About the Author
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Lauren moved to Denver three years ago and is loving every bit. Though she came to Colorado to study communications, marketing, and journalism, she’s got a love for all things art, design and media related. Lauren’s gig at The Chaise Lounge includes writing, copy editing and creating social media content. When not in classes at the University of Denver or writing about the business of interior design, you can find her with a camera or paintbrush in her hand, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, or on the ski slopes.

Art School Versus University

Hey everyone! Today, we’re diving into the differences between art school and traditional four-year universities. The paths are considerably different, and we want to explain the contrasts between the two from personal experiences. Taylor attended Washington State University to earn a Bachelor’s of Arts, while Lauren attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago to earn a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts. You can become a designer through either program, we’re just comparing the two!

Required Courses

Art School

Don’t be fooled, art schools do offer business and math classes, but they’ll be focused on your life as an artist and how to market your work. Several history, research, general art process (exploring various mediums), and liberal arts classes (such as writing, culture, and philosophy) may be required at art school. No, you won’t have to take biology, calculus, or accounting classes, but you will have to step outside of your comfort zone a bit to take art electives you may not be used to. Often times, art schools will encourage you to take classes in areas you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards like printmaking if you’re a sculptor.


In a traditional University you have two sets of required courses: those that you need in order to graduate and those needed for your major. The courses required by the university in order to graduate will change in level and hours between schools, but in general, you are required to take math, humanity, science (with a lab), English and a history course of some sort. You may be able to test out of some classes, but you’ll need to speak with your advisor for more information specific to your university. Ultimately, the required courses in traditional universities are geared towards getting a decent idea of all the different areas of study offered to help you find a major to focus. General electives help you to explore classes to count towards minors.

Class structure

Art School

Art schools generally have longer class hours and meet less frequently. You won’t always be sitting through lectures, but rather, working. Studios at SAIC alone are either 3 or 6 hours long. Art schools dedicate large blocks of time to encourage more focused work. Art school is more self-driven, so what you put in, you get! It’s best to remember you won’t have a professor by your side when you’re in the “real world.” If you have questions, take initiative and ask them without hesitation! 


In general, Universities have fairly short classes only lasting about 50min, but you meet fairly regularly. There are, of course, exceptions to this, e.g. science labs, art classes, and design classes. Many upper-level classes tend to be longer, though they still meet regularly. In University, the main focus of class is to give as much information as possible about a given subject. Rarely do you get to everything in class, therefore, you are heavily encouraged to take advantage of office hours, tutoring centers, and the library. Much of your work is done outside of the classroom through homework, self-study, and projects.

School Environment

Art School

As I’m sure you can guess, you’ll be surrounded by other artists in art school. In architecture, the building you design is more than a structure – it’s a giant interactive sculpture. Everything is art. You go to class with painters, sculptors, fashion designers, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, and videographers.

Opportunities are everywhere to collaborate on projects: have your photographer friends help you out when you need to document your project model, learn a few tips from your graphic design friend to clean up your renderings and portfolio, and maybe even have a sculpture friend critique your model structure. You have the minds of other artists around you, allowing thoughts to endlessly flow in different ways. Network with the people you know, and collaborate!


In traditional University, you interact with a wide range of people from many different backgrounds, with diverse interests. It is unlikely that as a working professional you will only work directly with people who have similar interests and backgrounds as yourself, so universities are a great way to interact with people from many walks of life.

Universities are also great simply for the sheer breadth of course choices offered. Even if your degree is design focused, you can take classes in other subject that you just find interesting. You can get a minor in something that does not have any obvious connection to your major, but that you feel passionate about. One of the most beneficial aspects of going to a traditional university is the diversity of people and subject. Take advantage of the diversity and use it to build up your skill set!

The Student Lounge Conclusion

Finding the right environment for you is your key to success. If you want to incorporate many different things into your design education, look into some of the programs offered at more traditional universities like GWU, Virginia Tech, FSU, or even WSU (Go Cougs!). If you have a more art-focused brain and wish to learn more deeply about various fine arts, find your place at Pratt, RISD, SAIC, SCAD, or Cal Arts. Your design practice is shaped by what you learn, so find a program that fits your interests!

Nicole Ruffing: Sherwin Williams

Welcome back! Today in The Student Lounge, Trish is joined with Nicole Ruffing, Sherwin Williams designer account executive from Atlanta, Georgia. The two dive into color theory and all Sherwin Williams has to offer for students and design professionals.

