Pitching a New Mantra- AGAIN

Well it’s been about 2 years since I trotted out this proclamation and while there has been some positive movement toward this vision….we are still singing too many songs from too many hymnals.  It’s time to re-post;



ONE VOICE: We need to have one professional organization that is devoted to serving the best interests of vetted interior design professionals by continually raising the standards of professional status, advocating for our legal/political rights in a unified, cohesive manner, and promoting our unique value to society.  The old adage that there is strength in numbers does not count if we don’t have a clear direction.

ONE CREDENTIAL: We need a brand identity that clearly communicates our unique value to society and demands the respect that we all have earned.  And no this brand is not “Interior Design” nor are we merely “Interior Designers”.  Since anyone with a pulse can claim that title it does not make sense to try to make it our own unique brand- does it?

ONE MISSION: To allow us to compete as equals to, or independent of, other licensed design professionals.

What part of that is unclear?  Not a rhetorical question.


“…..Yet when it comes to taking action to advance the practice, many designers feel overwhelmed. The entire topic can seem too complicated, too political, too abstract.  It doesn’t have to be.”

Hmmmm….now you tell me.  Guess it depends on how you define “too”.


Props to IIDA and the IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter for trying to SUCCINCTLY explain the issue of legally and politically advancing the profession and how we might be our own best advocates.  I know for a fact that it isn’t easy to distill this issue down to manageable sound bytes or bullet points.

Again for fear of being labeled an arm-chair (albeit ergonomically designed w/ adjustable lumbar support) critic I truly respect the time and effort involved here.  I learn from each of these organizational missives…and I also see lot’s of missed opportunities and mixed messages.  My first reaction is that it is complicated, it is very abstract to those who care not to understand it, and it is hyper political.  I get the soft pitch approach but if you have to sugar coat it to get the message across to your constituents, the ones directly affected, then how do we expect the general public to understand the nuances…..much less care?

Heck we can’t even agree on a definition…..speaking of which I see IIDA is trying to spin a new one;

Interior Design is the development and implementation of an interior environment that provides the highest level of safety, function and overall enhancement to the inhabitants’ quality of life.”

Finally a definition that is less than a chapter and does not require a glossary.  Well done!-No seriously this is the best iteration I have seen.  I am overjoyed to see the issue of quality of life included.  Hallelujah!

My only concern here is the fast and loose use of “Interior Design”.  While we all would like “Interior Design” to hold this meaning amongst the general public (AKA our policy makers) I know (IMO) the common use definition of interior design is far from this (see my previous post http://professionalinteriordesigner.com/2014/04/21/pitching-a-new-interior-design-paradigm/) and as long as the public perception blends decoration with design, which it will despite our continued efforts otherwise, the use of Interior Design to describe what we do is a lost cause.  Several years ago when I contracted this obsession I assumed we could in fact change the “interior design” paradigm simply by educating the general public…..silly me.

The legal and political forces, which I have discovered to be onerous and labyrinthine, have convinced me otherwise- WE CANNOT CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF “INTERIOR DESIGN” SIMPLY BECAUSE WE SAY IT IS SO. Now if IIDA’s message had begun something like this……

Code regulated Interior Design is the development and implementation of an interior environment that provides the highest level of safety, function and overall enhancement to the inhabitants’ quality of life.”

or maybe;

“Interior Design, as practiced by Registered Interior Designers ®, is the development and implementation of an interior environment that provides the highest level of safety, function and overall enhancement to the inhabitants’ quality of life.”

Now that is a unique definition that by default eliminates any societal cross-over with ‘Interior Design” as performed by those born with a flair or are innately talented self-proclaimed Interior Designers….which is perfectly legal -and we all know they are the majority here….. I digress.  Heck IIDA North Pacific should understand this as their neighbors in Oregon are trying mightily to change the semantic paradigm to be “Commercial Interior Designer” via https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2014R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB1521/A-Engrossed

How is that not politically abstract?

I know we would all like it to be as simple as changing the meaning of “Interior Design” to match IIDA’s definition but even if we all wore that definition on our shirtsleeves (or had custom tee shirts made….note to self-$$$) we cannot possibly overcome the critical mass of popular perception that considers us nothing more than finish pickers and furniture arrangers.

