When you’ve found success and stability in one career, the thought of starting over in a whole new industry can be enough to scare you away.
This was the dilemma Cindy Phillips faced after working in advertising for 15 years. Shortly after having her son, Leo, she re-entered the workforce in a TV production role, but was struggling to find the right work life balance.
‘I knew something had to change,’ Cindy says. ‘While I found the idea of being a “mature age student” extremely daunting, I wanted to do something to make my boy proud in the years ahead.’
Feeling inspired to start a new chapter, she enrolled in a Certificate IV of Interior Decoration at ISCD — a school with a 40-year history of shaping Australia’s next generation of designers. With plenty of individualised support, the certificate was the perfect push out of her comfort zone. And after enjoying it so much, she continued on to the nationally recognised Diploma of Interior Design, refining the skills that ultimately helped her land her current dream job in Simone Haag’s team.
Working as a designer and production lead, Cindy uses the learnings from her studies almost every single day. ISCD’s courses are now offered online, making it easier than ever for budding designers to take that leap into their passion at their own pace, no matter their age or previous background. Find out more about Cindy’s pathway below.
I landed this job by…
Being proactive. I’ve always followed The Design Files, and that’s how I discovered Simone, followed her career path and her evolving aesthetic, which I constantly drew inspiration from. I attended a workshop in Simone’s home soon after completing my Diploma. In exchange for feedback on the workshop, I asked Simone if she’d be the first to look at my portfolio and CV. Simone recognised the parallels between the advertising and interior design industry processes, and she gave me a particularly challenging brief to see what I’d come up with. That was the last time I edited my portfolio!
My studies prepared me for the workforce by…
Honing my skills in presenting my own creative concepts and these skills have been further enhanced presenting to our Simone Haag clients. These presentations have been an expected and fulfilling part of my role – meticulously presenting mood boards, palettes and concepts. After graduating with my Diploma, I was off and racing with AutoCAD, Photoshop and InDesign, which was a huge focus of the course. AutoCAD has been particularly beneficial, which is used for reading architectural design drawings and spatial planning of our concepts, as well as designing custom furniture pieces.
The teachers at ISCD, who were very supportive, were all working in the industry, so the students had their experience to draw from and we enjoyed absorbing details about the projects they were working on at the time. The learning was incredible – but doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom. Every project, client, bump-in and shoot leads to more and more learning.
A typical day at work for me involves…
Our days are truly varied. We might have a ‘palette play’ session with clients, where we take them through a range of fabrics to gauge their interest in tones and textures, or showroom visits to gather their thoughts. Then it’s a lot of scheduling and working to budgets, and finding new options for that reason! Spatial planning, client presentations, and sourcing styling items, also all form a significant part of each project.
The most rewarding part of my job is…
Seeing our client’s responses to their new homes, where their concept has been carried through to the final installation. And it’s always exciting to gain PR coverage for our work, as well as nods in award shows.
I’ve also been lucky enough to travelling interstate and internationally — most recently to Singapore — for client meetings. Last year, Simone opened up her little black book and invited people (now friends) to join our team in LA for a design-focused excursion to visit iconic homes, furniture showrooms, with a side of shopping. It was truly amazing.
Oh, and shopping. To this day, I still feel guilty when visiting showrooms and galleries during work hours until I recall that it’s a part of my job!
On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…
Time. Always wanting more of it! Our team has a really strong work ethic, with a ‘get it done’ mentality, whilst juggling family commitments. Our roles are fairly well defined, but we’re always ready to assist each other to get the best outcomes for our clients.
The most important personality trait for any emerging designer is…
Being able to effectively communicate and form great relationships with clients, colleagues, artisans and suppliers.
The one piece of advice I would give to emerging interiors designers looking to break into the industry is…
Other than being prepared to work really, really hard for the reward of an exciting career, immerse yourself in the industry. It was also essential to me that my qualifications from ISCD were accredited by the Design Institute of Australia, gaining me the upmost respect by future employers and industry peers.
For continual inspiration, read every magazine, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and events. Understand the value in working your way up and what you will learn along the way. And if you’re especially lucky, you’ll end up working with an amazing team like mine.
ISCD teaches the software and tools you need to bring your interior styling concepts to life. Find out more about ISCD’s online Interior Design and Decoration courses and enjoy free access to design software valued at $1,700 here. If you’d like to speak to a course advisor for guidance on which course is right for you, click here.