Nicole attended the University of Connecticut for political science and began working in construction in Florida before ever attending design school. She happened upon an interior design book which sparked her interest, and she quickly fell in love with the study. Finally, she looked forward to school and assignments!

As a student, she began as a part-time color consultant – giving homeowners color and product recommendations – at Sherwin Williams. She eventually became a store manager, then made her way into color marketing and design. There, she learned about the business aspects that she wasn’t taught in a classroom. Today, Nicole is a designer account executive, providing color tools, resources, and recommendations to clients. She gets to work with designers and make color fun!

The 152-year-old company offers resources for both designers and students through their site. By signing up online, you can receive complimentary paint samples as a professional or student. Events and opportunities for education are always happening at Sherwin Williams, which you can learn more about online.

A student design competition takes place every spring, spanning over about six weeks. There are two contests, residential and commercial. All you must do is submit renderings – hand drawn or digital – with Sherwin Williams colors and a brief description.

When a student graduates, Sherwin Williams will send the full library of their professional tools, including a fan deck, pallet guide, and larger samples. Contact your local designer account executive to receive a free color fan deck today, and listen on for more information about how to access the tools available and find internship opportunities.


  1. Always sample a color before choosing one. They look different from room to room, lighting and depending on if it is dry.
  2. Pick paint colors last when working on a project. They have over 1,500 colors, so there is no shortage of what might work for you!
  3. Find an inspiration piece to use with the app, Colorsnap, to match the colors in the piece.

What I Learned After a Semester of Design School

After my time at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) studying architecture, I’ve come up with a few bits of advice for anyone just starting out or thinking about getting into design. Being in classes with a variety of students – from architects to interiors to product designers – I better understood each path and what I wanted MY focus to be. Whatever it is you’re concentrating on, know that we’re all in it together!

When you sign up for design school or even just one class, it is not all colors, finishes, and furniture. Sketching beautiful designs from your imagination turns into math, all-nighters, and the model you redo three times over. No, I don’t want to scare you; I want you to know that design school isn’t like what you see on HGTV.

The Structure of Class

No matter where you go, all classes are different. Even within the school you’re attending, professors each have their own style of teaching. Some like to spend time looking at notable projects, some will show videos like KOOLHAAS HOUSELIFE, and others might spend the majority of their time lecturing.

At SAIC and other art school programs, you will likely experience more studio time and less instruction. Many of the classes are self-driven, and it’s up to you as a designer to use the resources available to you, reach out to your professors & faculty members, and attend talks.

Usually, the beginning of the class is the time to update the professor and class on the status of your project BEFORE diving into your work, much like how things would run at a firm. I experienced a mix of studio time and lectures, but most of the time my classmates and I quietly researched, drafted, redrafted, learned to use AutoCAD, built models galore, and asked our professor questions. Keep in mind, professors often won’t come to you, so be sure to seek them out to ask questions on your own.

Your Reason

Why did you choose to take this class? That’s what they’ll ask you when you first introduce yourself, even before seeing the syllabus. For some, it was because they had parents in the industry, others have always been creative and want to turn their skills into a profession, and then there are those who want to see what being a designer is really like.

Consider why you’ve chosen to design and think about what you want to get out of your time in a particular class. Do you want to work at a firm? Is it your dream to open a firm on your own one day? Do you have absolutely no idea? It’s alright if you’re unsure about what you want to do, but if you have an idea, take steps towards your goal. Try to connect with the people you admire, and learn how they got there.

The Chaise Lounge Podcast is a great place to hear the success stories of designers from across the country. It focuses on the business of design, what isn’t taught in school.

They Did it Too

Who am I talking about here? The greats of course! Ludwig Mise van der Rohe and Philippe Starck didn’t wake up and decide to become designers and then design the Farnsworth House or celebrity homes in a day. No one gets to where they are without a little blood, sweat, or tears. I mean this quite literally – be careful with your X-acto knives. When you look at the clock and realize the sun is about to come up but you’re still straightening out your AutoCAD drawings, take a deep breath and remember it’ll all be worth it.

7 Steps to Conquer a Critique 

A critique, sometimes referred to as a “crit,” can be daunting in design school – especially if you aren’t prepared. During a crit, fellow students, professors, and sometimes even guest designers will observe a presentation of your latest project. Made to be constructive, they can sometimes be overwhelming, and you may lose sight of the purpose in all the nerves.

