2 March 2023Written by Emma Woodward

ISCD’s Design Career Guide

We see design every day; from the styling of our homes, to the designs on our coffee cups, to the poster on the side of the bus. These days, the more global we are, the more accessible design is to everyone and the demand for design specialists is growing. Ever wondered how you go about studying design and most importantly what sort of careers it can lead you to?

This year ISCD turns 40. That’s 40 years of supporting creative people through their study and helping them launch into the industry and their dream career. The opportunities for work in the design world are endless, you just have to make sure you are willing to work for it.

Design has the capability to take you into careers you may not even associate with design or that you even knew existed. Studying design will open you up to so many new and exciting opportunities. There are many different specialisations that come under the design umbrella. Here we explore some of those career options.

Image 1: Ali Yahya
Image 2: Christopher Burns

Junior Designer

The quickest step into the design world is as a junior designer. There is a certain foundation of knowledge and basic skills needed to make this step. Understanding elements and principles, combination techniques, 2D and 3D forms, the creative design process, the history and theory of design, and colour theory and application. 

ISCD student Angela Cassidy

Interior Decorator or Interior Designer

There is a difference between these two and if you are interested in interiors, it’s important that you know what they are to determine what you actually want to do.

Read: 5 Must-Have Skills to Work as an Interior Designer or Decorator

What is an Interior Decorator?

Interior decorating is a term that refers to the decorating and furnishing of interior spaces in homes, offices, and more. Working on what is referred to as a pre-existing space, interior decorators create dream spaces for their clients. They are capable of reinventing a room so that the space feels well resolved, has that ‘wow’ factor and invites you in. 

Interior decorators are also qualified to work in retail for product companies. Big brands need qualified interior decorators to work in their stores; from styling the store to being their stock buyer to helping customers purchase products to complete their design scheme. Good advice is invaluable to all parties in this process.

How Can You Become an Interior Decorator?

Our Certificate IV in Interior Decoration (MSF40122) will provide you with the skills you need to work confidently as an interior decorator in residential spaces. 

You will spend your days developing concepts, drawing floor plans and internal elevations, sourcing furniture and hardware, creating colour schemes and then bringing each element together in your clients’ homes.

ISCD Graduate Alix Helps

Winner of Best of Houzz in both Design and Customer Service for five years running, ISCD graduate Alix Helps is an interior decorator on Sydney’s North Shore, working mostly on residential projects. Essentially working with a pre-existing space, helping people to turn a room into something they love and feel proud of.

What is an Interior Designer?

An interior designer has all the skills of an interior decorator, plus they have a deeper understanding of construction and technical drawing. They can work on anything from small projects to large rebuilds for residential or commercial development. Their projects will by nature be larger and more complex to manage, and their client skills enable them to work with architects, engineers or the client directly. They can work on fast paced residential projects or long term commercial construction. So there is variety in the type of project style an interior designer can work on.

An interior designer is someone who coordinates and manages interiors projects – managing conceptual development, communicating with the clients, builder and architect and overseeing the management and execution of the design.

At ISCD, our interior design students learn to design residential and commercial spaces, develop concepts, colour schemes and soft furnishing plans, and to understand selections, spatial planning and more.

As well as studying the correct courses to become an interior decorator or interior designer, you need to be one of those people who can’t put down that home magazine, who always finds themselves buying homewares and who always finds themselves rearranging rooms – basically someone who lives and breathes interiors!

How Can You Become an Interior Designer?

The nationally accredited MSF50222 Diploma of Interior Design is the course if you are wanting to work as a residential and commercial interior designer. ISCD’s Diploma of Interior Design is recognised by the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) as a quality interior design course. The diploma will provide you with the skills and knowledge to work as an interior designer for a firm, or to establish your own design business.

ISCD Graduate Neluka Jayasuriya

“I had a background in architecture from overseas prior to my studying a Diploma of Interior Design at ISCD. As I had a break after migrating to Australia, studying at ISCD gave me the confidence and reassurance to follow my intuition. I also shaped my knowledge about soft furnishings, fabrics and so much about colour, that also helps me in my current interior design work.” 

Read: Student Finalist Featured in Grand Designs Australia Magazine

Image 1: Jared Rice
Image 2: Nastuh Abootalebi


A stylist is someone who, like an interior decorator, can style an interior space and product range. However, a stylist can also work on anything from styling events such as weddings or photography shoots to magazine shoots featuring products. A stylist is someone who can create a look out of the product range they have been given. They are very aware of current trends and have a great ability to mix and match styles, often coming up with new and interesting looks. To become a stylist you need to have a real interest in keeping up with trends and current styles, as well as having a creative eye.

What is a Stylist?

A stylist is a person whose job is to arrange and coordinate food, clothes, interiors etc. in a stylish and attractive way for photographs, films or display. A stylist spends their days developing concepts, sourcing props, managing clients and finally styling the photoshoot, home, event or retail store.

How Can You Become a Stylist?

Our online Styling Essentials short course is designed to optimise your touchpoints and create a dynamic and engaging learning experience. This course is endorsed by the Home Beautiful editorial team, with inspiring, beautiful and course-relevant content from Home Beautiful magazine. The course covers the latest in local and international design trends, includes practical case studies with lots of take-out ideas, and will give you expert styling tips, tricks and advice.

ISCD Graduate Dani Butchart

Dani Butchart, ISCD Styling graduate and creative director of Dani Butchart Creative Projects + Interiors has worked on some amazing and exciting creative projects. One of these was the Stoneleigh no.50 project where she transformed an abandoned heritage Sydney house into a wonder of nature to promote an interactive Stoneleigh wine tour.