Now the next part of the definition gets even murkier….

An Interior Designer is an individual who has been trained to identify, research and creatively solve problems pertaining to the development of an interior environment, and who possesses the knowledge and skills to implement these solutions. Interior Designers apply their expertise of Design and the built environment to solving problems at the interior scale and at the level of direct human experience.”

Again on the surface this is the best summation of our profession that I have seen.  However, according to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida anybody with a pulse can legally claim the title ‘interior designer” and practice “interior design” despite what IIDA says here.  We lost that battle in a very complicated and convoluted legal battle 3 years ago.  If the recent ASID ICON article on the future of Interior Design http://professionalinteriordesigner.com/2014/03/19/the-future-of-interior-design/ and this IIDA effort to re-spin the professional validation effort are any indication of lessons learned by the Locke v. Shore debacle we have a very long, very complicated, and very abstract game of softball ahead of us.


I am well aware that there are many in the profession that firmly believe that it is possible to instill a societal paradigm shift of their understanding of Interior Design by education (one relative at a time) and lots of behind the scenes lobbying- I wish them well but I have a much different take on this issue……as you may now realize.

Call me a pessimist, call me an idiot, call me a pessimidiot….if you think the current model for our professional advancement is just fine then you probably are not reading this.  If you are still here then I hope you find my wry ruminations amusing at worst and thought provoking at best.

Sure makes me feel better.



UPDATED 4/22/2014

There are several irrefutable facts, based on my opinion, regarding our professional identity crisis that requires us (okay…me) to reconsider our current professional paradigm.

1. Interior Decoration and Interior Design will forever be entwined.  The general public will always think of us as interior decorators (not that there is anything wrong with interior decoration).  No amount of government mandated title legislation will change this perception.

2. The past effort to own the term “interior design” and shift the meaning and standards for individuals to call themselves interior designers and practice interior design has failed.

2. Our current professional membership organizations are incapable of addressing this identity crisis in a meaningful and non-divisive manner.

3. The current model for advancing the value of professional interior design within the eyes of the general public and ultimately our policy makers is broken-IT DOES NOT WORK (see my previous 300+ posts)

4. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to combating the efforts of those people/organizations that stand in direct opposition to the advancement of Interior Design via government regulation (not that I am supporting that particular model of professional validation).  We have failed to create a common sense definition of the title “interior designer” and the act of “interior design”.  And even if we had, as the AIA acknowledges, the difficulty with such semantic machinations to define and own certain terms and titles is a costly legal process. http://www.aia.org/about/AIAB091369

I will acknowledge that there has been some progress particularly on the sign/seal permitting front but given the disconnect between our professional member organizations, their professional and non-professional members and our policy makers this “progress” has been too slow and too costly.

What is the ROI on this effort?  This is not a rhetorical question- I first asked this question several years ago on this blog- I am still waiting for an answer (that is a rhetorical statement- I am not waiting for the answer to come to me…I am not that arrogant…but I have looked and I can’t find it….nobody knows….isn’t this bad business? I digress)

I could go on.  Suffice it to say I am not a fan of the current professional validation model(s)


That would be the easiest thing to do right?  Given the dearth of options it makes sense.  Of course there are those who choose to leave this madness behind them by co-opting the term “interior architect” even though they are not architects registered, licensed or otherwise. Can’t say I blame them and before I really dove into this issue from the perspective of a practitioner turned academic I also ignored  the time honored stereotypes by calling myself an interior architect.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER actually considers this semantic co-opting to be a legitimate option to solve our identity/societal respect issue.  If we assimilate the term “interior architect” and change all of the legal trappings that would allow interior designers to call themselves interior architects and legally practice interior architecture this professional pathway MIGHT work. But IMO the effort required to make this shift is insurmountable.  I have a better idea.  Here is my first step of a several step plan to reinvent the profession of interior design…no really that is what I am doing……well if you have a better idea I am happy to listen.

Step 1. Redefine Interior Design to acknowledge two important aspects that clearly distinguish those that are qualified via education/experience and examination and those that are simply innately qualified or self-proclaimed. TO WIT:

There are two types of interior design. Unregulated Interior Design and Regulated Interior Design (refer to cool graphics).  No longer will we be sucked into the never-ending debate about interior decoration vs. interior design, or residential vs. commercial interior design.  It is simply unregulated ID or regulated ID.  The distinction here is clear.  For 50+ years we have been looking to Uncle Sam to help us validate our efforts to be design professionals….well he’s already done it for us.