Here at The Student Lounge, we’ve come up with a list of seven steps for you to conquer what sometimes seems impossible:

  1. Pinup Correctly
    • Be sure to bring extra tacks (try to have all white, black, or clear to look uniform and professional).
    • Pin up everything level and take time to space everything out equally. Remember, you’re a design student, so you should be conscious of keeping everything tidy!
  2. Have Cohesive Presentation Boards
    • Boards are made to carry an audience through a project. The various boards focus on different aspects of the project in depth, with swatches and blown up images. The first and final boards are to give a summary of the project and to wrap up ideas.
    • Use however many boards you need to communicate your ideas well, but generally stay between 5 and 12.
    • Be conscious of the material and color of the board. Be sure the information and materials on the board are cohesive, and follow a form or method.
  3. Bring a Clean Model
    • Keep your model protected – no one wants to see a soiled or crinkled model that should be stark white!
    • Use bags, boxes, or plastic containers to keep them from getting damaged.
    • We encourage final touch-ups before class, to have the most pristine project.
  4. Protect Your Paper: Drawings, renderings, printed drafts & photos
    • Keep your flat, paper materials protected. If you don’t already have a document tube, find one! You can pick them up almost anywhere you get your supplies, but here are a few:
  1. Have a Verbal Presentation
    • Have a personal introduction including your name, inspiration for the project, and ideas you drew from. Walk your audience through your work and thank the people!
    • Don’t speak negatively about your own work and never apologize while presenting: only explain.
    • Practicing your presentation with a classmate, friend, or even in an empty classroom, alone, can ease your nerves. Drill down what points you want to touch on, and plan how you’ll talk about them.
  2. Just In Case
    • Have extra copies of renderings, printouts, or drawings, in case you forget.
    • Bring extra swatches of fabric.
    • Bring tacky glue, rubber cement (dries fast and is perfect for paper), and Velcro. You don’t want anything to fall off or apart! Even if your materials are ready, you may be a classmate’s saving grace.
  3. Breathe.

If allowed, consider recording audio of the critique. This way, you can go back and listen to what was said for better understanding. Utilize crit sheets, if you can, for others to take notes on specific things that you can later ask about. Even listening to the file months later can be constructive! Furthermore, consider revisiting and revising your projects with the critiques you received. Even if your grade doesn’t have a chance of changing, you can better your portfolio.

Critiques can be harsh, but keep in mind it is all for your benefit. Everything should be objective during a crit – that is, work should be analyzed without personal opinions coming into the conversation. There is no sense fretting about what has been said that you didn’t like hearing. Instead, take the critique and learn from it, even if you disagree. Remember, if someone gave you their opinion, you don’t have to take it 100 percent, but do consider it.

You’re one step closer to being a designer in the real world after you have your first critique under your belt. And if critiques aren’t new to you, be sure to know what to do differently the next time around. Good luck!

Student Edition: McKenna HecK

Hey everyone! Today in The Student Lounge, Trish is joined with McKenna Heck, a recent graduate and new Minneapolis designer. The two dive into what life is like to be a fresh graduate; from working odd jobs to finding internships, paying attention to numbers, and learning on your own, you have to manage all of this and more as a new designer.

About McKenna

A small town girl from Wisconsin, McKenna attended UW Stout, not far from the Twin Cities. Earning a BFA allowed her to explore drawing, painting, ceramics, and metals, alongside interior design. From the built environment and AutoCAD classes to light construction, the program offered a wide range of courses to have a better understanding of the industry. The hands-on classes broadened her understanding of how things technically function and allowed her to look at design in an artistic context.

During her internship at The Chaise Lounge, McKenna wrote an E-Book, So You’ve Graduated Design School… Now What?!With advice from Top designers from across The States, the book guides you through the steps to take as a new designer.

Life After Design School

Picking up a position at the Dallas National Golf Club the summer after graduating, McKenna had the chance to connect with successful business people who regularly hire designers. Interacting with and getting to know people at the club, she had the opportunity to learn how to communicate with higher-end clientele.

Attending Metrocon, a Dallas design market, she met many designers eager to jump-start her career and mentor her along her journey. Without walking up to strangers and introducing herself, some of the connections she made would never have been possible. Beyond new LinkedIn connections, attending markets helps her stay in the know with regards to the latest trends and products.

An introduction into the industry, McKenna was taught the importance of maintaining a calendar and problem-solving at the last of her internships. No longer in a classroom where she could ask endless questions, McKenna had to transition from school to the working world. Problem-solving and researching solutions on your own is very, very important.

