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NDA student sets up successful interior design business in Australia

Joanna grew up in Australia and trained as an accountant for many years, but she couldn’t suppress her creative hunger anymore. She took the plunge and enrolled on a National Design Academy Professional Interior Design Diploma and within a week she was hooked! 

Now finally doing something she’s loves and enjoying every minute, Joanna runs her own interior design business Joanna Ford Interiors Design , based in Australia, which celebrates honest and thoughtful design. Joanna is proof that successfully changing careers can be achieved and lead to positive things. Read our interview with Joanna and find out how she set up her business, why she chose the NDA and much more – well done Joanna!

How did you hear about The National Design Academy and what attracted you to enrol on the Professional Interior Design Diploma course?

I did some research, via the Internet primarily, and felt that The National Design Academy offered me the accreditation and flexibility that I was seeking. I enrolled in the Professional Interior Design Diploma – In Studio course as the face-face student-tutor relationship mode of learning appealed to me, and because it was offered over a two-week intensive programme, making  it easier for me to fit it around my family commitments back in London.

Hotel design – Bedroom
What methods did you use to organise your study time? Did you create a schedule or particular routine?

Through the duration of the course, I found myself actively involved in the learning process, forcing me to participate and apply new information in a practical way. The course is structured in such a way that you build on your learning, continuously reinforcing the material you have previously covered. The major “at home” project gives you the opportunity to maximise your learning potential and develop your own natural sense of creativity and flair.

En-suite Bathroom
Conference Banqueting room

Sometimes designer’s can hit a mental block, how and where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration can come from almost anywhere… It can be from a place/country I have visited, nature, a piece of art, my children or a clients’ brief/individual style. Continuously reading books and Magazines, whether they are on lifestyle, fashion, or travel can all help me to explore an idea/concept.

Who would you say is your design idol and why do they stand out to you?

There are many designers whom I admire. Two of note are; Kelly Hoppen – I enjoy how she manipulates and uses scale and textures in her Interior schemes to great effect; and Tricia Guild – for her phenomenal designs and use of colour and pattern. They are both able to individually and distinctively promote a timeless elegance with a contemporary twist in their designs.


Design trends and the hottest new looks are forever changing, how do you make sure your designs are current, original and bang on trend?

By way of keeping in touch with my suppliers of soft furnishings, furniture, flooring etc. via online weekly newsletters, through social media outlets, (eg. Twitter, Linked In, Facebook) and by attending exclusive designer showroom events and trade shows and exhibitions.

Reception and Lobby
Colonial style sample board

What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of a doing a distance learning course, maybe to change careers or develop a hobby but is a little apprehensive to take the leap?

A distance learning course for me, was a great way to “test out the water”, before making any life changing decisions. I trained and worked as an Accountant for many years, but always had a passion and interest in the creative arts, particularly, in residential interior design. 

Once I completed my first week of the Diploma course I was hooked, and I knew it was the area I wanted to work in. At last I had found what I was looking for!
Making the decision to take on the NDA Professional Interior Design Diploma has offered me a completely new career. I am finally doing something I love. I highly recommend it!!!

You’ve successfully set up your own business “Joanna Ford Interior Design”, what were the first steps you took to get it off the ground?

Marketing, marketing, and more marketing!!!!! The first thing I did to establish my business was to create a business identity for myself – a Logo/Brand that encapsulated me and my product (in this case – my Interior Design style and service offering). I wanted something that was fresh, stylish and modern which would appeal to the Australian market and clientele.

I then turned this identity into printed collateral, including postcards and business cards for letterboxing and as leave behinds, established my website and blog ( and listed my business with several home improvement / interior design business directories.

My next step was to visit and speak to local shops and showrooms which sold related products, where I left my business cards and details for potential clients. I also linked up with other businesses that could refer customers to me, eg. Real Estate Agents, Builders, Electricians, Plumbers and Architects.

I am also engaging in a range of social media channels (Facebook:, Twitter: @JoannaFordID), to market my business, share tips with potential clients, connect with the trade and stay abreast of design trends coming from overseas.

Colonial design floor plan

You grew up in Australia and later re-trained as an Interior Designer in the UK, how would you compare British and Australian design?

Having spent some time overseas and now coming back home to Melbourne, it is clear to me that Australian design gravitates towards the use of neutral shades to adorn walls, floors and furniture. Not surprisingly, our love of the outdoors, open plan living, and a strong desire for our homes to feel spacious and airy influences our preference for a neutral colour palette to make the most of our abundant natural light. We do however, appreciate and have easy access to international brands which add more depth to our interiors.

British design makes use of colour more widely. This is evident through the number and variety of paint colours and manufacturers, the close proximity to internationally acclaimed furniture houses whose designs are recognised and appreciated worldwide. Australia is a relatively young country, when compared to Britain, and in some ways we follow the trends set abroad. 

What are the main skills you’ve learned from the NDA Diploma course that you apply everyday?

The NDA has equipped me with the skills to select appropriate colour and style details to create interior spaces/schemes that are visually attractive and coherent. The course has taught me the fundamentals of professional interior design and how to communicate my ideas professionally to both clients and contractors. It has provided me with the confidence to deal competently with clients, providing them with design solutions that are practical and visually pleasing.

Finally, what can the world expect to see in the future from Joanna Ford Interior Design?

My aim is to offer an on-trend service, building on a classic base for longevity. Think contemporary yet timeless, elegant but practical and you have Joanna Ford Interior Design in a nutshell. I aspire to having a business which helps celebrate honest and thoughtful design.

 If you want to follow in Joanna’s footsteps and you’re thinking of changing your career or simply just to develop your skills, visit phone 0115 91234 12 for information about courses, fees, how distance learning works, open days and our range of workshops.

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One Response

  1. This is a great interview and I love these mood boards! Mood boards are the most fascinating thing to look at, I love seeing how everyone else lays out theirs. I sent over an email by the way, let me know if it got through okay! Keep up the good work!

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