Interior Design Firm Hiring Insights from Fuchsia Design
October 1, 2020
We asked Fuchsia Design Owner Autumn Fuchs to share some of her company’s recruiting preferences, as well as advice for recent interior design graduates.
About Autumn Fuchs and Fuchsia Designs: Autumn Fuchs is the founder of Fuchsia Design, a full service residential interior design firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since starting her business, she has designed homes beginning-to-end ranging between $500,000-$15,000,000+.
Even since she was a little girl designing bedrooms for her Barbies and sketching out floor plans in notebooks, Autumn knew she wanted to create homes. She always assumed architecture was the direction for her until she read a pamphlet while in high school about the NCIDQ Exam that sealed the deal on interior design.
Always looking for a new challenge, Autumn is currently studying to get her Michigan Builder’s License. Long term, she looks forward to growing her company and expanding design services outside of the state of Michigan.
Autumn graduated from Central Michigan University in 2010 with a BAA in interior design and a double minor in construction management and leadership. After eight combined years of education and experience, she went on to pass the NCIDQ Exam in the fall of 2014.
Q: Do you offer internships? If so, how many?
A: I do! I typically have one internship opening per summer that I post in February.
Q: What specific qualities and experience do you look for in an intern candidate?
A: Being a high-end design firm, we work with a great deal of small details. First and foremost, an intern must be detail-oriented, organized, and personable. Experience with Excel spreadsheets is also required, and expertise with SketchUp and Photoshop are an extra bonus.
Q: Do you recommend students take the NCIDQ Exam?
A: Absolutely! In the state of Michigan, it is not required that a designer must pass the NCIDQ to practice interior design; anyone can wake up and call themselves an interior designer. Passing the NCIDQ shows clients and other industry professionals that you are well-qualified for the job and you are credible. Because it is not required, very few residential interior designers in Michigan take the initiative, so passing the exam helps you stand out in the industry.
Q: What advice would you give recent graduates about to enter the interior design workforce?
A: There are so many different directions that you can go in the design industry. I would say to be open to wherever your career takes you—especially during the first few years of learning outside of college. When I graduated, I wanted to work for a large commercial firm. I said I didn’t want to work in Michigan, work for a small company, or work in sales, but I ended up working for a small business in Michigan doing furniture sales, and I loved it! I learned so much about fabric, furniture construction, and how to sell a product.
In any form of design, you are typically selling something—whether it be an idea or a product—so gaining experience on how to work with clients and how to listen to what they need was instrumental with my transition into a residential interior designer. I also realized through that experience that my heart was in residential design, not commercial as I originally thought; I may have never known that if I wasn’t open to all opportunities and directions after college.
Q: What is a common mistake recent graduates make while applying to your business?
A: Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a formal email with a resume attached and either a one-page portfolio or a link to a website that shows samples of their work. It’s only been 8 years since I graduated from college, but there is still a bit of a generational gap; I get a lot of one-sentence emails or messages on Instagram asking if I’m hiring, and that really doesn’t make the candidate stand out. Because I’m such a small company, if I’m going to hire someone, they need to wow me!
Q: What do you find recent graduates are most surprised by when they enter the workforce?
A: Interns and recent graduates are often surprised by just how much paperwork there is in design. I sometimes joke that I spend 99% of my day in Excel. With the caliber of custom design that we do at Fuchsia Design, there are a lot of spreadsheets, detailed drawings, spec sheets, and product orders. Only about 1% of the job is picking out the fun finishes and materials. After that, it’s a whole lot of screen time at the computer.
Q: What do you think will be the major changes in the interior field in the next five years?
A: The industry is becoming increasingly electronic. More and more interior design companies are offering 3D renderings as a standard service. Also, there seems to be a surge of clients hiring interior designers for e-design services; this is a newer concept where you don’t ever meet one on one with your clients, and everything is done digitally. I imagine this will only continue to grow as technology becomes more advanced and widely used in the interior design industry.
Q: How would you suggest recent graduates interested in interior design maximize their time with their mentors?
A: If given the opportunity, I would encourage all recent graduates to have at least one internship where they can observe a design from conception through completion. In design school, they’re assigned a project, they design the space, and then they’re given a grade. In the real world, it goes so much further, and who you know is a huge part of a successful project. Do they know trade professionals to execute the ideas? Do they have a source on where to get the materials they’re looking for? Having a mentor or working under a designer with solid industry connections can help new designers to start forming these critical trade relationships.
Autumn Fuchs, NCIDQ
Owner, Interior Designer