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.



But not without some semantic flaws…..more on that later.  Watch the presentation-particularly the video.

Kudos to Karen Hailey, IIDA for creating this presentation and to Emily Kluczynski, IIDA’s Director of Advocacy, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs for promoting it.  Evidently this was presented to IIDA members in Colorado back in February.  This is the most imformative and entertaining take on the issue of professional recognition and legal/political advocacy that I have seen come out of any ID organization….but hey that’s just me.

That said I am concerned by the continued confusion over the term and ultimately the very definition of “Interior Design”.    The presentation continues to beat the tired old semantic nuances between Interior Decoration and Interior Design as if the distinction is straightforward.  It isn’t.  It never will be.  Within this presentation I counted 5 different prefixes to the traditional term “Interior Designer” that the speakers relied on to help distinguish us from them.


  1. “Educated”
  2. “Qualified”
  3. “Licensed” (grossly misunderstood)
  4. “Registered”   &
  5. “Certified” Interior Designers

Then by default THEM=

  1. Uneducated- Ouch
  2. Unqualified- Maybe…..but who makes that call…state boards I guess?
  3. Unlicensed- Only in 2 states and D.C….but whose counting?
  4. Unregistered – Well only where “Registration” is legally enforced which is the exception.  Or
  5. Non-certified Interior Designers…Certified as in passing NCIDQ, or by the State, or as in California (which this presentation dances around) privately “Certified”….confused?  You should be.

Why do we continue to think this is an acceptable way to advocate for our profession?  Hell I can’t keep it straight.  The one term/prefix I did not hear or see is “Commercial” Interior Design(er) – which is how IIDA is positioning itself to be different than it’s allied professional organization ASID.  At least that prefix gets at the difference between Commercial vs. Residential Interior Designers which in my opinion is a much cleaner distinction – even for the layperson- I digress.

To Ms. Kluczynski’s credit she did reference Andrew Abbott’s Theory of Professionalization from his book ‘The System of Professions- An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor” to provide some perspective on our profession and how it has evolved.  I refer specifically to Abbott’s stage #2 “Name change of the occupation to help create definition for the new profession“.  The presentation then alludes to the evolution of “Interior Design” from “Interior Decoration” which occurred sometime in the 1950’s…..well yes…..Interior Design did evolve from Interior Decoration but somebody forgot to tell the general public that that happened-evidenced by the brief street interviews included in the video.  So without acknowledging the almost 30 year and constitutionally illegal effort by the profession (mainly ASID) to legally own the term/title of “Interior Design(er)” we continue to flail at how to differentiate us from them.  50 years ago is an eternity in the evolution of professions….haven’t we evolved beyond mere “Interior Design” at least as it is understood by the public?

So as Jenny West of Knoll asked in the video “How can we clear up the blurred line between decoration and the profession of Interior Design?”- my simple answer is we can’t.  Let’s stop trying to use legal prefixation of the term “Interior Design” and let’s stop beating ourselves up trying to redefine “Interior Design” and make it what we want it to be by way of legislation.

If we are going to talk like Educated/Qualified/Licensed/Registered/Certified  Interior Designers then we should also walk like one…..Sarcasm intended.


If you have visited PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER.COM before you know that I have a thing for titles and professional recognition…okay it’s an obsession….but if you are back maybe you understand the importance of this issue as it relates to “Interior Design” and our particular identity crisis. I have posted previously on the effort by the lighting design profession to establish a professional credential. Their effort is relevant in that they are a relatively young profession sprung from the rapid specialization, and relative dearth of design sensitivity, within the lighting engineering profession- much like interior design was cleaved from the well established profession of architecture…and its brief dalliance with interior decoration- I digress.

I see many parallels between Interior Design’s effort to establish professional credentials (note I did not say “licensure”) and members of the International Association of Lighting Design’s (IALD) effort to distinguish themselves as a self-regulated professional domain who deserves respect and a place at the proverbial building design profession’s table.  We can learn a lot from them.  Conversely there are also many things that the lighting designers are doing that are far different than interior designers and our alphabet soup of professional credentials (ASID, IIDA, NCIDQ, AAHID, IDS, CID, RID)…I think they have learned what not to do from us…..but I speculate.