Listen to hear more valuable advice from McKenna and find her on Instagram or LinkedIn!

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


Visit NEWH Scholarships to learn more about scholarship opportunities.

A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.

Professor Phyllis Harbinger

Today we welcome Phyllis Harbinger, a professor at FIT and Principal designer at Design Concepts Interiors. A mentor as a professor and ASID member, Phyllis has all the advice from design strategies to presentation. Trish and Phyllis talk about the importance of hand drafting and drawing, using color, enhancing your portfolio, and ASID.

Who is Phyllis Harbinger?

Phyllis earned her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University in international relations and marketing, then attended FIT after several years working. She is going into her 20th year as a professor of design at her alma mater, FIT. Find her latest book, The Interior Design Productivity Toolbox, for a checklist of all you need to know when being a designer.

Keep Hand Drafting and Drawing

Hand Drafting needs to stay in schooling, says Phyllis. Drawing to scale is critical to being a designer and should be taught with pen and paper, not a computer. More than for your understanding, clients still want the artisan touch that watercolors, hand drawings, and renderings bring. Let drawings assist your entire design process!

Don’t be Afraid of Color

Many can be scared, but feature walls and pops throughout spaces can take projects to the next level. Jamie Drake, The Prince of Color, and Caleb Anderson from Drake/Anderson and Tobi Fairley are known for experimenting with color and don’t use it quietly in designs. For more about color theory, visit The Munsell Color System to look in depth through charts, tests, and videos.


  • When managing time, always double your budget and leave room for error.
  • Take critiques and record them to learn for the future.
  • Document your work and revise old projects for portfolios.
  • Visit design centers if you can. Seeing things in life is entirely different than through a screen.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the journey! It’s a gift to create every day.

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


Learn more about Phyllis online at, on Instagram, and Facebook. Get her book, The Interior Design Productivity Toolbox, on Wylie or Amazon.

Visit NEWH Scholarships to learn more about scholarship opportunities.

A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.

Student Edition: Allison Brown

Hey everyone! On today’s pod Trish chats with Allison Brown from Logan, Utah. Allison is a recent graduate of Utah State University and Manhattan-bound. Trish and Allison talk about finding internships, the power of associations, and facing the fear of attending events.

Allison attended Utah State University where she earned her BID (Bachelor of Interior Design). She’ll soon move to the upper east side of New York to work in midtown and grow her practice even more.

Since the young age of 15, she knew she wanted to practice commercial interior design, so involved herself with USGBC, IIDA, NEWH, and ASID early on. Allison was on the USGBC committee in addition to being the student president of IIDA and the IIDA student of the year. Staying involved with clubs and associations has always given her resources and opportunities to network through competitions and events.

Working small internship positions between freshman and sophomore year allowed her to learn just how fast-paced everything is outside of school. After directly emailing her resume and portfolio everywhere she dreamed of working, Allison got her first internship in Houston with Gensler, designing for retail and restaurants. Now she’s headed to The Big Apple to work full time!


  • When you think there is no way you might be the one to win a contest or score a job, it could be the opposite. Internships, jobs, and awards won’t come to you or fall from the sky. Dedicating time towards applications is a learning experience and can lead to something great!
  • Showing up to a convention alone and walking up to strangers is nerve-wracking, but knowledge and networking will carry you on. Go out of your comfort zone! Design events bring never ending inspiration and connections, and you’ll never regret going.

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.

Ryan Ben: IIDA

Hey folks, on today’s pod Trish chats with Ryan Ben of International Interior Design Association (IIDA), in Chicago, Illinois. Ryan, working at IIDA, is the Student Engagement and Advancement Manager. Trish and Ryan get into the importance of joining associations and attending events offered for students who are delving into the industry.

Though Ryan Ben has been living in Chicago Illinois for ten years, he’s originally from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. An enthusiastic reader, triathlete and transitioning towards a plant-based diet, he’s detail-oriented and lives a very scheduled life, to say the least. Switching from studying business to theater, at The University of Pittsburgh, he eventually found his way to the world of design after acting for a time in Chicago. For over seven years he’s been working with volunteers and members of IIDA.

Students frequently are hesitant to spend money on memberships but the gains are incredible. Endless events are offered for students to network and get into the industry through IIDA, alone. Beyond networking and learning, you have the chance to see what the industry looks like, outside of a classroom.

What is IIDA?