The evolution of the profession of Interior Design has reached a point where difficult decisions must be made in order for it to advance to the next level which is TRUE parity with other licensed design professionals.  We must provide a clear and powerful message about our right to be considered peers with our allied design professionals. This will not happen organically, by chance or one acquaintance at a time.  It will take courage, patience and commitment.  Crazy as it sounds I do not think it will take more work……we just have to be much more strategic about where we dedicate our financial, physical and intellectual resources.  That’s my plan and I am sticking with it.





Found this interesting policy statement from the American Institute of Architects:


PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER does not proclaim to be an attorney so take this with a large rock of sodium.  This appears to be a crack in the courtroom door regarding the use of the term “architects” and its variations such as “Interior Architect” or “Interior Architecture”.  That said PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGN is well aware of the ethical issues that this issue stirs up.  I digress.

Also, I am fairly certain that state licensing boards will still protect the right of their rightfully licensed/registered architects to legally own the term so don’t go changing your business cards yet.  If anybody knows, or has an opinion as to, what this AIA missive really means I welcome your comments.

P.S. Just heard from an acquaintance in Connecticut who advertises herself as an interior architect.  A Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Special Investigator just issued her a cease and decist order based on Chapter 390 of the Architectural Licensing Board use of the title- to wit;

Sec. 20-290. Use of title “architect”. In order to safeguard life, health and property, no person shall practice architecture in this state, except as provided in this chapter, or use the title “architect”, or display or use any words, letters, figures, title, sign, seal, advertisement or other device to indicate that such person practices or offers to practice architecture, unless such person has obtained a license as provided in this chapter. Nothing in this chapter shall prevent any Connecticut corporation in existence prior to 1933, whose charter authorizes the practice of architecture, from making plans and specifications or supervising the construction of any building, except that no such corporation shall issue plans or specifications unless such plans or specifications have been signed and sealed by an architect licensed under the provisions of this chapter.


Looks like the AIA has gotten out of the 1st amendment business as well they should. Let the states pay for the battle.



Pretty bold title.  As an interior designer, who is somewhat curious about the future of my profession, I was intrigued.  If you are also interested in the future of your chosen profession – here is the publicly accessible article.

READ PAGES 28-29 FIRST: http://browndigital.bpc.com/publication/?i=199326

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER concurs- interior design regulation should be seen as an effort to expand opportunities…the subtitle is clear.


However an equally important component of ID regulation is to validate our right to practice in code regulated design/construction environments and be considered peers with, or independent of, allied licensed design professionals.  In my opinion this aspect of the “Future of Interior Design” is less clear in the article.


Unfortunately there are numerous points made in this article that simply do not make sense, do not add up, and a few that are flat wrong.


1.) “Interior designers specify more than $46
billion in product annually, far exceeding
specifications by any of their counterparts.

Who are our “counterparts”? -and if the $46 Billion includes residential furnishings specified by interior decorators and Kitchen and Bath specifiers, which I believe it must, then we are not talking about professional/certified interior designers are we?  If that figure includes only “product” specified by “professional” interior designers then why the hell do we not have more influence in all levels of society?  (not a rhetorical question). Also-from the ASID 2012 State of the Industry Report-“Interior designers purchase and/or specify some $49 billion of products and services each year.”…if $46 billion is the 2013 number then “our industry” took a 6% hit in one year (Hmmmm)…but then who knows how much “more than” and “some” really mean….what’s $3,000,000,000.00 amongst counterparts?

2.) “…… As such, designers
are seeking legislation to establish license and
certification standards that recognize the education
and experience they bring to the profession.

This is not why we seek legislation/regulation.

3.) “…… In fact, ASID played an
essential role in significant legislative victories
in the past year. Notably, six states enacted
interior design legislation into law in 2013 —
California, Connecticut, Nevada, Texas, Florida
and Illinois.”

