My Griffith Story: Doing a degree in Interior Design saved me from my boring admin job!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Griffith Interior Design graduate Carmen Malo Sanz is now Senior Designer at Unispace - a global workplace design firm providing seamless strategy, design, project management and delivery to its clients. Headhunted by the company back in 2016, Carmen Malo Sanz is now based at Unispace’s Madrid studio.

Moving into interior design from a boring job in administration

After five years of working in administration where “every week and month was the same,” Carmen knew she had to find a career that excited her. Initially she completed an art and design course in Spain, before moving to Ireland to study Griffith’s Interior Design degree part-time:

“I worked as a lighting specialist at Hicken Lighting Studio. This meant I was able to improve my English language skills whilst also working with designers. I love lighting and how it can be used in design so it was a really useful job to have whilst studying for my degree.”

Carmen achieved a distinction in her degree and also received Griffith College’s Best Academic Achievement Award in 2014:

“These results and the encouragement I received from my tutors gave me the extra edge when applying for jobs. I soon found myself working as an interior designer at Henry J Lyons Architects.”

Carmen was then headhunted by Unispace who offered her an opportunity to work at their Dublin studio before spearheading the opening of a new studio in Spain:

“Unispace is a very dynamic company. After seven years living in Ireland, returning to Spain was both a personal and professional ambition for me. I was very fortunate that they found me! I quickly realised that I was a good fit for the company in my design work, my work ethic, and my willingness to take on new challenges. The opportunity to travel was a bonus!”

How to re-think the design process

Carmen explains that Unispace has a unique methodology called ‘Think Create Make’:

“We manage the entire process from beginning to end. It’s important for me to get to know my clients well before producing a fully tailored workplace strategy. I translate their vision into reality and along the way create solutions that fit both the client’s budget and time frame.”

From the outset Carmen has to understand how her client’s employees will use the space:

“I think carefully about how the physical environment impacts on the well-being and performance of the people who will be using the workplace. An inspiring, well-planned workplace encourages employee performance and can contribute to the business’s profitability.”

Carmen's career highlights (so far!)

Carmen’s first project re-designing the reception space for Virgin Media’s Dublin HQ has been a highlight. Although she describes it as “a small project”, it was so well received that it was short-listed for the Fit Out Awards 2017’s Project of the Year.

Carmen also acknowledges the personal growth she has experienced whilst working at Unispace:

“Luckily I have been given the opportunity to be creative and innovative whilst working on global projects at Unispace. These successes have increased my confidence in the design decisions I make.”

Carmen's essential advice for design students

“It is essential to have a passion for design and a willingness to work hard. It is a very rewarding career but it can be tough to find your own path. Be prepared and willing to put in the hours to make your designs the very best they can be. Put your heart and soul into every project because this will show in your final designs and the portfolio you show to potential employers,” says Carmen.

“Attitude is also key. Ensure you are proactive in your personal development and keep up-to-date with new design developments and trends. Employers are looking for designers who are prepared to keep learning throughout their career, as this is what keeps designs fresh and innovative.”

Carmen’s final piece of advice is for students to look outside the college doors to gain the widest experience possible. “Look for practical work experience,” she says. “Whilst studying I worked as a lighting specialist. This meant I was able to experience building relationships with designers working on restaurant and residential projects. I love lighting and how it can be used in design so it was a really useful job to have."

Interview by Lydia Casey

Want to follow in Carmen's footsteps?

Carmen's first step on her road to becoming a Senior Designer was to do a degree in Interior Design at Griffith College. With lecturers who work in the field every day - our courses are designed to help you jump ahead in your dream career.