Architect, Interior Designer, Engineer, or Residential Designer: Understanding the Differences

What is the difference between an architect, engineer, interior designer, and residential designer?

So, you want to design homes for a living? What profession is right for you?

Know your desired end point

Are you the kind of person who notices all the details of a home’s construction?

Does the way a space makes you feel have a significant impact on the quality of your mental and emotional health?

Do you dream about designing homes that evoke these feelings of safety, security, and sanctity for yourself and others?

Are you driven to create homes that inspire daily living, that nurture and support the homeowners, and leave a lasting impact on those that occupy them?

design career differences

Welcome to my world! You are NOT alone, my friend!

A career in the residential design industry is exciting and fulfilling and needs individuals who are passionate about:

  • Extracting the clients’ life story

  • Shaping and setting the stage where that life story will be played out

  • Acting as an advocate for the homeowners on the front-lines of their new home design and construction journey

So, where do you begin?

What is the right career path for you?

Understanding the different roles and responsibilities

You’ve probably heard of different job titles like Architect, Engineer, and Interior Designer. And you may be wondering what they all do. What are the different roles and responsibilities of each of those professionals, and others like them? What unique knowledge and skill sets do they each bring to the field of new home design (and construction)?

In this post we are going to explore the distinctions between these different pros that will hopefully help guide you to a rewarding career in residential design.

Identifying residential (and construction) professionals

What, exactly, sets apart the architect from the engineer? Or the interior designer from the residential designer, and so on?

How do these individual professionals contribute their unique expertise to the task of designing a new home?

What ARE the different professionals involved in the new home design process?

In a nutshell, any one or more of the following professionals could play a role in the design of a new home:

  1. Architect

  2. Engineer

  3. Interior Designer

  4. Residential Designer

  5. Drafter/CAD Technician

  6. Interior Decorator


Imagine dreaming up a structure and overseeing the concept, design, and construction in its entirety. Architects possess advanced degrees and licenses that enable them to have a deep understanding of structural, code, and building regulations. Most licensed architects specialize in commercial projects. From comprehensive blueprints to overseeing construction, architects ensure the client's vision comes to life while adhering to legal and technical standards and requirements.



All construction projects require specific calculations and technical details. Structural engineers analyze the forces - both natural and project specific - that may impact the building during the lifetime of its existence. Their work is, essentially, the backbone of the project.

MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) engineers design the systems (what I call the "guts") of the buildings in order to keep the structure and its occupants comfortable and running efficiently.

Interior Designer

While architects and engineers focus on the structural integrity and safety of the home, interior designers are responsible for the aesthetics, finishes and materials, and the functionality of the home or building. They often have an advanced degree or great deal of understanding of the construction process and products used in the finished applications.

While not all states (in the U.S.) require professional licensing, it is a good idea to know what the local requirements are for operating as a professional interior designer.

Residential Designer

Specializing specifically in designing homes, a residential designer will have a solid understanding of several duties performed by the architect, engineer, and interior designer. They excel in space planning, knowing standard building codes, and the methods and techniques used by contractors.

While they may not fulfill the same educational requirements as architects or engineers, residential designers work closely with the homeowner / clients to create a home that caters to their best dreams and highest priorities.

Drafter / CAD Technician

The more advanced CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting) software requires highly skilled and educated drafters and CAD Technicians. These individuals specialize in translating the designs of the architect, engineer, residential designer, or interior designer into technical drawings and plans. They work to create detailed construction documents, including floor plans, elevations, cross-sections, and detail drawings. Their work helps communicate the detail.

Interior Decorator

Often confused with interior designers who focus on the design as a whole, decorators' primary intent is the aesthetics of the finished space. They have a keen sense of style, color, and compositions. They are talented individuals who can select and arrange furnishings, accessories, artwork, and lighting to create a comprehensive and cohesive interior environment. Interior decorators expertise in creating warm and inviting atmospheres elevates the overall design of any structure, home, or building.


Designing homes and buildings for a living is an exciting and highly rewarding career. All of humanity interacts with the built environment on a constant basis. Whether for work, pleasure, or home, the structures these professionals design need to be both safe and functional as well as comfortable and welcoming to the individuals who occupy them.

If you have a passion for creating beautiful, functional, and inspiring spaces, you will join the forces that contribute to shaping the built environment and leave a lasting impact on your clients’ lives.

Looking for more resources and/or support in your home design work? Drop a comment below with your burning questions or feel free to follow us on your favorite social media channel (we’re on IG, FB, and LinkedIn) @domanihomedesign.

Interested in designing dream homes for dream clients? Learn more at or @squarefootsuperhero on IG, FB, Pinterest, and YouTube.