“Essential”…don’t think so.  California’s private certification effort really can’t be counted as “legislation” and ASID has barely held on to a perfunctory CCIDC board member seat  http://www.ccidc.org/asid-idec.html – But now that you took us there I have to ask- is ASID now tacitly supporting the private self-certification process adopted by California…you know the one that stands in direct opposition to ID regulatory efforts in every other state and district in the country?  Just wondering.

4.) “Nearly half of all practicing designers have completed
a four-or five-year college degree and about
40 percent of the degrees are in interior design.
By contrast, almost everyone who is entering the
interior design field today has a bachelor’s degree,
and many are pursuing graduate degrees.

So let’s see……doing the math…..+/- 40% of “almost” 50%….is….ummmm……okay……less then one-quarter of the college degrees held by “all practicing designers” are in “interior design”.  Is this a good thing? (Rhetorical question for effect ya’ll).  “Almost everyone” …..are these facts or guesses? I am confused.

5.) “Thirty years ago the regulatory environment
was limited, leaving a wide space where interior
designers could work.”

30 years ago ASID was the instigator of legislation/regulation that tried to own the title “interior design” thereby legislating un-certified/unqualified interior designers out of business.  Guess it depends how you define “wide space”.

6.) “The bottom line is that credentials
expand an interior designer’s portfolio,
opening up opportunities and the potential for
new business.”

Well yes and no. If the credential has legal and political gravitas such as M.D. or R.A. or P.E. then yes.  If RID or CID or even ASID……then no.  Read my previous 220 posts.

7.) “………The organization
aims to broaden the language of New York’s
interior design legislation to allow the state’s
certified designers to submit drawings for projects
that don’t affect the building structure or
its mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems
to the local planning authorities for approval.

Okay this is picky but qualified/licensed/certified interior designers should be able to submit documents that address more than furniture and non-structural partitions-in most cases this might not even require a permit.  Now that we have shifted the paradigm to compete at this level we are going to have to be clear about the scope of our responsibility.  Not easy to put into one paragraph I will grant the author that.

So the map of 2013 banner ID legislation does not include Mississippi which IMO was the most significant regulatory accomplishment in 2013 but who’s counting….Okay I am.  Don’t suppose a map of defeats/tabled legislation and ineffective sign & seal privileges for the year would help keep things in context?…Nah.

I will admit that it is incredibly difficult to write a 2 page article that clearly describes the legislative and regulatory nuances of interior design legislation.  I am actually glad that ASID made the effort and I debated raising this issue lest I be looked upon as a non-engaged whiner with nothing better to do than bitch and moan.   But if you are going to frame it as the “Future of Interior Design”, even if you are only pitching to your dues paying members,  I would hope that the message BY THE ORGANIZATION THAT REPRESENTS THE PROFESSION is laser sharp, facts and figures used are accurate and relevant, and that readers can walk away informed- with a succinct and consistent message to pass on.

This is how you actually affect the future of interior design.

………Must stay positive….it’s all good….everything is just fine….the future is so bright I just gotta wear shades.

Risky Business movie image Tom Cruise


Speaking of professional domains and how they manifest themselves in organizational structure…particularly one that we are so closely related….as opposed to the whole Doctor Nurse thing.

Here is an example of an out of the box profession that rose from nothing to a multi-billion dollar industry in 21 years and has influence in virtually all aspects of the building design professions and construction trades.


YES YES I know….this is not exactly apples to apples. LEED is based on the premise that if we do not act to change the paradigm of building design and construction life as we know it will cease.  This is a powerful motivator.

Whereas professional interior design services…..well Ethan Allen offers that as a freebie when you buy a sofa…… not much motivation there huh?

If you agree..and this troubles you- join the club.

What can we learn, if anything from USGBC’s success story and how can we adapt it to serve our own journey to professional validation?

Well LEED was started by a small group of individuals and business entities that had a simple powerful idea- to change the paradigm of the then emerging green building design and construction effort. Note green building was not a new phenomenon at the time….it was just unfocused and happenstance.  Like interior design is to the building design professions, green building design had been around awhile but it was an outlier….partook by tree huggers and doomsday fanatics with a few scientist types  trying to rationalize it all. Many building designers were compelled by the potential of sustainable design but the misinformation and misperceptions, AKA “greenwashing”, within the eco-enviro sustainable design paradigm made it very difficult on several levels.  The green design effort pre-USGBC was unfiltered at best, and polluted at worst.