From magazines, design news, discounts, receiving a .design domain with a free year of hosting, educational events, and mentoring programs, IIDA is here for YOU! Competitions are open for members and non-members to become involved. The 2019 IIDA Student Competition – based around healthcare design – winning team will receive $2,500. Student Booth Design competition winners will attend Orgatec, in Cologne, Germany in 2020 with the IIDA team, representing their booth. Submissions for this extraordinary opportunity open in the winter of 2019.

How do I get involved?

IIDA students, or those looking to join, can email or call Ryan with any questions from finding internships and jobs to how to become involved with the association. In addition to contacting him, each chapter has highly invested design volunteers always seeking young designers and students to connect with. City Centers and Campus Centers are located all around the world, so find your chapter!

A special, September 1, new students can become involved the rest of this year and next for only $60. Visit here to join online.

If interested, contact Ryan Ben directly at Find IIDA at, and­_HQ.

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.

Jecks Lea: Persona Abode

Hey folks, on today’s pod Trish chats with Jecks Lea of Persona Abode, based out of London. Jecks, UK Ambassador for, is a designer focusing on wellness and humane living. Trish and Jecks get into what it means to design humanely and understanding space.

Though she’s been in London for 12 years, Jecks is originally from North Birmingham. Thanks to The Lego Group, she was inspired early on to be a designer after building homes for dolls. With a degree in accounting, she understands budgets and handles money better. Financial decisions are essential to consider when being a designer, so she’s able to use her first degree today.

Designing for wellness and humane living is the art of figuring out how to enhance ways of life. Certified in vegan design, Jecks designs ethically and with cruelty-free products. Her favorite spaces to design are bedrooms and sitting rooms since they’re designed for comfort and relaxation. Figuring out how to make a client most at ease is her ultimate goal.

From her days of being a student, she found it was beneficial to learn how to draw technically. Taking dimensions and proportions into consideration led to being a better designer, in her opinion. Careful examination of how things will work in space goes into the drafted designs.


  • Understand yourself. Take time to get to know how and why environments affect ways of life. Seek and understand how designs influence people.
  • Attend industry events and markets to build relationships with the people you’ll one day be working with. Seminars and trade shows you visit as a student are the start of your career. Think in the long term when networking as a student!
  • Embrace living and the world around you!

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.

Trisha Poole: Design Poole Inc.

Hey everyone, on today’s pod we have Trisha Poole of Design Poole Inc. in Winter Park, Florida. Trisha is a designer, focusing on hotels and resorts, and the president of the Network of Executive Women and Hospitality (NEWH). Here she offers perspective on understanding all aspects of the industry, staying inspired, and explains opportunities for students.

Coming from a long line of teachers, Trisha decided to get involved with NEWH. She jumped on board to mentor women and immerse herself in a learning environment. Working there gives her the opportunity to help others and get involved with assisting with scholarships. From the vice president of marketing, president of local Orlando chapter, now on the executive committee at the international level as president, she helps students become more involved with the hospitality industry.

Based in the college of architecture, at the University of Florida she was able to collaborate with more than only interior designers. She got to know others studying architecture and landscape design and has more knowledge of the entire industry. What brought her to hospitality was the opportunity to work on restaurants, rooms, the public spaces. Although, impacting people’s lives is the biggest reason why Trisha stayed in the industry.

She first worked and was trained by an architect then went on to moonlight for engineers, before starting Design Poole Inc. Learning how to communicate and function well with the other professionals in the industry has been extremely helpful in the long run. She strongly encourages internships for understanding how things work outside of school. Hands on experience made a complete difference for Trisha, rather than sitting in a classroom. Taking advantage of making connections and learning the industry is the best way to learn, in her opinion. Reach out to local chapters of NEWH to get involved and connected!

Reaching out to people, having a great cover letter and expressing your feelings and goals are the best ways to allow potential employers to get to know you. Designers are expressive and visual, with keen attention to details. Your resume and website speak volumes.

If you set no limitations, you allow yourself innovative, creative, and fresh ideas. Staying driven and inspired will carry you through your career, she says. Some of the ways she likes to stay inspired are finding a happy environment with other creative people, looking at everything in a positive way (as a creative challenge), and finding ways to relieve stress like creating a community and laughing together. Dream, and dream big!

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

The Student Lounge Updates

Feedback? Questions or Concerns? Need to connect? Reach us here.


A big shout-out to Porcelanosa and Benjamin Moore for sponsoring The Student Lounge! Click here to learn more.