IIDA Steps Up to Forge Agreement with Food Service Equipment Distributors

Wow two positive efforts to advocate for the Interior Design profession in one week (see previous post).  This time it is IIDA that ironed out an agreement with FEDA which is an allied association that represents commercial food service equipment distributors.  FEDA has been an IDPC card carrying opponent of most, if not all, recent ID legislation.  For now it appears that the IIDA advocacy team has ironed out whatever misunderstandings there were regarding ID legislation and its infringement on FEDA’s members, real or imagined.  You can read FEDA’s point of view here along with the letter of understanding.


It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the next round of ID legislative efforts.

ASID Counters Claims of Racial Bias In the Interior Design Profession

Wow……..the anti-ID regulationists finally played the race card.   ASID’s counter statement is well written.  Let’s hope it is well read.


All that said, the licensed design professions have struggled to increase racial diversity.  We acknowledge this and from my experience there is, and has been, a concerted effort to address this issue.  To claim that we are conspiring to limit access to the profession due to race is simply politically correct race baiting in reverse.

Ain’t politics fun?

Hey Farooq…..Maybe it’s Time to Change Your Business Model


Maybe, just maybe, if you considered Interior Design as valuable service and not a free hook to lure in the occasional big sale your staff might earn a bit more respect and increase their sales, and your profit, via ethical business practices.

But what do I know?


It is rare when PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER comes across a mainstream press article that actually discusses professional Interior Design as we know it.  95% is simply innately talented interior decorators posing as qualified interior designer pabulum.  4% are articles targeting Interior Design regulations as a prime example of government over-reach and the remaining 1% is simply too bizarre to categorize (e.g. http://www.realtytoday.com/articles/33386/20150908/celebrity-real-estate-adolf-hitler-home-interior-design-media-fluff.htm )

So when I came across this article from the Grand Rapids Business Journal I was surprised to say the least.    http://www.grbj.com/articles/83223-states-design-industry-struggles-with-lack-of-certification.  Granted the GRBJ is not the New York Times but at this point a positive and accurate article in any Business Journal is a positive P.R. moment.  I was so excited I almost posted it to the many online forums PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER frequents (well okay only two) before I finished reading it.  And then I checked myself.

While the intent of Mr. Nichols article, that of the importance of the NCIDQ exam to the profession and how difficult it really is, is admirable, I noted two glaring misunderstandings included in the dialogue between Nichols and his subject Ms. Autumn Fuchs.  I am willing to consider that  there was some misinterpretation on the reporter/journalist’s part as well- that happens.

Let me be clear here….I admire Ms. Fuchs and her perseverance in taking and passing the exam (cue cheering crowd).  Ultimately this little bit of P.R. is a ray of positivity in our effort to convey our message.  But I would like to illuminate two subtle misunderstandings, per Ms. Fuchs, that perpetuate some very important political/legal nuances that we as a profession must wrap our collective brains around if we are to realize any real progress in our effort to advance the profession on the legislative front.  Bear with me -this gets real fussy;

  • “In some ways it’s a bad thing (that Michigan doesn’t require it) because anyone can call themselves an interior designer. If you wanted, tomorrow you could wake up and make a business card and just say, ‘I’m an interior designer,’”

Unfortunately the courts (in the U.S. at least) have ruled that anybody can in fact claim that they are an interior designer whether they are qualified or not, whether they have an education or not, whether they have taken and passed the NCIDQ or not, or whether they have a pulse or not.  Many interior designers are under the misunderstanding that one must pass the NCIDQ exam and/or become licensed in order to call themselves an “Interior Designer”.  This is untrue.  We cannot force people to surrender their use of the term ‘Interior Design” or the title “Interior Designer”.

  • “I know there’s a lot of talented interior designers that have not passed the exam, so it’s hard for me to say they should be required because then they wouldn’t be able to practice. But I do think there’s a lot to be said for a designer to take the initiative to take the exam when it’s not required,” she said. “To me, it’s not important that it’s required or not. Taking it for myself is what’s important.”

