INTERIOR DESIGNER vs. INTERIOR DESIGNER- WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

membership-780x350image from http://idc-oregon.org/

Can Interior Designers ever distinguish themselves from Interior Designers in order to advance the profession via government regulation?

Okay read that question again….does it make sense to you?  Well from where I am sitting it makes no sense but yet that is what numerous well intended interior designers are trying to do by pursuing government regulation. These interior designers freely invest copious amounts of time and energy into the grassroots effort to achieve recognition by their state legislatures.  They have my respect simply because they want to improve the status of the profession.

However, since the term “interior designer” is not a protected title anybody with a pulse can call themselves an ” interior designer” and many people do- qualified or not, professional or not, educated or not, breathing or not.  Unfortunately it is typically the unqualified, innately talented self-proclaimed interior designer that society equates with the term “interior designer”. Why should they support regulation of a profession (if they even consider it one) that requires no particular training, education or skill?  Answer is they don’t.

You cannot expect the general public, vis-a-vis our policy and law makers, to understand the difference between an interior designer and an interior designer…..no way- no how.  (Case in point: http://www.designntrend.com/articles/10266/20140118/kourtney-kardashian-shows-amazing-interior-design-skills-alice-wonderland-themed.htm)

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If you do not see, or agree that there is, a semantic barricade then there is nothing else here for you to see….move along.  If however, you recognize that there is a conflict here please read on.  Let’s figure out a way around this impediment to our professional advancement.

So what we have is an intractable bi-polar divide within the profession.  Each side has clearly stated their platforms for ID regulation and against ID regulation.  You and I may be able to sort out the truth from the lies but how can we expect our policymakers to sort through the flack to see our side of the profession?  Unfortunately as I have posted 300+ times before they can’t.

Those in favor of ID regulation say “Licensing provides a level of accountability that is otherwise non-existent.   It is for consumer protection.”

Those who oppose ID regulation say “There is no consumer outcry demanding interior design legislation”

Those in favor say “Licensing interior designers will allow the qualified to work to the fullest potential of their training and education”

The opposition says “occupational licensing reduces employment growth, contributes to unemployment and increases costs to consumers,”

The pro legislation side claims we are educated, trained and tested  to sign and seal construction drawings to procure building permits.

While the anti-regulation contingent claims that architects already do this and there is no need.  Unfortunately the AIA agrees….I digress.

One interior designer says this and another interior designer claims this……How can we clarify this for society and our policy makers? Since the advent of the Locke v. Shore ruling in 2010  http://ij.org/locke-v-shore   the profession has attempted a mighty policy tack to distinguish our regulation attempts by using the title “Certified Interior Designer” or “Registered Interior Designer”.  I have asked this before? Why do we need legislation to do this?

We have to decide if we are pursuing regulation to distinguish ourselves from the innately qualified thereby limiting that competition or if we pursuing regulation as a right to practice issue.  Two very different end games requiring two very different game plans. Let’s figure that out first huh.

Yet the effort to distinguish the profession by use of overly subtle title nuances continues.  Seems like a lot of effort for little to no gain. How can we change this?

The Oregon interior design coalition http://idc-oregon.org/  for instance has proposed legislation in that state that distinguishes “Commercial Interior Design” from “Interior Design” http://professionalinteriordesigner.com/2012/01/27/oregon-commercial-interior-designers-push-for-practice-license/
Seems like a reasonable way to distinguish those that practice in code regulated environments vs. residential interior decorators/designers but there is no legitimate profession called “commercial interior design”.  Again the Oregon IDC has my support for their effort to advance the profession but I cannot support such semantic cleaving simply to avoid confusion.

So how can we present a professional domain that is Interior Design- but isn’t?

Well we can start by regulating ourselves. If we co-opt the term “Registered Interior Designer” BEFORE we pursue any legislation to regulate the term we do not have distinguish ourselves from “interior designers”.  If they have not earned the right to “Register” themselves in the free market…then they should not have any issues with those who have so proven their baseline competence to become “Registered”and ultimately “licensed” thereby rendering their anti regulation competition concerns moot.  In other words we need to create a professional identity that is clearly not interior design and is not performed by “interior designers”.  Whoa you may have to think about that one again.

