Anderson University School of Interior Design
Sarah Martin: Interior Design Close to Home
Sarah Martin initially thought about becoming an engineer. She was particularly interested in Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD). While investigating college engineering programs, she learned that in the Anderson University School of Interior Design, she could gain experience in CADD.
Being a creative person at heart, Sarah applied to Anderson University to study Interior Design. Since graduating, she’s had some exciting projects come her way. But a special delight for her was using her experience for her alma mater, helping design the interior of the now-complete soccer and lacrosse fieldhouse along with ongoing projects such as the Trojans Football Operations Center and a press box for Melvin and Dollie Younts Stadium at Spero Financial Field.
How did you become interested in interior design?
It’s funny how that all happened and definitely was all part of God’s plan. As a senior in high school, I was set on going to (another university) in the engineering program. I had been accepted and was planning to attend in the fall. But I had an older sister who went to Anderson and my parents saw she was having a great experience. My parents wanted me to at least go and tour the campus. I happened to get a flier in the mail from Anderson promoting an interior design workshop. I saw that one of the computer programs used in the Interior Design program was also one that would be used in engineering. I agreed to attend the workshop and met Dean (Anne) Martin and some of the upperclassmen in the Interior Design program. It was great to be able to talk to them and hear about how much math is used in the design process, because that was my strength and my passion. So when I got to see how it was such a combination of the mathematical side as well as the creative side, I just felt like that was what I was called to do and I felt I was in the right place. Anderson was just so impressive and welcoming any time I set foot on campus.
Tell me more about the projects you’ve worked on at McMillan Pazdan Smith.
As interior designers, we often get to work on a variety of project types. Our architects mostly focus on a specific field, but the interior designers often get to work on any and every project that can come into the office. So it has been great to see all of the different project types. Specifically we focus on higher education; that seems to be our primary project type right now, but we also get K-12, some sports. Since we are in downtown Spartanburg we also work on many of the community projects. It’s been really great just to give back to Spartanburg. One of the first community projects I worked on was a new center for philanthropy, which is close to the downtown area in Spartanburg, and there are some breakout spaces for different nonprofit organizations to use this facility for meetings or events. It’s great to give back to the community that I grew up in and amazing to see the revitalization of the downtown area.
Tell me about the day-to-day work you do.
A lot of what we do is in computer programs and so my time at Anderson really prepared me to be able to use those. We started out in Autodesk AutoCAD, which is computer aided drafting and design, and then Autodesk also produces a program called Revit, which does 2D line work as well as 3D drawings; it’s all combined in one program. We started using that software my junior and senior years, so I felt very prepared coming into the workplace with those computer programs and that is still a lot of what I do today. I generate floor plans, elevations and 3D views, and then can render those in color to show clients what a project specifically might look like. My role is very computer-heavy, but those are all skills that I learned from my time at Anderson. Our other responsibilities include preparation for client meetings and travel to out-of-town meetings.
I understand that you’ve been working on projects for Anderson University. How does it feel to do work for your alma mater?
Oh, it’s wonderful. I had only been working for McMillan Pazdan Smith less than a year, but in February of 2020, I actually got to go to a project interview at Anderson and was a part of the presentation team. There were only six MPS employees that were on the team and I was representing the interior design department and was able to help pitch our design ideas for the three athletic buildings on the Anderson University campus. So that was a big deal, to not have been at MPS very long, but AU is where I graduated and all of my skills were refined so to be able to stand in front of President and Mrs. Whitaker and the rest of the Anderson team—it just was an honor to be there and now to be a part of the actual design and have some influence on what those spaces look like on the interior. It has been very rewarding to give back to Anderson and be a part of this project.
The third phase of the Anderson Athletic projects would be a new press box on the home side of the stadium, so it’s a three-part project right now. Soccer and lacrosse is complete and we’re currently working on football operations and hopefully a new press box in the future. I’m excited for Anderson to have a football team.
At the end of the day, what gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment?
For me, it’s to see a drawing go from a piece of paper to an actual building. It still amazes me how the contractors can look at these drawings and construct an actual building with all of the components that go into it. I see all of the work and preparation beforehand and all of the 3D renderings and drawings we produce and feel such a sense of accomplishment when I then see the finished product.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to go into interior design?
Keep an open mind. I think that probably goes for a lot of different majors at Anderson, but in Interior Design, there are so many avenues you can take with that degree. I think just to be open minded when you have opportunities to go to Atlanta, to the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center and see showrooms. You could potentially work for a furniture dealer or be a sales representative for a specific manufacturer. There are just so many different things that you can do, whether it’s commercial design or residential, and I think the four years at Anderson really expose you to all of those different avenues. I would just encourage those students to keep an open mind and be willing to try things. There’s a summer internship program and that’s a great opportunity for you to try something new and different, and you might find that you love it and there are aspects you didn’t love and that might help you fine tune what you’re looking for in a full-time position.