So parsing out this statement there are a lot of simple truths included….”there’s a lot of talented interior designers that have not passed the exam”  and ….there’s a lot to be said for a designer to take the initiative to take the exam when it’s not required,” and “Taking it for myself is what’s important.”  But……………again Ms. Fuchs seems to view the exam as a legal tool to force interior designers to take and pass it in order for them to claim themselves to be “Interior Designers” …….”it’s hard for me to say they should be required because then they wouldn’t be able to practice.” 

That is simply not true.  In the U.S. we cannot force anybody to take the exam (except in Louisiana and D.C.- another story).  This misunderstanding may be a function of Ms. Fuchs also listening to the anti-ID regulationists and their effort to deregulate the ID profession (another other story).

Now if we can just get all Interior Designer who understand the value of the NCIDQ exam and its role in their own professional identity, such as Ms. Fuchs, to also understand the legal issues with the exam and its concomitant  legal/political role in our collective professional identity I would have nothing further to byte about…..well okay I probably could find a few other things….

Defining Our Right to Work

Or in other words….what is our “work” and do we really have a “right” to it?

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER stumbled across this missive from the recent American Institute of Architects State Government Network forum.


I can only assume that this presentation was not meant to be public knowledge and would not be surprised if the link dies…..none the less if you are quick you will note that the issue of interior designers seeking permitting rights and those who claim to be “Interior Architects” was a main topic of conversation.  See slides #9-#14

My take away is that the AIA is clearly drawing a line in the sand by defining what a Registered Architect can legally design and what a non-licensed Architect can design…or get built.

Actually anybody can “design” a building…..getting it permitted and constructed is the real key.  I won’t even touch the issue of “Interior Architecture”……. I digress.

Back to the SGN network document.  We, as a profession, have struggled with how to define what it is that we do, where we do it and how.  Ultimately much of what passes as the common definition of “Interior Design” is simply intended to distinguish us from interior decorators. When it comes to defining our actual scope of responsibility we are not quite sure.  We know we should be able to submit permit documents for our own work but what exactly is that “work”?  Is it anything less than 5,000 square feet as some practice legislation defines or is it interior work that does not affect base building life safety systems, building egress and tenant separation? There are several attempts to define the scope of our rightful work out there….this is not a good thing.  Well why we have been trying to figure that out the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) has provided their own answer…. To wit;

“Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent: 1. The practice of architecture performed in connection with any of the following:

(a) A detached single- or two-family dwelling and any accessory buildings incidental thereto, unless an architect is otherwise required by law or by the building authority having jurisdiction over the project; or

(b) Farm buildings, including barns, silos, sheds, or housing for farm equipment and machinery, livestock, poultry, or storage, if such structures are designed to be occupied by no more than 10 persons; or

(c) Any construction of particular features of a building, if the construction of such features does not require the issuance of a permit under any applicable building code and does not affect structural or other life-safety aspects of the building. ”  ( http://www.ncarb.org/~/media/files/pdf/special-paper/legislative_guidelines.pdf ) 

So if your brain is not frozen at this point what this means is that NCARB has clearly defined our scope of practice to small scale residential, barns, silos or any construction that does not require the issuance of a permit.   “Duh.- I knew that!” you might say……

My point is…if we can’t define where the line of work truly lies then we need to accept that others are going to define it for us……and we are not going to like it.

Now does anybody know a good floorcovering material for a grain silo?


OR  54% ≠ 17%

Ask any professional interior designer how many states have Interior Design laws on the books and you might get a range of puzzled looks to quasi-knowledgable swags at a number.  The common message touted by ID organizations is that a little more than 1/2 of the states legislate Interior Design or somewhere between 26 and 27 states or about 54% (more if you include D.C., Puerto Rico). And let’s not forget Canada since our practice is closely aligned due to similar building design regulations. One of our professional organizations cannot recognize our northern neighbors since they are an “American” only entity- fair enough.  Our other professional organizations do acknowledge Canadian ID laws but understandably it is hard to compare Canadian ID laws with American ID laws.  For instance Canadians can own the term “Interior Design” and redefine it to suit- we cannot.  None the less those ID’ers that work within code regulated design environments have that common bond regardless of national boundaries.  But back to the U.S.