Here is an update to the efforts of the IALD to establish the Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) credential;

Here is the link to the CLD website;

My take away from this effort is that a strategic approach that has a singular and inclusive mission is much more impactful than one that has multiple competing/conflicting interests who seek credentials, private, public, or otherwise, purely to distinguish themselves from each other.  Furthermore the CLD seeks to self-regulate in order to achieve professional respect as opposed to utilizing government regulation to gain professional respect. A subtle and oh so misunderstood nuance amongst us professional interior designers. In short theirs is an effort to “certify” and not “license”.  The distinction here is critical particularly as it pertains to regulated interior designers effort to validate themselves as a peer profession with other licensed design professionals.  As Elizabeth Donoff explains in her update;

“The most commonly mistakenly interchanged terms are the difference between licensure and credentialing, and the distinction is a very important one to make. A license allows someone to practice a profession in a particular state and is governed by health and safety issues. Credentialing, on the other hand, is a “method for maintaining quality standards of knowledge and performance, and in some cases, for stimulating continued self improvement. Credentialing confers occupational identity.”

In my bumble opinion the profession of Interior Design has spent the last 35 years trying to confer its occupational identity with a license.  My hat’s off to the IALD task force for making this nuance clear and starting with establishing a clear identity based on performance and not the simply leaping for the brass ring of licensure.

Unfortunately it is too late for us (the regulated profession of interior design) to go back to our roots so to speak and rethink out path to societal respect and then pursual of licensure.  But it isn’t too late to think about how we proceed from this point forward.

Stay tuned.


THIS IS “INTERIOR DESIGN”…..All you need is an app and an iPad

TapGlance – Photo realistic interior design on your iPad

No Experience Needed-TapGlance does not require any prior experience with professional CAD (Computer Aided Design) or 3D software.”

……..silly me….thinking I needed an education, years of experience and a license.


The moral of this story….errr…the point of this post is that as long as “INTERIOR DESIGN” is perceived as nothing more than the mindless selection of furniture and finishes and randomly placing those elements in a space, real or imagined, then we will continue to be perceived as nothing more than furniture pickers with a flair for color. In that case we just may find ourselves displaced by an App.


I can only assume that IIDA & ASID  & IDEC & CIDA & All state Interior Design Coalitions are aware that Louisiana’s Interior Design practice law is being threatened and that they are working together to one, form a strategy to mitigate negative fallout from this campaign and two, martial a concerted legal and policy effort to address the next ID regulation debacle….because if we do not get our collective professional act together it will happen again…..and again….and after that……

Note I did not say save Louisiana’s practice act.  ‘Fraid to say it may be too late for that.

Inform yourself here;


There is much more to this sordid story than the above video…I assume 2 minutes is all you can stomach.

Okay so fellow regulated interior design professionals…..prepare to get slimed once again.

Who’s next on this hit parade?


Here’s a New Title to Consider


How about Registered Design Practitioner?

I know…..I know….PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER tends to get way hung up on titles and credentials and the semantic implications thereof.  OCD?  Maybe.  Insane?  Duh!

So it appears that the Illinois Interior Design Coalition (IIDC) has introduced a bill in which Illinois Registered Interior Designers, and other qualified Interior Designers, will be able to become licensed as Registered Design Practitioners.  Let’s think about this.

Inform yourself here;

So with that we now have a 5th possible regulated title and credential to deal with…well 6 if you count the old school “Interior Designer”….but who’s counting?

1. Licensed Interior Designer

2. Certified Interior Designer & State Certified Interior Designer where such legislation applies.  California CID’s have a private voluntary system that is unique from all other CID legislation…confused?

3. Registered Interior Designer

4. Commercial Interior Designer  &  now….

5. Registered Design Practitioner

Please note, if you have not already done so, the absence of the term “Interior”.  And the shift from “Professional” to ‘Practitioner”.  Curious solution to the anti-ID regulation backlash and possible conflict with the International Building Code I suspect.  But wow are we ready to disavow the term “Interior” just to get a license?

While I am all for state coalitions doing what they have to to obtain right to practice/permitting privileges for the designers in their respective states I really wish we would all step back, take a breath and figure out what the implications for these semantic machinations really mean for our profession. Maybe it does not matter.  Maybe it really should be up to each state to do what they can to earn a modicum of respect for our right to practice as peers with other licensed design professionals….er um…registered design practitioners. Should we care that we may end up with numerous iterations of our professional identity?

