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Stephanie Garcia, a second-year design student at El Centro, already has undergraduate degrees in Spanish and business. She works as a designer but wants the education and technical knowledge to take her career to a higher level.

​Contact: Debra Dennis

For immediate release — April 8, 2019

(DALLAS) — It sounds glamorous. And television shows give it an all-consuming appeal. Fluff a few pillows, re-arrange some furniture, knock out a wall, hang some art and you can call yourself a designer.

Not so fast, says Rise Pace Talbot, program coordinator and faculty member for the interior design program at El Centro College. Designers first must study space, volume, proportion and scale.

Beginning with the Fibonacci sequence (a specific series of numbers used in proportion), principals of Gestalt theory (which are related to perception and problem-solving) and even geometry, students apply these skills to understand how space is used. Hand drawing is another skill that aspiring interior design students develop; they also are encouraged to understand their surroundings.

The interior design business is the business of communication, Talbot said. “Designers must communicate the ideas in their heads in a format that their clients can understand.” She cautions that while nationally celebrated interior designers have wide appeal and own profitable businesses, duplication is a lofty goal.

“Interior design is a very technical discipline,” said Talbot, who is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE), Registered Interior Designers (RIDs), the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) and the Texas Association for Interior Design.

It would be a mistake, she said, to consider interior design “soft-skilled.”

“There’s a lot to this (field). There’s science and math. We teach one semester about lighting and another semester about rendering color in a drawing. We have students build models to help them understand the concepts of volume and space,” Talbot said.

Getting Started in a Rewarding but Technical Field

The Dallas County Community College District has about 80 students enrolled in its interior design program at El Centro College who become like “family,” Talbot said.

Stephanie Garcia, 29, is among them. A second-year design student at El Centro, she has undergraduate degrees in Spanish and business from the University of North Texas. But her dormant interest in the field was rekindled when the design world began calling.

“I was in marketing for four years,” Garcia said. “This (interior design) started out as a hobby.”

When her parents hired an interior designer, Garcia said she took careful notes. She sat in on the meetings and watched plans grow from an idea to practical designs. She then started assisting friends and acquaintances with their own decors and helping them find designs that were both comfortable and practical.

“People asked me for ideas for their homes and apartments. They seemed to like my suggestions, so I decided to look at this as a career,” said Garcia, who is a designer with a local fashion house, Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, which specializes in luxury home furnishings.

“I don’t have the education credential yet, so I can’t call myself a registered interior designer,” she said. “But I can call myself a designer.” She has leveraged her talents and assists others with choosing furnishings for both commercial and residential projects.

Garcia added, “I sit down with the clients and do space planning and customer service. You have to have a good ear and listen to what they want.

“People think it’s easy, but this work is very detailed. I go to work in commercial establishments such as a restaurant or a hotel. That’s where you work hand-in-hand with an architect. We have to know how to do things from the ground up, like lighting and plumbing and spacing. That’s why I’m back in school,” she explained.

Student Judi Armstrong enjoys space planning. “Everyone thinks of interior design as decorations,” she says. “But we have to know what clients want and what they need.”

Judi Armstrong, 52, found that she enjoys space planning. She began looking at interior design while she was in high school, but with travel and family — her goals were set aside. Until now.

Armstrong also is enrolled at El Centro and hopes to make her mark professionally after she graduates. “Everyone thinks of interior design as decorations and color and textiles. But we get into the nitty gritty. We have to do the more detailed work, like who lives in the house and who has accessibility issues. We have to know what clients want and what they need,” she said.

Competitive but Rewarding

Talbot describes the interior design business as competitive, but she said designers often find work remodeling or updating homes and businesses. “Employment opportunities are higher in Dallas than most cities,” she added, “because Dallas Market Center is here.”

At El Centro, most classes comprise two hours of lecture and six laboratory hours each week. Local designers often request El Centro students for internships. Talbot said, “This is a pretty involved profession. HDTV has made it very popular, but you have to be technical and artistic.”

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the job outlook for interior designers is positive. The median pay is $51,500 annually or $24.76 per hour.

El Centro is the only college in the DCCCD system that offers certificate or degree options in interior design. Full-time students can complete the associate degree in two years. The Interior Design Advanced Technical Certificate can be completed in two months.

The El Centro College Center for Design presented “Creative Threads,” a showcase of student projects, at Fair Park on May 3 in the Hall of State. See more information and a link to a photo gallery of the show on the Creative Threads event page.

For more information about El Centro’s interior design program, contact Rise Pace Talbot at or at 214-860-2253.

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