Sweet Ice-Cream Photography

Colour Consultant

A colour consultant is someone who knows and understands all about the world of colour. They are specialists in creating colour palettes for interior or exterior colour schemes and for product development. Businesses like paint companies or any manufacturer of building products will often have an internal colour expert on their team. Another option is to become a colour consultant working alongside architects, construction businesses, or marketing teams. 

What is a Colour Consultant?

It’s quite simple, but it’s not easy. In short, a colour designer or colour consultant specialises in the effects of colour and creates colour solutions for a client’s goals. Whether your client is wanting a colour solution for their home or office space, interior or exterior, logos or corporate branding – a colour consultant will have the in-depth understanding to work in all fields.

How Can You Become a Colour Consultant?

Our online Colour Essentials short course is designed to introduce you to the world of colour. Gain knowledge of terminology, psychology, and the complexities of colour relationships in action. Understand how to apply colour to space through spatial planning and mood. Understand the impact of light, architectural design influences, and the basics of various paint technicalities. The course culminates in analysing numerous client scenarios and providing a complete colour scheme to a brief. Learn about colour from the experts with this course designed alongside Haymes Paint.

If you’re after something a little meatier, then ISCD’s Design and Colour Microcredential will introduce you to the theory behind colour and colour relationships, and you will use industry standard design software, including Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop to specify colour schemes as you draw and render interior and exterior spaces.

ISCD Graduate Becky Stanley

“Before coming to ISCD, I’d been a florist for 25 years and was stuck in a bit of a career and life rut. I was looking for something else and went to the open days of a couple of colleges. ISCD just stood out a mile; I felt really comfortable and the teachers resonated with me. The atmosphere of the school really nailed it for me.

I started getting work halfway through the certificate course – I was assisting on photoshoots for magazines and absolutely loved it. The course really opened my eyes to all the different creative avenues you can choose to go down.

I run my own company, Beautiful Interiors, and work as a colour consultant and prop stylist for television.

The most important part of my experience was the teachers, they were amazing. Really down-to-earth and encouraging. They were realistic about the future, too.

I used to be petrified of change, of taking a chance. The thing I got most out of ISCD besides confidence was the belief that my creativity can be used in so many different areas.”

Surface Designer

A surface designer is someone who illustrates prints and patterns that can be applied to any product. Products can range from homewares and stationary to swimwear and much more. Training in surface design can lead you to many career paths; for example, working for a company helping to design products, an additional skill for a graphic designer or even going freelance and launching your own range of products or designs to license and sell. A surface designer is generally someone who loves to get creative, whether it be with crafts, painting, drawing or digital design. 

What is a Surface Designer?

Surface design is often described as the development of prints and patterns that can be applied to any surface. This includes cushions, lampshades, bed linen, fashion fabrics and wallpaper, just to name a few. A surface designer spends their days working through the design process to develop prints and patterns that can be applied to one or multiple different products.

At ISCD, our surface design students learn to create designs for fashion and home products as well as understand the process to design and manufacture their own product ranges to sell commercially.

How Can You Become a Surface Designer?

Our online Surface Design Essentials short course is designed to teach you the foundations of creating original designs while building your own pattern bank, before working in Adobe Illustrator to gain the technical skills required to create and develop basic patterns into repeat. 

ISCD Graduate Aimee Grant

“Prior to coming to ISCD, I was studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in painting and drawing. Towards the end of my degree, I did some short courses in design and textiles. They really resonated and made me rethink my art practice. My passion for pattern and motifs grew from there, and this is very much reflected in my personal sketchbooks. Right now I just love the fact I’m building a career in an area I’m really passionate about.”

Image 1: ISCD graduate Shelley Acland-Goben
Image 2: ISCD graduate Negin Maddock

Mapping Out Your Career in Design

If you have a passion for design, these are just a few of the exciting career opportunities that come out of studying design. The design world is constantly evolving so designers need to be too. Make sure you choose a school that is DIA approved so you are getting qualifications in a quality course. Remember you get out what you put in, so study hard and dream big. But most importantly choose a school that has the right feel for you. The students you study with will be your network at the start of your career and an invaluable source of support throughout your career.

So, where can design take you? The short answer is, “anywhere you want it to.”

Christelle Bourgeois

Nordwood Themes

ISCD Education Team

ISCD has a great team of industry professionals who are passionate about teaching the next generation of designers. All highly qualified with active businesses in the industry, they bring strong industry connections and practical knowledge to inspire our students on their journey.

Whether you are seeking a career in design or just want to follow your passion and see where it goes, ISCD has a range of accredited and short courses to choose from.

We are big believers that the design industry has a space for anyone who is focused and honest. We really encourage our students to be themselves and bring their unique experiences to begin shaping their design style. The focus at ISCD really is on you – we are passionate about colour and design and want to nurture your creativity by delivering quality education and authentic experiences to help you achieve your goals.

This post was originally published on 18 January 2018, and updated on 2 March 2023.

ISCD has a 40-year proven track record of producing leading Australian interior designers. We know design intimately, from colour theory, to furniture selection to the latest industry trends.

Are you interested in studying interior design or decoration? Do you want to know more about our online courses and where a career in interior design could take you? Connect with us today to learn more about our Diploma of Interior Design, the Certificate IV in Interior Decoration or any of our industry-focused microcredentials.

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