Our Young Designer series aims to inspire those who are yet to get their first foot on the ladder in this fiercely competitive industry.
Internships and determination are what landed Lauren Rugless her first junior designer job at CHADA — a leading hospitality design practice in Sydney — before she’d even graduated!
The 22 year-old was employed full-time last year, before completing her degree in Design at the prestigious COFA (majoring in spatial and textile design).
Proving you’re keen and committed is paramount, she advises: “Determination is the key here. During my four-year degree I did one day a week work experience for 2.5 years between interiors at CHADA and doing graphics for Nicoya Furniture (her mother’s business). I then did a 6-month internship through CHADA. Having this industry experience under my belt, connections through industry events, and determination, are what got me the job. I don’t think CHADA hired me on what I know (I still have so much to learn), but more on my willingness to learn. Don’t be scared of asking questions – this shows you’re keen!”
When it comes to education though, Lauren says it proves you’re committed. “You want employers to know you are serious and determined. It’s also great to expand your technical knowledge and creativity. Learning to express my creativity and being comfortable about doing so were invaluable to me throughout my degree.”
At CHADA, she has been allowed to be involved in many aspects of projects, whether it be fabric selection, schedules, drawing custom items, preparing presentation documents or material boards. She is learning a lot from her bosses there, Rick Whalley and Juliet Ashworth. “They come from very different backgrounds which allows me to learn the best of both worlds from them. Rick is a mentor when it comes to construction, master planning and the detailing behind each project, while it is Juliet who ties it all together with her eye for colour, texture and form, which combined creates the CHADA aesthetic.”
Lauren hasn’t always known she wanted to be in interiors, and decided to study a bachelor of design to get a taste for everything. “I knew I wanted to do something creative but having no experience in any specific design from school, I decided to test the waters. My degree allowed me to try graphics, spatial and textile design, and along with this knowledge, once I began interning at CHADA, I knew interiors was where I wanted to be.”
The best part about the job is that it constantly challenges and inspires her. “I am learning new skills and becoming more passionate every day, and the opportunities seem to arise with this increased knowledge, which is great!” She adds: “The most challenging part of the job at this point in my career, is the huge amount I still don’t know, but this also presents so many learning opportunities.”
The biggest misconception about interior design, in Lauren’s opinion, is the amount of detail involved. “I think most people think of interior design as picking the colours, materials and furniture, which is obviously a part of the job. We also custom design most furniture we specify, we design our own wallpapers and carpets, we do the master planning of the interiors of any new-build project we are working on, we draw every piece of joinery to the joint and the bolt. We don’t just make things look pretty, we make them work.”
Her best advice for graduates is to get an internship under their belt. “You’ll not only have experience before you get your first job (which is essential) but you’ll confirm whether or not it is what you want to do! I would say ask questions: the more you ask, the more you learn and the more valuable you become as a designer. And importantly, start networking. Industry events are where you’re going to meet your future clients, co-workers or employers.”