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Interior Designer Daniel Hopwood Interview

In our second Interior Design Industry Professional video series we interviewed interior designer Dan Hopwood. We asked Dan, the founder of Daniel Hopwood Studios some important questions regarding working in the interior design industry.  Watch our video interview below to hear Dan’s interview tips, advice on what makes an Interior designer’s portfolio stand out, and find out what he looks for when hiring future employees.


Interior Designer Daniel Hopwood interview

My name is Daniel Hopwood and I’m an interior designer and my company is called Daniel Hopwood as well funnily enough. And the company has been around now for 21 years. Before that, I worked for different firms and architects but usually specialising in an interior design department. The work we do here is by and large residential. I’d like to say high-end but when I mean high-end, it’s not the top palaces and all this sort of thing, this is homes that actually people do really live in and enjoy. So I spend a lot of time focusing on people’s lifestyles. I love getting a hotel project but they don’t seem to be that forthcoming at the moment and then every now and then I get a restaurant which are really good fun.

How is your design team structured?

They all have completely different backgrounds, they are all, I have to admit, very highly qualified. But we have people from the world of architecture who’ve got MA’s who are presently studying MA’s in interior design. To people that have come from different careers and have done short courses to step over to become an interior designer.

What is your typical project workflow?

I’ve now restructured the way that we work, in so much that one person gets one project and they run it from beginning to end. And I have actually done that with the intern as well, you should see them frightened bunny in the headlights when you say ‘that’s your project and you’re going to look after it.’

What specialist skills are most important within your team?

I want from my team, something that I haven’t got. So, I’ll look at my weak points and think well, where can I find that from somebody else. And the beauty about interior design is that it attracts people from all different walks of life and it’s such a wide spread profession that a lot of different people can fit into it quite comfortably. For example I’ll need people that are very technically minded and able to draw like you wouldn’t believe and understand that every single layer on a project has to be seen and they need to show how something is constructed and know how it’s constructed to people who are actually really good organisers and can get a project up and running and get all the materials ordered.

What is the importance of being a BIID member?

Before anybody can even join this office I need to see the fact that they have joined. They then can enter into the professional pathway, so that they are marking their career as it develops and goes along. By passing each stage. And also what I’m beginning to find useful is when people come for an interview and they have a portfolio in front of me, I have to judge them by that portfolio, if they come along and say that they have got to a certain stage of the BIID professional pathway, I know who they are and what they’re able to do. They are easier people to employ.

How do you recruit new team members?

What I’ve learnt over the years of running a business is that a company is only as good as its staff. And you are constantly looking for new people. Now there are times when there might not be a place for them, because everything is dependent on project, but you keep your eyes on them and when the time comes, you grab them and get them in.

What are your top tips for an interview?

When I’m interviewing somebody, someone that shows me their portfolio but doesn’t drag me through every detail but gives me a really good résumé is on a winner. Also, I’m looking for someone who is a good talker, but at the same time is a good listener. And often when I ask a question to someone who I am interviewing, and they sort of ignore it or fluff it, you’re thinking that they’re not going to be able to listen to a client when they’re spouting on, when they’re not able to listen to me.

What is your advice for putting together a portfolio?

My advice is, first of all don’t just grab your portfolio and run out the door and bring it over. Look at the projects that you’ve got in there and work out the ones that are most appropriate to the type of company that you are applying for a job for. On that basis, try and show work that shows you’re a good all-rounder. I need to see some technical drawing, not just mood boards. And don’t just bring all of your mood boards, bring the mood board that you are most proud of. Because if I’ve got less pages of portfolio to go through, I’m willing then to look at them a little bit more studied, if not I’ll just flip through it very quickly.

Is drawing still an essential skill?

In order for somebody to take great advantage of working in a company like mine, they should start with being able to use a computer assisted design, even if it’s very simple but it’s what they are going to get into straight away. It means that they can get into a project deeper, than they would if they can’t. But at the same time, we talk with pencils. We’ve got scrap paper everywhere, talking details, turning corners. They should be able to drawer 3 dimensionally, but we talk about drawing comfortably, drawing at ease, these aren’t precise, really thin pencil drawings, this is a nice big fat pencil that can even be blunt and you’re knocking these drawings out very quickly. When I’m on a building site, working with good contractors, who are passionate about what they do, it’s almost like I’m in a sword fight, we’ve all got a pencil and we’re all re-drawing in the detail and discussing it and talking about it in this way. There’s nothing worse than when I’ve seen designers do presentations when they say ‘well we have the skirting and there’s a wall above it’ and they’re using their hands and then its disappeared.

What advice would you offer to newly qualified interior designers?

You’re fully qualified, you’ve studied, you think you’re fantastic, but you haven’t had a job. Well the simple way is, you’ve got to network. There are plenty of emails that I receive every day, its one person after the other. But if somebody writes to me and says ‘I met you at a British Institute of Interior Design conference or CPD course’ anything, then, I’m more interested. I need, and I think like most designers, we need some sort of social connection and the institute is the best way frankly.

What is the value of an internship?

I believe in interns, they are paid. But at the same time I believe in training them up, but when I’m taking on an intern it’s just not anybody, they’ve really got to be somebody. They’ve got to be really special.

What are your thoughts on the National Design Academy?

The beauty of somebody that has actually gone off and done an NDA course is that you know they have got a certain level of dedication. Because you know that they are actually going to face quite a lot of hard work. And if they’ve managed to run their normal lives and managed to come up and produce some great project work, then they’re the sort of people who could actually come and manage a project in my office too.


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