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2014 Graduate Interviews

Friday 18th July proved to be a perfect day. The sun was shining, the bubbles were flowing and of course, our NDA class of 2014 were streaming into the National Design Academy marquee. We took some time out to talk to 4 of our wonderful graduates; Samantha Elliott-Smith, Jacqueline Winchester, Victoria Hedley and Marina Georigiou.


Graduate Interviews 2014

Samantha Elliott-Smith

I used to work in marketing having done an English degree. And then I had my family and was looking to start a new career when I went back to work. And to start with I did the Soft Furnishings Diploma and then that led on to me wanting to do the Interior Design Degree in Heritage.

Jacqueline Winchester

I’ve been an accountant for the last 25 years but decided to start studying interior design with the National Design Academy.

Victoria Hedley

I left school and did an Art Diploma. But I decided not to go to university at that time. And I went into marketing and worked in marketing and digital design for 10 years.

Marina Georigiou

I have a history in art history and literature and architectural history and I have a history in the art market. I’ve worked in the art market for 25 years.

Why did you decide to study interior design?

I’ve always been interested in any art and craft subject and when I went back to work after having a family I really wanted to be able to use my creative skills more. So I was very interested in interior design. But with a love of older buildings I was particularly keen on the idea of doing the Heritage Interior Design course. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

I’ve always watched the interior design programmes on TV and read magazines. I also bought a house when I was 25 and it needed a complete renovation, and so I gutted a small property. That’s really where I got the passion and really wanted to pursue a career in interior design. (Victoria Hedley)

I wanted a change of career when I had children and it seemed like an obvious choice for me to go into interior design. I love interior design because I see a great piece of design, a bit like the elements of the design, a bit like the brush strokes in a painting really, together they make a masterpiece basically or a great piece of design. (Marina Georigiou)

I’ve always been interested in interior design, I’ve decorated my own houses ever since I’ve had a house. Permanently painting and putting wallpaper up and things like that. And my 40th birthday was approaching and my marriage had just split up, so I decided that it was time to do something for me, that interested me, so I started the diploma with the National Design Academy. (Jacqueline Winchester)

What made you choose the National Design Academy?

I was really looking for a course that I could do from home, that was flexible around my other commitments, so I needed a distance learning course that didn’t require me to go to the college at any time if I didn’t want to or I couldn’t. And the NDA allowed me to do that, so it was the ideal course for me. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

I chose the National Design Academy, as when I was looking at doing something in interior design, I used to devour the home-style magazines from cover to cover. And I saw an advert in the back of one of those. (Jacqueline Winchester)

I went to an open day and I was so impressed by all the work that was on display and just how they run their courses and the tutors were all so friendly. And I was so impressed that I just signed up for the course straight away. Obviously I wouldn’t have been able to leave full time work financially to study, so you know I couldn’t have done it without the National Design Academy. (Victoria Hedley)

How have you found the course?

I found it really interesting but very hard work. But because I really wanted to do it I didn’t mind putting in the work and I’ve certainly learnt an awful lot and improved my presentation skills as well so I’m really pleased that I did it and I’d do it again. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

I couldn’t thank the National Design Academy enough for offering such a great course to students. It’s so flexible being able to work and study has been amazing. All the projects have been very varied and really inspirational and I’ve learnt so much and it’s just broadened my skills even more so. (Victoria Hedley)

The course has been quite challenging fitting it in with work and a home life. I work full time, so it’s studying in the evenings and weekends. But it’s been very interesting and I’ve learnt a lot. The tutors have been great if ever I’ve had to contact them for any information, they’ve got back to me straight away. (Jacqueline Winchester)

The course at the NDA was brilliant, online learning was great for me having 2 children. And the flexibility of the course just really works. So it’s great, if anybody needs the flexibility, it’s perfect. (Marina Georigiou)

Did you experience any worries or problems throughout the course and how did you overcome them?

My main concerns about doing the course was whether or not I’d have enough time. And how I’d manage that time. But fortunately with the support of a husband and some help in the house I was able to find the hours that I needed to, to do the course well. And my other area of concern was learning enough about the software packages that I need to use on the course. But actually, recently the NDA have now put some online courses for distant learners to learn things like AutoCAD and SketchUp which have been really useful. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

I didn’t have many problems during the course, I had a tutor change part way through because my original tutor went on maternity leave. However, the replacement tutor I got was Vicky and she was lovely. And she was same as my first tutor, they’ve both come back to me really quickly if I’ve had any queries. (Jacqueline Winchester)

I didn’t have any problems with the course at all, the only thing with the course is, in-between modules, there’s not a lot of time for a breather, so when you’ve got children and a house to run, you sometimes think; ‘o I need a couple of weeks off’, but you just, if you’ve got family support, it’s not a problem, you just get on with it really. (Marina Georigiou)

The only issues or worries I had was time management. And to be able to actually do a degree whilst working. And that was my only worry really all the way through but I was really dedicated and as long as you’re really good, and dedicate specific time each week to your studying then it’s achievable. And yeah that was my only worry but my tutor was also really supportive and I managed to get through it in the end. (Victoria Hedley)

How did you find online learning?

