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What is commercial interior design?

What is commercial interior design?

Commercial interior design is the art and science of creating spaces that inspire, engage, and serve the needs of businesses and their customers. It’s where creativity meets function and beauty meets business goals.  

In this article, we’ll explore the main characteristics of commercial interior design, how it differs from residential interior design, examples of commercial interior design projects, and some tips on how to become a successful commercial interior designer. 

Defining commercial interior design 

Commercial interior design revolves around creating functional, safe, and aesthetically pleasing spaces for businesses, institutions, and organisations. 

As a commercial interior designer, you'll use your skills and knowledge to plan, design, and implement solutions that enhance the usability, look, and profitability of commercial buildings. From offices and hotels to restaurants, shops, and theatres, your expertise will transform spaces to drive business success. 

To succeed in this field, you need more than just a keen eye for aesthetics. It's essential to have a clear understanding of your clients' needs and goals, as well as the behaviour and preferences of their customers or employees.

Being well-versed in the regulations and codes that apply to the industry or sector you’re working in is vital, and you’ll need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies to improve the performance and sustainability of your spaces. 

What's the difference between commercial and residential interior design? 

Both commercial and residential interior design share the same core principles of enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of a space but differ in terms of their target audience and purpose. 

Residential interior design centres on creating personalised living spaces that reflect the client’s individual tastes and preferences. As a residential interior designer, you’ll design and furnish homes that reflect the personality and lifestyle of the homeowners. 

Commercial interior design, on the other hand, involves designing spaces that cater to specific business needs and goals. It can encompass a wide range of spaces: from cafes to hotels, leisure facilities to retail spaces, offices to schools. 

As a commercial interior designer, you’ll create spaces that align with the brand identity, customer experience, functionality, efficiency, productivity, and profitability of a business or organisation. You’ll need to consider factors such as security, accessibility, ergonomics, acoustics, lighting, and ventilation.  

Because the projects are usually larger in scale, with multiple stakeholders and more constraints, commercial interior design is complex but rewarding, as you’ll work on projects that can have significant impact on society. 

Types of commercial interior design 

Commercial interior design encompasses a wide range of sectors and industries, each with its own distinct requirements and design considerations.  

If you’re looking to make your mark as a commercial interior designer, here are some of the areas to explore: 

Retail design 

In the era of e-commerce, experience is key. Thoughtfully designed retail spaces create ambiance, engage customers, and foster memorable and immersive experiences that can’t be replicated online. Strategic layouts and product placement enhance brand identity, showcase products, and encourage exploration, ultimately driving sales and loyalty in the digital age. 

Hospitality design 

Interior design shapes the guest experience and influences perceptions of hotels and restaurants. Well-designed interiors create a welcoming atmosphere, enhance comfort, and leave a lasting impression. Strategic use of colours, light, furniture, and space arrangement can evoke emotions and cater to the target audience. Functional and aesthetically pleasing interiors attract customers, generate positive reviews, and give businesses a competitive edge in the hospitality industry. 

Workplace and office design 

Employees benefit from spaces that support productivity, creativity, and wellbeing. As an office interior designer, you’ll need to take a strategic and evidence-based approach to make sure your work meets the needs of a wide range of users. Factors such as lighting, ergonomics, spatial layout, and the incorporation of collaborative areas play a crucial role in fostering creativity, communication, and a positive company culture – more valuable than ever post-pandemic. 

Healthcare design 

In healthcare interior design, the healing, comfort, and safety for patients, staff, and visitors are paramount. Your job as a healthcare interior designer is to create spaces that meet their physical, emotional, and psychological needs, while adhering to strict regulations. Function and efficiency are key to improving the quality of services provided. Colour, lighting, layout, and even nature can be used to create a positive and healing environment.

