Interior Design Program Management

Savanah Smith
Emphasis Area
Spatial Organization & Design Thinking

Savanah Smith developed her interior design program management skills while interning with Pahlisch Commercial.

Why did you choose this internship and what was the focus of the experience?

Interior spaces have always piqued my interest because I love how various spaces can create emotion, ambiance, and a unique experience for the end user; and I figured out that I want to be the person creating and designing those spaces. I began seeking an internship to find some real life experience in the design field, just so I could make sure that this was the direction I wanted to go. Pahlisch Commercial, a development company specializing in multi-family apartment buildings, offered me a really wonderful internship opportunity for me to gain the kind of hands-on experience I was after. I began this internship and immediately loved it!

The focus of the experience was to assist the Design Manager, Christina, with all of the Interior Design elements in mixed-use multifamily residential development projects. I was able to explore the field of commercial interior design by creating my own designs, managing design specifications on projects, creating budgets, attending weekly meetings, learning design software programs, collaborating with architects, construction crews, and development teams, and so much more. 

What was the most satisfying part of your internship?

My favorite part of this internship was the design discussions I had with the Design Manager. We would sit down and go over conceptual designs and actual design elements. This meant that once we decided on a design concept, we picked out all of the finishes together. There were tile showroom visits, construction site visits, and the discovery of some really cool design sources. It was so exciting to see our vision come together and it means a lot to me that the Design Manager for the entire company, Christina, valued my design ideas and opinions.

What did you find most challenging about your internship?

The most challenging part of my internship was the project management aspect. The general process is time consuming and extremely detailed, which was something I didn't quite expect. For example, when dealing with a brand new project that has no designs yet, my boss and I would come up with basic concepts that eventually turned into specific design elements like flooring, paint color, lighting, and plumbing fixtures. Then, when projects are being built, we had to make sure that everything we specified to go into a building actually made it. I learned that attention to detail is really important in this industry, especially when big things can go wrong that could cost the company a lot of money. I learned that it is always good to be proactive and that problem solving will be everyone's savior in the end. Things do not always go as planned and you just have to roll with it.

What advice do you have for other students as they search for their internship?

Do not be afraid to try something new that you are interested in. There are so many cool opportunities out there waiting for you to find them; with that being said, actively seek out new and unique learning experiences with an open mind. If you utilize your network, there are people who believe in you and want you to succeed. Just trust the process and have fun!