Does it really matter?  Me thinks it does.

UPDATE 3/30/15:

Seems the Illinois ID practice act is getting the requisite pushback from the usual suspects;

In reading the justifications for each organization to oppose the Illinois legislation I note the inclusion of a 5,000 square foot minimum on spaces in which one must be a Registered Design Professional (or previously licensed design professional) to practice in.  This is one of those instances where the fine line between our work and the work of other licensed and non-licensed need not be drawn so finely.  Why not simply parrot the Illinois Practice Act which clearly defines our scope.  That should be the language we use in this bill folks…..the AIBD for one should oppose this bill just for that one definition.  What a shame.

“The Architecture Practice Act does not apply to: A. Buildings or structures outside the corporate limits of any municipality used for farm purposes. B. Detached single family homes on a single lot. C. Wood-framed, two-family homes on a single lot not more than two stories and basement in height. D. Interior design services that do not involve life safety or structural changes.”



For several years now I have been lamenting the lack of a unified and cohesive professional identity for those interior designers who work within code regulated interior environments.  My position has evolved over several years…of endless rants and debates, but ultimately I maintain that we (the code regulated) are much more than “Interior Designers”- at least as society understands the practice of “Interior Design”.  I have gone as far to say that we should do what we can to distance ourselves from this term.  We are not merely ‘Interior Designers”.  However, as long as we try to distinguish ourselves solely by pursuing governmental regulation, that supposedly grants society the collective recognition and respect of our learned and vetted abilities to improve the quality of their lives and livelihoods, we will never achieve parity with other regulated/licensed building design professions.   I get tired of saying this….We have to create this distinction BEFORE we pursue such legal/political recognition.  Let’s assume that our current mode of distinguishing our professional domain from the larger domain of “Interior Design” by use of regulation achieves success on a national basis…it won’t, but let’s just assume for a second that all states recognize qualified Interior Designers from the innately qualified by way of title or practice legislation.  What we will end up with is a collection of Certified Interior Designers, State Certified Interior Designers, Registered Interior Designers, Commercial Interior Designers and Interior Designers. Got it?  Some of us will feel better because of the semantic title twist…some of us may or may not be able to pull permits for our work, some of us will be registered/certified via some quasi-public board with no real right to practice and some of us will just have to settle to be lumped in with the local carpet store sales person who has a flair for color and a title in his/her business card “Interior Designer”. But as I said we will not even get to this level of consistency.

We have numerous state Interior Design (note the reliance on “Interior Design” nomenclature) coalitions many of which work as private support entities for their state boards where Interior Design is legislated.  Currently there are 39 such coalitions…in various stages of activity as far as I can tell only 28 state coalitions exist in states with active Interior Design legislation. Michigan just de-regulated its title act and the MIDC appears dormant, California has a quasi private/public regulatory effort and of course there is a litany of various title and practice regulations in place.  Have I convinced you that there may be a better way?

So I have given this dilemma a bit of thought…..”how do we achieve a critical mass of societal comprehension and respect for our profession that will allow us to effectively pursue our right to practice as registered/licensed design professionals?

We need a National Board of Regulated/Registered* Interior Designers.  There I said it.

* I don’t care what we call ourselves…let’s just stop calling ourselves “Interior Designers”.  Let the Interior Designers have it.  Confused?…..join the club

Now back to my big idea.  I have not fleshed this out, obviously.  I am sure my interpretation is rife with misunderstanding.  I do not know everything about our professional domain particularly on the public/regulated side of things.  Know that I exist in State that may never achieve legal recognition based on the current status quo.  Obviously I have made a lot of assumptions.

So here is a link to a graphic model of how I see the profession of Interior Design currently and how it might look with a National Board.

If you have ever taken the time to do an organizational chart of the profession of Interior Design (sarcasm intended) you know how difficult this can be to represent graphically.  Yes it looks confusing, and I will admit to lots of graphic mis-steps but I hope that you can see the kernel of an idea….a big idea.

While the first inclination might be to compare this idea with the architectural profession (AIA & NCARB) I am leaning toward other examples of private/state regulated professions.  Certified Public Accountants for one.  Obviously I have a lot of work to do to fully flesh my idea out.  But I am more than willing for anybody who has taken the time to hear me out to comment/question for better or worse.

Bring it.