Have Your Say: What is the best advice you received as a student?

At Design Insider we recognise the expertise within commercial interiors and we are proud to instigate conversations which inform, challenge & inspire the people who make our sector thrive. 

Our Editor, Alys Bryan, has been invited to join the judging panel for NEWH in the UK’s student competition which awards at least 3 scholarships to Undergraduate students in their 2nd year (or above), studying Interior Architecture or Design a scholarship of £2000 each.  Therefore we felt it appropriate to reach out to Commercial Interior Designers and Suppliers and ask: What is the best advice you received as a student? 

‘When I was a student, Peter Snow, one of my tutors at the Slade School of Fine Art, where I was studying for an MA in Theatre Design, told me to ‘surrender to the process’. At the time I didn’t really understand what he meant, but it somehow stuck in my head, and it took me ages to get it. Then when I did finally relate this to my own work a few months later, it was like a bombshell. This is now my mantra at work – as a designer you shouldn’t jump to the end output too quickly, you need to let the research, collaborations, voices, tests, prototyping, conversations all take you on a journey out of which the best design work emerges.’

Pippa Nissen, Director, Nissen Richards Studio

‘The best piece of advice I received as a student was when I was struggling at the start of a project. My tutor told me there are really no new ideas, only an evolution of previous ideas, so do your research, go to the library, read, look for inspiration in everything around you and your creativity will look after the rest…..’

John Williams, Founder, SpaceInvader

‘Whilst in my final year studying Interior Architecture and Design in Ireland, an opportunity arose for a work placement with a design practice in London. My fellow students were hesitant, but encouraged by my lecturers, I jumped at the chance. I applied and got the job and the rest they say is history. After 15 years working in the hospitality design Industry in London, I live by the mantra, “you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain” by stepping forward.

Now in my role as Scholarships Director for the NEWH in the UK, I actively encourage students to enter our annual Scholarships Competition. It’s not only an amazing opportunity for students to showcase their skills, but to meet and network with industry professionals leading to possible job opportunities and career development. As I say, “It’s the taking part that counts and you never know where it might lead you.’

Annette Culhane, Senior Associate Spa Development ESPA International & Scholarships Director NEWH UK

“Set high standards for yourself and be true to your word. Be consistent on a daily basis, and always give your best, whilst being there for people. If you are always giving your all, you will never let yourself down. Above all, just enjoy every day and appreciate everything and everyone around you.”

Jordan Jones, Senior Business Development Manager, Seatable UK Ltd

“When reflecting on my student years many key pieces of advice come to mind. To create a unique design piece, you should model something by hand out of a material entirely different from the object’s final product. Don’t be precious about your design. Let it evolve, allow others input, open your mind, and challenge your design.

However, another lesson I have discovered through observation is to ‘listen first’. If someone challenges you, it’s not always best to defend yourself immediately. Let people voice their argument or opinion, irrespective of whether it’s right or wrong. Your response would then not only be more informed and considered, but everyone is ready to listen, and your response is better received after everyone else has simply been heard.”

Natalie Sanders-Todd, Design and Project Leadership Associate, M Moser Associates

‘Don’t be a chef, be an interior designer!’ was the best advice I was given, after a course tutor saw the way my mind worked and spotted a different kind of creative potential. I think being prepared to listen to people who really know their stuff and are looking out for you – and to truly consider their insights – is a very important attribute, both then and now.’

Rachel Withey, Founding Partner & Interior Designer, Ekho Studio

‘One of the best pieces of advice I got as a student was to take advantage of all the perks offered by all universities, attend all events, and sign up to all the free memberships that come with being a student. Most of the time there is really no catch; some things genuinely are as good as they seem.’
Emily Marzocchi, Interior Designer at G.A Group, Secretary & Internet Communication Chair at NEWH UK Chapter

‘To get out and network, which admittedly I didn’t take advantage of as much as I could have at the time! It is of course important to have a great portfolio of work, but having a good knowledge of what’s going on in the industry and getting your name out there will help with employability. When I have spoken with students at networking events I’ve always been impressed with their sense of initiative. It’s definitely not as intimidating as I would have thought back then!’

Jenny Crossland, Branding and Graphics Associate, SpaceInvader

‘My wildly eccentric and brilliant art teacher, Bob Ivanson once said – while batting crumpled rejected artwork into a basket with a hockey stick – ‘Claire, widen your beautiful mind and stop nodding your head at everything I say! Question me and question everything. Be curious, be enthusiastic, be cynical and be discerning in equal measure’ – all great advice.’

Claire Menzies, Chairwoman, Istoria Group

‘Always appreciate the fact that there’s more to learn, no matter what you’re doing or what stage you’ve got to. There’s no such thing as being in full possession of all knowledge on anything, so ensure you always stay humble. That’s great advice I never forget, together with something my dad always said – ‘Listen twice as much as you speak. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!’

Nigel Tresise, Director, align

‘I went to university with the self-expectation and hope of finishing with a First Class Degree. Once I began and realised how much I would get out of the social side of university life my focus shifted somewhat. I still wanted to get a good degree but wanted to enjoy my time possibly at the expense of obtaining a First. While discussing my personal dilemma it was said to me “don’t be too hard on yourself” which lead me to accept that a balance of academic and social activities was more appropriate for me. This was advice I took and would pass on to others and I believe it applies to all walks of life, not just students.’

Nami Rainsford, Business Development Manager, Roman

For our April’s Have Your Say article we are asking: What does Milan Design Week need to deliver in order to lead the international design event scene?

We would love to publish your opinion, please email your answer (50-150 words), name, title, company and portrait to alys@designinsiderlive.com


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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