Other areas include: 

  • Educational design, e.g., schools, universities, libraries 
  • Exhibition and museum design 
  • Entertainment design, e.g., cinemas, theatres, sports complexes 
  • Industrial design, e.g., factories and warehouses 
  • Financial design 
  • Institutional design, e.g., government and civic buildings, public spaces, religious buildings 

Examples of commercial interior design in the real world 

We’re surrounded by examples of brilliant commercial interior design. Here are some notable commercial projects that showcase different styles, themes, and approaches: 

The Apple Store 

Known for its sleek and minimalist design, Apple Stores provide an immersive brand experience that combines pioneering technology with architectural innovation. Each detail, from the layout to the lighting, is carefully chosen to reflect Apple's commitment to simplicity and elegance. Understated materials, neutral colours, and clean lines create a modern and spacious shopping environment that showcases the products and brand. 

Ace Hotel 

This trendy boutique hotel chain seamlessly blends contemporary aesthetics with a vintage vibe. Each location has its own unique design, influenced by its surroundings and local heritage. Eclectic furnishings, artistic accents, and vibrant communal spaces all nurture a spirit of community and creativity, while the attention to detail – carefully curated bookshelves, works from local artists, and vinyl record collections – provide a personal and authentic touch.  

Google Headquarters 

The offices of tech giants like Google have become renowned for their innovative and employee-centric designs. At Google, their playful and vibrant brand identity is reflected in its office aesthetic, with bright colours and quirky features such as themed meeting rooms and indoor slides. Breakout and recreational areas stimulate creativity and collaboration.  

Given Google’s focus on technology, it’s no surprise that state-of-the-art tech elements are integrated seamlessly into their office design, but these are balanced with a sense of connection to nature and biophilic design principles. 

Office spaces are filled with abundant greenery, natural materials, and ample natural light – all to improve the wellbeing and productivity of employees. Features such as green rooves and rainwater harvesting systems demonstrate the company’s commitment to sustainability by reducing the environmental impact of the building. 

Why choose commercial interior design? 

Commercial interior design is a rewarding career choice for anyone who has a passion for creativity, problem-solving and business. As a commercial interior designer, you’ll have the opportunity to: 

  • Work on diverse and challenging projects that require you to apply your artistic, technical, and interpersonal skills. 
  • Collaborate with various clients, contractors, suppliers, and other professionals to deliver solutions that meet the needs and expectations of the stakeholders. 
  • Make a positive impact on the lives of people who use the spaces you design, whether they’re customers, employees, or guests. 
  • Express your personality and style through your designs, while also adapting to the requirements and preferences of each project. 
  • Keep learning and growing as a professional, as you encounter new trends, technologies, and opportunities in the field. 

How to become a commercial interior designer 

If you’re interested in becoming a commercial interior designer, you’ll need to have a combination of education, experience, and portfolio.  

  • Find a comprehensive interior design programme from a renowned institution: Look for a course that challenges and stimulates your creativity. With AUB Online, you’ll learn from award-winning designers, industry leaders, and influential guest speakers. You’ll enhance your specialist practice knowledge on a career-focused programme that fits around your schedule 
  • Build your professional network: Attend industry events, join relevant organisation and professional bodies, and connect with peers, architects, contractors, and suppliers. Networking opens doors to valuable insights, job opportunities and collaborations. 
  • Get some real-world experience: Gain practical expertise by securing internships or entry-level positions at design firms, architecture companies, or commercial real estate agencies. Hands-on experience lets you apply your knowledge, deepen your understanding of the industry, and develop your professional and design skills. 
  • Showcase your work: Craft a carefully curated portfolio to show clients and potential employers what you’re about. Highlight diverse commercial interior design projects that demonstrate your creativity, technical prowess, and ability to meet client requirements. Choose projects that emphasise your understanding of commercial design principles, space planning, material selection, and attention to detail. 
  • Don’t stop learning: Design is constantly evolving. Stay up to date with the latest trends, technologies, and regulations in commercial interior design. You might want to look for additional certifications or specialised courses to enhance your skills in specific areas. In an industry as competitive as interior design, continued learning sets you apart, demonstrating a commitment to professional growth. 

Find out more about interior design with AUB Online 

Becoming a successful commercial interior designer requires a combination of artistic vision, technical expertise, and a deep understanding of the business landscape. If you're passionate about creating impactful environments that drive business success, discover our part-time and online MA Interior Design course. 

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Featured image credit: Gerhard Weber

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