The online learning experience took a little bit of getting used to, but after the first module I understood how to use it to the best and get the most out of it. And there are other resources for all courses on the website as well, so it was very useful and very flexible around my other commitments, you can just dip in and out when you’ve got time to look at it. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

The online resources are really good I found. It’s a good basis of where to start your research, I mean, part of distance learning is the fact that, a lot of the time your sort of teaching yourself. You have to do your own research you can’t rely on the tutor to tell you in class. But the resources on the website give you a good starting point as to where to start looking. And the forum as well is very helpful because you can contact other students, and if you’ve got any queries you can ask them. Or alternatively, they ask you. I have a lot of students that email me on quite a regular basis, especially at weekends. (Jacqueline Winchester)

I found the online learning really good actually, basically the tutor was there if I needed any help or advice, an email away, a phone call away even and you’ve got the flexibility to work in your own time as well, so you get a bit of both. So it works for me. (Marina Georigiou)

Online learning really worked well for me, like I’ve mentioned before, working and studying, it allowed me to, you know, do my studying in the evenings and at the weekends and it worked really well. And the online forum that the National Design Academy has is also really helpful. I think the only thing that you struggle with is not having that interaction with other people in the classroom, but having the online forum allows you to speak to other students and share work and if you’ve got any issues you can ask questions and other students can help answer them. So for me, the online learning wasn’t a problem and actually I really enjoyed it that way. (Victoria Hedley)

A lot of your research will naturally be done from home, you’ll go online, you’ll get books from the library, things like that. But you also go out, you do a lot of sight surveys, you go to a lot of different houses if you’re doing the residential or a lot of different shops if you’re doing the retail. To do your research, you go into a place to see what works, what doesn’t work. Throughout the course as well, it’s not just doing the drawings or doing reports, you also have to build models, so there’s a hands-on approach to it as well, just not in a classroom environment. (Jacqueline Winchester)

If you could sum up your time at NDA in 3 words, what would they be?

Challenging, Rewarding and Practical.

Challenging because it was a challenge, especially for someone like me that has other commitments as well.

Rewarding because when you do complete a module you suddenly realise that ‘wow actually I can do it’ and you can achieve a lot.

And practical because the NDA course, each module is 3 months long, so you actually really get into the nitty gritty of it and you don’t just skim over the subjects, you’re ready to just go out there and do it basically. (Marina Georigiou)

Challenging, Empowering and Enhancing.

Challenging because it did require a huge time commitment to do the foundation degree.

Empowering because it did really prepare me for going on to the next step for what I want to do, setting up my own business.

And enhancing because learning about something that’s creative and also cultural with the heritage is quite inspiring that it really sory of adds another area to your life of interest that you can use sort of in an on-going manner whether it’s privately or in your job role. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

Challenging would definitely be the first one because it is a challenge, with fitting it all in with home life, family life and  the distance learning, rather than being with other students in a classroom situation.

Interesting would probably be the second, which is a bit of a boring word, but I’ve learnt a lot and it has been interesting. You know, there’s so much more to the courses than a lay person thinks about really. I mean you say ‘interior design’ to a lot of people and they think it’s just curtains and cushions. They don’t think about the technical drawings, or in the case of doing the heritage you’ve got all the listed buildings and in the retail you’ve got all the space planning and merchandising. There’s a lot more that goes into it and it’s been very interesting learning about all the different things.

The last one would probably be, worthwhile, something like that. It’s something I found worthwhile, it’s definitely boosted my confidence in myself and my work. And all in all it’s been very enjoyable which I suppose is 4 words so… (Jacqueline Winchester)

What’s next for you? Further study? Work in the interior design industry?

Now that I’ve finished the course, I have set up my own business which is called ‘Heritage Property Design’. I’d always planned to go into use the course for work, either in employment or to set up on my own and so the course really helped me to do that because the penultimate module is all about business and marketing planning. I really enjoyed doing that, it really prepared me for setting up my business and it got me off to a good start. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

So for my future, I’ve had the summer off for a few months, and now I’m going to enrol with the National Design Academy, to do my 3rd year so that I gain my full BA honours degree in interior design. And then I’m hoping in the future to hopefully pursue a career in interior design. I did some work experience for an interior design studio for Harrods in London for 2 weeks which was an amazing experience. So that’s really given me even more of a push and enthusiasm to hopefully have a successful career in interior design after I have completed my BA Honours. (Victoria Hedley)

My plan is to hopefully set up on my own and have my own interior design business. Specialising in residential design. So that’s the plan. Fingers crossed! (Marina Georigiou)

At the moment, I need to continue with my day job, there’s only me to pay the mortgage so unfortunately I need to carry-on being employed. But I hope to do a few commissions alongside that, I’m actually working on one at the moment, we’re just waiting for planning permission so hopefully that will all go through. And I’ve also enjoyed helping other students so I’m considering looking into doing some sort of courses to enable me to do some tutoring and that type of thing because I’ve enjoyed that as well. (Jacqueline Winchester)

Would you recommend the course to others?

I’d definitely recommend the National Design Academy to other students. It allows so much flexibility to work and study at the same time. And I think that they’re the only college in the UK that actually offer the distance learning degree for interior design subjects as well retail, heritage and garden design. So I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about qualifying and wanting to study interior design. (Victoria Hedley)

I would recommend the course to other people and I’ve got a neighbour up the road, who I have recommended it to and she’s recently started the interior design diploma. (Samantha Elliott-Smith)

I would recommend it to other people. It’s difficult, as I’ve said before, it’s hard to fit in around a home life and work and things like that, but for those of us that do have a job it’s the only way to study. The National Design Academy has got the facilities with the forum and as I say the tutor support, to be able to help anyone that’s going the distance learning route. (Jacqueline Winchester)

I would definitely recommend the course and the NDA, to anyone who’s interested in design. I think it’s a great way to do it basically. (Marina Georigiou)

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