I joined Oktra one year ago, shortly after completing my degree at London Metropolitan University and looking to step into the world of interior design. Over the last 12 months, I’ve learned a great deal about the design and build industry, the ins and outs of my role and the culture at Oktra. It’s been eye-opening, and an experience that has helped me develop in my career.
Having recently wrapped up my first project here, it feels like a great time to reflect on my first year in the industry. Gathering my thoughts for this piece has been the perfect opportunity to relive the successes and learnings that have made it such a memorable year, and I hope that with them I’m able to provide some valuable tips to any aspiring designers considering a career in design and build.
Here’s an overview of my first year as a graduate at Oktra.
A tight knit industry
It became apparent very early on my journey that this industry is of a very fast-paced nature, requiring quick thinking and efficient decision making daily. Whilst challenging to adapt to, this has meant that I’ve been able to work on a large variety of projects over a short period of time and grow immensely over the last year. Working on projects of different sizes – and often handling more than one project at once – is the perfect way to learn a lot and quickly.
Of course, I haven’t been alone on this design journey. I’ve become part of a very supportive team who work together all the way through projects; each team member is always there to give help and talk through ideas. I’ve found that everyone has different strengths as well as amazing skills to absorb and learn from.
The constant interaction and communication required through each project is great for building new relationships with people who hold unique experiences, interests and knowledge – not only from the workplace but also from all over the industry.
A skilled team with a clear design process
This year has consolidated my knowledge of the design process, from initial brief all the way through to completion. One of the aspects I found most surprising is the trust of the team in allowing me to jump into the deep end from the beginning.
When I first started, I had the chance to work on furniture-focused projects, which enabled me to gain a better understanding of that side of the business. Alongside this, I have been developing my knowledge by shadowing the other designers and working on some remarkable projects with them.
There’s no doubt that design requires a lot of team collaboration, crucially in sharing ideas and finding solutions to client challenges. Supporting the other designers has been a great way of expanding my knowledge and developing methods for overcoming obstacles and understanding queries.
I’ve also had the opportunity to gain an insight into the other areas of the business, some of which appear worlds away from design – but only at first glance. For example, specifying materials has an impact on the project timeline, and therefore needs to be taken into consideration early on in the design process.
I’ve found one of the most challenging tasks over the past year to be organisation. Being able to simultaneously work on different projects, and within those projects collaborate on multiple processes, is a skill that I’ve had to develop over time – with the help of checklists!
Bespoke design for unique clients
Each project requires the design team to work extremely closely with the client, in order to really get to the heart of their company and understand their needs.
From the initial brief, I study the space and develop a concept which will drive the design. I’ve discovered the importance of always considering the client’s culture, mindset and how their teams like to work, as this reveals the daily tasks and activities which will take place in their office.
One of my favourite parts of the design happens at this point, when we take a step away and focus on how we can propose something that far exceeds the client’s expectations – something that challenges the original design or brief and brings a more creative approach to the project. Following the pitch stage, I develop the project further using 3D models and visuals, working closely with the team to bring it all together.
Visual for ramsac
Although there is so much more involved in the design process which I could summarise, I can’t go without mentioning finishes! When it comes to dressing the space, I love to keep on top of trends and discover new products. I sometimes go to showroom visits, have suppliers join us for lunch and learn and attend events such as design and furniture shows. I also get the opportunity to learn new ways of working, as well as the more topical industry focuses such as inclusion and sustainability.
One of the other great aspects of design is that you’ll be exposed to amazing brands and industries which you will be able to learn more about – no project is ever the same! Sure, there will be challenging moments along the journey, but the final result is always worthwhile. Delivering a bespoke design the client loves will ultimately bring about that feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Having a thought process behind your design decisions means you will be able to explain it with confidence. It will allow you to guide your client through the proposal and help you eliminate some of the initial queries.
Knowing why you’ve made certain choices will also be beneficial when you have to weigh up the different areas of the design in order to decide which are necessary for the scheme to be successful.
2. You can never be too enthusiastic
Sharing your passion and excitement with others will keep everyone motivated and engaged with the project. It will allow you to develop better trust and to create stronger connections with clients, meaning they will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and wish list for their new office space.
This positive approach will facilitate overcoming any obstacles which might occur during the design stage by enabling everyone to feel more relaxed, collaborative and open to finding solutions.
3. Embrace not knowing
It can be unsettling to let people know you are unsure or don’t know the answer to something. But the unknown is part of everyone’s growth. In fact, no one expects you to be an expert at everything.
When something you don’t know comes up, take the time to investigate it so that the next time the same situation comes up, you will have an answer ready. Equally, if you are wondering how one of your colleagues has achieved something you’re interested in, have a chat to them about it. You will find that people are happy to share, and flattered you’re interested in their work!
Rounding up year one
Completing my first project from pitch stage through to completion has been the perfect way to wrap up a valuable year of industry experience at Oktra. It’s provided me with so many opportunities to learn, grow and achieve new heights as a designer.
It’s been fantastic to share this experience with the team at Oktra, and I’m excited for the road ahead. The focus is now on progressing with the projects I’m currently working on, and continuing to develop my creativity and grow further as a designer.