So should you know an ID professional that claims to be knowledgable in this aspect of our professional identity try asking them the same question. PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER bets that few will be able to cite accurate numbers. That is because the issue of ID legislation is a constantly changing mind numbing mess of political processes, legal nuances and terminology that only a constitutional scholar (or anti-ID legislation lawyer) might appreciate.  We designers are not so inclined.  There are no pretty pictures, haute design or bright shiny finishes involved to attract our attention.  Which given legislation’s importance to our professional identity is a shame.  Apparently many ID’ers are comfortable that the profession is recognized in more than half of the U.S. and that somebody else is trying to pass a bill here and a law there.  All in all it looks like we are progressing very well….but are we?

Well let’s blow away some of the smoke and crack a few mirrors.

NCIDQ recently composed a  version of the Interior Design legislative map of the U.S. and Canada that takes a different tack;


The defining distinction in NCIDQ’s map is whether or not existing ID laws allow qualified ID’ers to sign/seal and submit their own documents to obtain a building permit for their work. Period.

You may need to read that twice….it is a critical yet very subtle distinction.  What this means is that all of those laws that regulate the title “Interior Designer” in all of their numerous incarnations (as described ad infinitum in this blog) do not factor into the legislative equation.  Let’s look at this another way.

Once upon a time there was a concerted effort to redefine the term/title “Interior Design(er)” legally.  Hence the litany of title acts in this country.  But the paradigm has changed and the goal of our regulatory effort has evolved to create legislation that allows qualified and vetted professional ID’ers to sign/seal their documents and pull permits for their work.  You may have heard it framed as “practicing to the fullest of our potential” or “earning the right to work” or “parity with other licensed design professionals”- something to that effect.  This is now our collective goal.   Title acts do not achieve this goal. If you agree then we need to measure our progress on that front and in that light.

With that….if you really look at the map of the U.S. at least….there are only 7 states and 2 territories that provide for some form of permitting privilege. Mathematically that is only 14%.  Canada seems to be doing a better job as their map is almost all colored in (that has to be good right?) but they still have differences in what they can call themselves vs. how they actually practice.  I continue to include Canada in this discussion, as does NCIDQ, because they are our allies….but again to keep the math simple I focus on domestic U.S. regulations.

So in the U.S. at least some say the ID legislative math works out to 54+/-%…..I say it is only 14%.   That is a big delta.  If my math is wrong please correct me.

Now some will say that Title Acts are simply a first step in the process to gain the ability to sign/seal and submit for permit- and they should count.  Well that may be, and Minnesota and Georgia are examples of success in this regard*, but they are hard-won rather circuitous efforts and by far exceptions to the title act paradigm.  The California CID contingent will undoubtedly proclaim that they have a working sign and seal permitting process, the success of which is suspect (cue the CCIDC counter claims*).

If we agree that the objective is practice legislation that provides us a license to practice similar to any other licensed building design profession then that should be our goal and our collective focus.  We should not be wasting our valuable time trying to sort out the qualified and the not via potentially unconstitutional and exclusionary title laws- see Louisiana.  So what should all of these states with title acts do?   Well I can’t answer that one.  I guess either start over or try to move toward some form of practice licensure or permitting process that follows our model legislative language** more closely.  We are going to have to deal with this issue though.  We have to be on the same page if we are to be taken seriously on the legal front.

My main point in this post is that the picture, or the ID legislative map, is not entirely as rosy as we may believe.  This is how I see it.  Maybe it is time to start being honest with ourselves.

* To my knowledge there is no data that verifies the success of designers in those states being able to permit their own work (note to ID policy research wonks and/or ID legal advocates).

** Currently there is no model language for ID coalitions and their legislative efforts.