Career Stories

Ciara Petty

Founder/Director Ciara Petty Design Studio

Interior Designer / Architect

What initially drew you to your field and did you always envision a career in Interior Architecture & Design?

When I was younger, a career in design never crossed my mind. I did however, always have a creative spark, opting for art in my Leaving Cert and considering art school during that time. Surprisingly, after completing a BA in English Literature, I found my way back to design. What drew me to design was the perfect blend of creativity and commerciality – a combination I still find most enjoyable about my work. Pursuing art as a profession didn’t align with my personality but design, with its mix of strategy, commercial effectiveness and creativity, turned out to be a perfect fit for me.

What formal education or training did you pursue and how has it influenced your career?

I completed a B.A. in Interior Architecture & Design at Griffith College, providing a solid foundation in design principles, spatial planning and technical aspects of the field. The focus was on the commercial side of the industry and I think it guided my specialisation towards my current area of expertise; retail, food service and hospitality design.

How does the reality of your career differ from your expectations?

While I expected a focus on creativity, I underestimated the business aspects of running a design studio. Client management, project timelines and budget considerations play a significant role in the day-to-day operations.

How has your career evolved over the years – did you start in another discipline before transitioning to your current field?

Yes I started my working life in the fashion industry working within the wholesale sector. I travelled quite a lot with that job and it definitely opened my eyes to different possibilities and career options. If I look back it was working in that environment that gave me the momentum to pursue design.

Were there any pivotal moments, insights, or decisions that significantly impacted your career path?

A crucial moment in my career was the decision to relocate to London post-graduation. Spending a decade there allowed me to work on diverse projects spanning multiple commercial sectors, both nationally and internationally. The dynamic design industry in London provided me with a robust foundation for establishing my own studio. Working across workplace, retail, foodservice and hospitality design during this period helped me pinpoint my niche and refine my expertise.

Did you have any mentors or significant support systems that helped you in your journey?

Although I didn’t have formal mentorship, I learned a lot from more senior design directors I worked with over the years. Particularly my last Creative Director before establishing my own studio played a crucial role in my learning process. It is a really important step because mentors tend to reinforce what you learned in college but apply them to real projects and scenarios.

Regarding business management, involvement in various mentorship programs has proven invaluable in guiding me through the complexities of running my own business.

What three skills do you believe are crucial to succeeding in this career?

1. Creativity: The ability to think outside the box and bring fresh, innovative ideas to each project.

2. Communication: Effectively conveying design concepts to clients and collaborating with other professionals in the industry.

3. Project Management: Efficiently managing timelines, budgets, and resources for successful project completion.

What are some of the highlights or most satisfying moments of your career so far?

Being part of award-winning projects has been particularly gratifying, seeing the culmination of hard work recognised. However, the most significant highlight has been establishing my own design studio. It has forced me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to my limits, not only creatively but in all aspects. Running your own business means wearing various hats, requiring a constant juggling act, but the rewards are immense when a project succeeds and the client is satisfied.

Whats the difference between a career in Interior Architecture and in Interior Design?

I don’t dwell much on the distinction, as I believe design is design, regardless of the title. While technically an Interior Architect, I seldom use the term, as it can be distracting. Personally, I find minimal disparity between Interior Architecture and Interior Design.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in your field?

Embrace every opportunity to learn and don’t shy away from challenges. Build a strong network, stay adaptable and be passionate about your work. Continuous education and staying curious will set you apart.