First past the post: Part 1 - The Open College of the Arts
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First past the post: Part 1

BA (Hons) Interior Design.

It is an exciting moment for Interior Design studies at the OCA as we have recently had our first student complete the initial HE4 degree unit and submit for assessment!

It’s always good to receive feedback, and as this is a new course at the OCA, Programme Leader Catherine Byrne, was keen to hear what the first-past-the-post student, Lee Anderson, thought of the course so far…

Catherine Byrne: Did you enjoy the first BA Hons Interior Design course unit at the OCA?

Lee Anderson: I have enjoyed the first part of the Interior Design course, at times it was difficult and frustrating but throughout it all I have been gaining skills and learning more about subjects I’ve had interests in for a long time. I am very task focused so having a reason to learn these subjects and practice the technical skills has really been very satisfying.

CB: What made you want to study Interior Design? And why now?

LA: I fantasised about decorating my own home from a really young age and when I was a teenager I’d take myself off to the more salubrious areas near where I lived to wander around the beautiful Victorian and Georgian buildings, spying in windows at the wonderful ceiling roses, cornicings and furniture inside. When I went on holiday I would come back with pictures full of buildings and not people, so I guess I’ve had a bit of an obsession for years but when I was young I never knew Interior Design was even a thing?. 

I thought I might go to art school or university to undertake an art subject but it never happened and life took me in a different direction. I’ve always regretted that I never made a career involving art or design and have tried to satisfy myself throughout the years by undertaking creative short courses. 

At work a few years ago I was involved in a refurbishment and redesign of a mixed purpose building. I loved the process of understanding what was required for the building and the people who would use it and being involved in decisions around the design and fit out of the building. This is when I realised interior design is what I should do, stop regretting and get on with learning something I have a passion for.

My daughter has got to an age that she does not require so much of my time and my husband and I are now in a position to allow me to work part time and give me time to study during the week.

CB: I think it’s fantastic that you have come back to explore your passion now – and really insightful to recognise that ‘design’ is the ‘process’ of making a change happen – rather than the final outcome…

CB: Did you know anything about Interior Design before you started or was it all new to you?

LA: I knew a little about some designers such as Eames, and Alto, designers I had researched when I was at school! I lived in and around Glasgow for most of my life so got to enjoy and love the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and like many I enjoy watching programmes such as Grand Designs and interiors programmes. Before starting the BA I undertook a diploma in Interior Design which I completed in 2018. 

CB: Do you see yourself working as a professional interior designer at some point in the future?

LA: That was the plan when I decided to cut my hours at work to undertake the BA, I very much wanted to finish my working life employed in an area I love. 

The first part of the course has taken me longer than I expected, however, I’m 47 now and estimate I’ll be 57 by the time I finish so I’m not entirely sure I’ll be the graduate companies are looking for? However, I’m also doing it because I enjoy it and if I manage to graduate, I will be very proud of myself that I eventually got the depth of knowledge and skills that I always wanted to have in a creative subject. 

CB: The world of employment is always changing, and graduates are valuable whatever their age so never-say-never! Don’t forget that you also have loads of other life/professional experience that younger graduates will not have had the time yet to gain. And even if you do not go on to practice professionally you will have achieved something massive by the time you graduate! I think, also, that you’ve hit the nail on the head with the word ‘enjoy’ as that is critical to successful designing.

CB: Did you use any physical resources in your local area that were helpful (galleries, museums, libraries, sites to visit etc.)?

LA: I have borrowed books from my local library and visit galleries in the surrounding area. 

I now live in Nottinghamshire and chose The Nottingham Contemporary as the building to focus on in part 1 but I visit these galleries when I can, to see the latest exhibitions. Due to the Bauhaus centenary year the Contemporary and the Lakeside Gallery at Nottingham University had Bauhaus focused exhibitions, both of which I visited. 

I also used my local recreation ground for the pavilion exercise in part 5. I utilised the village website for information and links to historical and geographical facts and I visited the cricket pavilion, situated on the recreation ground, which displays historical details of the area.

CB: I would always advise students to use as many local resources as possible and go and see as much as you can, even if you initially think it is not directly related to your area of study. In my mind nothing has no aspect of value; everything has some point of interest that you can take away from it – a tiny detail, a colour, texture or combination of materials or words that you haven’t seen before, smells, lighting or differences of scale; there is always something to inspire even if the whole space, interior, building or object is not to your taste. I’d also remind all students that every Interior space has an Exterior space either adjacent to it or close by – these have an impact on how that Interior space feels too, so should also always be explored.

CB: Which was your favourite exercise or assignment in ID4EPT?

LA: Part 3, Scale, Space & Object were particularly enjoyable exercises. When I started undertaking the scaled plan and elevation drawings it came back to me how much I had loved technical drawing, way back when I was at school – and I found I enjoyed it just as much now as I did then. I like the accuracy and process of gathering and working out the measurement to create, what I think are very pleasing results. 

I also enjoyed the one and two point perspective drawings in part 4, as this is when I really saw an improvement in my drawing skills.

CB: Drawing and measuring, and then clearly communicating information in this way, is fundamental to good design so it’s great that you are enjoying developing these skills. The more you practise the easier it becomes so that hopefully, eventually, you can draw as easily as you can write a sentence (for example) and your means of communicating in this way becomes quite natural and fluid.


Images: Lee Anderson

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Posted by author: Catherine Byrne
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