfare, safety, and health of inhabitants.
That said, interior designing is not the same as interior decorating, even though many people use the two terms interchangeably.
As we’ve already mentioned above, interior designing involves understanding behaviors to help property owners design functional rooms within a building – and this can include the shapes of the floors, walls, and more.
Interior decorating, however, involves furnishing the space in a room with aesthetically pleasing and fashionable things.
An interior decorator takes the role of a personal stylist. They help create an atmosphere within a building that aligns with their client’s style. They don’t change a room’s structure to make it more visually appealing – they use certain accessories, fabric, and furniture to enhance the aesthetics and beauty of a space.
For example, as a decorator, you can help remodel a client’s kitchen. You can refresh the floor, add a few more accessories, or recommend a new color for the kitchen cabinets. As a designer, you can help enlarge the kitchen, move the interior walls, add a separate kitchen sink, or change the position of the countertop. You can design a space from the ground up to make it more visually appealing and functional.
To put it simply, interior decorators are hands-off in the design process, while designers can do both jobs: decorating and designing.
What exactly does an interior designer do?
Even though playing with color, furniture, and fabric makes up a huge part of an interior designer’s job description, you may have to perform other tasks.
- Work more like a project manager, often with your hands in many pots. You’ll have to manage various subcontractors while consulting with your client.
- Prepare comprehensive proposals and estimates for the projects you take on. On some occasions, you’ll give detailed presentations to prospective clients on how you’ll undertake the projects.
- Learn about the structural components used during the construction process.
- Plan interior space efficiently while taking into account crucial things such as airflow, extraction, heat, electrical and plumbing regulations.
- Create plans and elaborate drawings to demonstrate layouts and produce a proposed design scheme.
- Coordinate with other experts and tradesmen to procure certain materials as a senior interior designer.
What about an interior architect?
Interior architecture as a profession has emerged only recently. You can think of interior design architecture as a blend of interior design and architecture.
Compared to interior designers, interior architects are involved in many more things; they take part in the entire building design and renovation process. They have a greater understanding of buildings’ structures and use CAD software on a more regular basis.
You can’t consider interior architects as architects, either. Most interior architects haven’t completed the training required to practice architecture. To practice architecture in the US, you’ll need to complete a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in architecture (commonly referred to as the B.Arch), which can take up to 5 years. If you want to specialize further, you can take specialization courses such as Environmental Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Digital Architecture, etc
On top of that, you’ll need a few years of industry experience and a license – and only then will you be considered an architect. For this reason, interior architects can’t call themselves architects, even though interior architecture focuses on the technical aspects.
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Architecture vs interior design: The main differences
Here are the differences between architecture and interior design that you need to know:
As we’ve mentioned above, you need a license to be an architect – and the same can’t be said about interior designers. All designers, especially decorators, can choose to be self-employed. They don’t need to take special training or apply for licenses to start taking on design projects.
Architects, on the other hand, need to meet their jurisdiction’s education requirements to get a license. For most aspiring architects, this means going to architecture school and earning a professional degree through a program accredited by NCARB. They also have to do an internship that lasts for a minimum of three years. And after that, they have to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) for the state they’re planning to practice in.
Note, though, that interior designers may be required to get interior design accreditation in some states. In such states, interior designers need to get an NCIDQ certification (The National Council for Interior Design Qualification).
You’ll need to take a three-part exam that covers seven areas that capture the core competencies of interior design. These areas include project coordination, construction standards, contract administration, and building systems.
What they design
To put it simply, architects design buildings and structures while interior designers design the interiors of these buildings. An architect is involved on the more technical aspects of the design process. Interior designers fill up and furnish the empty interiors once a building is constructed. Tasks such as selecting materials, choosing color schemes, and refreshing wall designs fall within the scope of interior designers.
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What they focus on
An interior designer focuses more on aesthetics. They focus on creating interior spaces that are aesthetically pleasing and functional through the use of color palettes, decorations, and furniture placement. By paying attention to human psychology and the emotional aspect of interior spaces, they design homes that people want and love to live in.
Architects are more focused on the technical side of construction – they pay attention to things like building materials, ventilation, climate, etc.