Rather than fitting in, I decided to stand out in a positive way and it has helped me with my work. I align myself with people and companies whom I admire and those who represent my values.
More about Simon
As part of NTU’s celebration of Black History Month and the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment’s ongoing series of Celebrating Black Excellence events, we asked some of our many successful Black alumni to share their career stories with us. Here, we talk to NTU Interior Design graduate Simon Hamilton.
Introduce yourself, the role you have and company you work for.
I am Simon Hamilton. I am self-employed as Simon Hamilton Creative and I work as a designer, educator, presenter, careers mentor and diversity & inclusion campaigner within the creative sector.
Day-to-day, what does your role look like?
My days vary as I have a number of different regular roles. I’m currently working on commercial interior design projects and I’m also advising on diversity and inclusion issues for the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) and selected universities. My day will also include preparing career advice consultations for several designers and creative practices, in addition to presenting talks for design events, educational bodies and design schools.
How did you decide on your career and what attracted you to this field of work?
Art was always a core interest at school and I was inspired to get more involved in design and architecture after a careers’ convention. I gained my Interior Design degree at Nottingham and started working in the industry for other designers and architects until I set up my own interior design consultancy in the early 2000’s. Since then, I have worked in different roles including; customer experience manager; PA and studio manager for architects; design recruitment specialist – in-house for Fitch and recruitment agencies, but always in jobs related to the creative sector.
I have always been creative and liked making things. I also relish meeting and working with other people. Design is all about teamwork; collaborating is very rewarding as you always learn a lot about yourself and others.
What career highlights stand out to you?
Hosting The Surface Design Awards at the Business Design Centre in London in February 2022 to a live audience of 200 plus hundreds more online. I am the first gay and black male interior designer to do so.
Representing British design and designers overseas when I was International Director for the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID). I travelled across the globe and met a wonderful mix of people who all had creativity and design in common. I visited several cities in India, North America, Asia and Europe in this voluntary role.
Appointed as Associate Lecturer Interior Design at the Royal College of Art.
Invited to be part of the University of Plymouth’s diversity strategy, entitled the GATEway project, to help improve the opportunities for the local community and attract a more diverse faculty and student body to the city.
Invited to be on the jury for the DNA Paris Design Awards 2022 and moderate the conference panel discussions.
Do you think there are any barriers within the Built Environment sector for Black graduates? If so, what do you think they are and how have you managed them?
Yes, there are barriers. There are many and they can sometimes be complicated. This is mainly due to lack of familiarity, understanding, or education on the employers’ side, but can also be pure discrimination due to class or assumed social status. Even your name may be seen as an issue by others. However, don’t shy away from the sector just because there are hurdles to overcome. Life is full of challenges and there is now a better, and healthy forum to discuss these issues, which did not exist 2 years ago. Rather than fitting in, I decided to stand out in a positive way and it has helped me with my work. I align myself with people and companies whom I admire and those who represent my values. By getting noticed, raising my profile and being heard I have created interest in my work. Being aware of the activity of the industry and commenting on posts, features and articles online and in person, has given me better visibility and a platform of my own.
Are there any changes you would like to see in the sector going forward?
I would like to see better representation in the sector which truly reflects the diversity of the population. More varied and relevant role models that students can listen to and be inspired by in the design press, at creative events, and in positions of influence.
What advice would you give to current ADBE students entering the workplace as an ethnic minority?
I would say try to have an idea of where you want your career to go, by doing your research, but be flexible and not burdened by it. Make the most of good opportunities as they arise, and learn from others as much as you can along the way. Ensure you get into the habit of gathering your portfolio of work as you progress your career. Don’t keep comparing yourself to everyone else as your path is individual. Always try to leave any job or role on good terms and make sure you continue to build your network using LinkedIn or Instagram. Try to keep in touch with peers and ex-colleagues whom you like, as they may become good allies or support you in the future.
For more information about our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, including our Celebrating Black Excellence in the Built and Designed Environment activities.