Register first then pursue legislation to protect the term and the practice.

Which will take less time…trying to distinguish ourselves politically and legally via Uncle Sam or distinguishing ourselves in the public domain first then pursuing legislation based on that self-regulated title and practice?

My money is on the latter.  Hope I am around long enough to confirm it.

P.S. Okay if you are scratching your head I can’t blame you.  Again if you do not agree that this is an extremely nuanced and convoluted (by our own doing) issue then you probably are laughing this diatribe off…..at least you are laughing.  Others of you are probably thinking “isn’t legislating the title ‘Registered’ Interior Designer the easiest and most direct way to distinguish ourselves from our interior design brethren and consequently redefine the profession of “interior design” to be what we want it to be- isn’t that what we are doing? It seems to be working.”  Well no..it’s not working.  Hence this blog.

Architects are all licensed….why can’t we follow their lead?

Okay here’s another way to look at it.  Prior to the regulation of the occupation we know as “Architecture” as practiced by “Architects” they (architects) had…ohhh…about 500 years of proving their value to society. They became a learned profession in which the title “Architect” garnered immediate respect and those who practiced “architecture” without the prerequisite education, apprenticeship and examination became rarer as the profession developed, one and two, they were quickly outed and reprimanded by the professional domain of “architects” either legally, professionally or in dark alleys.  Ultimately over time architects came to legally own the title of architect, at least within the built environment.  The general public came to understand this and generally accepted it. 

We do not have that luxury. The general public has no idea what we do or why we deserve legal recognition.  Because we do not legally own the term “interior design” and in my humble opinion we never will….we cannot make it what we want it to be simply by creating title regulation.  However, who’s to say that in 500 years we may not have worn down the innately qualified self proclaimed interior designers into resignation…..”all right all right you can have it….we’ll just call ourselves interior decorators and let you have the title to be you own...” Sorry….that aint gonna happen- not even in 500 years.   

So we have to concede that interior designers will never be able to own the term interior design and make it their own, legally politically or professionally. 

Time to consider a new paradigm.   The one I suggest above may not be the best solution but if you agree that there is a problem then I have accomplished something.  If you don’t see this I hope you can comment and let me know. THANKS FOR READING

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3 responses to “INTERIOR DESIGNER vs. INTERIOR DESIGNER- WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

  1. Touchy subject…I am a proudly SELF TAUGHT and successful designer, I have earned my title through 15 years of hard work and experience…yet I am ineligible for “registered” status. I have worked with diplomed designers who did not know sinks needed venting. Going to school would have been nice…to bad my 3 job working single mom could not put me through..and piles of debt are not an option…so…lets make sure we leave an opening for “apprenticeship” or “self taught” rather than make my dream job to elitist to achieve for the less privileged.

  2. Fair enough. I am not a big fan of grandfathering which is one option you alluded to. There is also a difference between forcing people to comply with minimum competencies and allowing them to make the choices, over a reasonable time, to comply with those standards. If you choose not to make the effort necessary to advance your knowledge and skillset in order to comply with the minimum competencies then you have made a choice. We can’t advance the profession by lowering or eliminating standards. I maintain that to achieve a profession that is on par with every other learned/apprenticed/vetted building design profession we need to maintain rigid education/experience/examination standards.

    I do support the idea of a path that will allow non-degreed practitioners with valid experience to sit for the exam. If you know your stuff you know your stuff and you should be able to prove it. THANKS

  3. To Anonymous,

    “Going to school would have been nice…to bad my 3 job working single mom could not put me through..and piles of debt are not an option”

    80% of the students in my CIDA accredited program do not have their tuition paid by parents and will acquire piles of debt, myself being one of them. During four years of full time studies, I worked part time and took courses in the summer semester. I think there will always be a difference to those that are “self-taught” and those that chose the longer, more difficult path of education.

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