Ultimately it was hard to find value in pursuing “green design”

I could go on but suffice it to say that all it takes is a good idea and a few people who are willing to make it happen despite what the status quo is doing and what the competition is saying.

Some call me a dreamer…..or worse.  I can accept that.


Many of my previous posts have addressed the ongoing professional struggles between architects (represented in this corner by the AIA) and professional interior designers (represented in this corner by an assortment of interior design legislative coalitions and hiding behind the curtain-ASID).

But is there really a struggle?  Well yeah but…………

When it comes to the relationship between qualified interior design professionals and architects I firmly believe that respect and mutually rewarding collaborations are commonplace. I have no data other than my 25+ years of commercial interior design/architecture experience in which I have worked for, or with architects.  Of course some unfortunate stereotypes persist but once an IDer proves his or her mettle within the code regulated building design environment the relationships generally turn synergistic.  If an interior design professional can walk the walk and actually contribute to the success of a design effort any licensed design professional with an ounce of common sense will respect that ability.

However try as we might interior designers still struggle with overt biases that have built up over the years. For instance we have the proverbial, “we are only qualified to select furniture and finishes” misperception not to mention the more covert/unspoken prejudices such as sexism and even homophobia.  Yes many of these biases and prejudices are a result of  larger and more complex societal intolerance but to say that they are not endemic in the much smaller cadre of building design professions is simply delusion.  These prejudices generally start in school and little is done to tamp these misunderstandings and biases out until one professional has an interaction with another professional that forces him, or her, to reconsider their assumptions.  This is a hard way for our professions to move forward with any amount of mutual respect and benefit.

I have always maintained that we need architects and more importantly they need us. Much like doctors need nurses……or maybe much like Zubin Mehta needs Vladimir Horowitz….or does he…I digress.

But when it comes to those devout independent ID’ers who are gung ho regulationists I am in the minority on this belief…..add in the gender issue and I maybe alone on my middle age hetero male interior designer island. For it is the issue of regulation and licensure, or right to practice, that severs our professional domains like a serrated knife.  This is an unfortunate circumstance for both professions and is the crux of the aforementioned “struggle”.

Ultimately when the debate turns to which professional domain is best suited to own code regulated interior design work the gloves come off.  The well entrenched AIA continues to lobby against all legislation pursued by various interior design coalitions (vis-a-vis ASID). The AIA oft kicks sand in the our collective professional faces.  I understand the turf protection aspect of this issue as I have been on all sides of this fence.

Ultimately the AIA wants to protect the income producing potential interior projects provide for its sole/small practice members and the pro-regulation interior design contingent claims that they have earned the right to practice in certain conditional code regulated interior environments without the oversight of an architect.  That’s the “struggle” in a nutshell folks.  Correct me if I am wrong.

So over the past few years, as the profession of interior design has slowly made strides in advancing its worth to society and its place in the design of code regulated interior design environments, there have been lot’s of suggestions as to how regulation minded interior designers should, or could, create a valid professional path that avoids both practice conflicts with licensed architects and, at the other end of the spectrum, the vitriolic push-back of disenfranchised interior decorators and residential designers.  By default we have unfortunately modeled our professional path after architects and our similarities are also our biggest roadblock.  Should we continue this potentially incestuous path to professional status or should we create a new and unique paradigm that is uniquely our own?

The one alternative model for ID professional advancement getting the most traction (IMO) is the nursing model….er….um the

The Medical Profession Model


Of course this is not a new analogy.  Both sides of the interior designer/architect equation have pondered its validity and viability for some time now.  The Interior Design Coalition of Arizona has adopted the nursing analogy in its legislation justification material;

“Other states have concluded that establishing this category of registered professional in the field of architecture and design is similar to the prior emergence of the physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner in the medical field.” http://www.idca.info/uploads/2/9/0/7/2907520/idca_fact_sheet.pdf

Most recently the medical model was promoted as a way for ID to move forward in this March 2013 article in Design Intelligence Magazine.


In it John Weigand posits a very reasoned and eloquent case for ID to follow the nursing model, particularly its education pathways, to move ID out of its professional stasis.

He is correct in this observation;

“Nurses, technicians and others are important contributors in the medical system, but they are credentialed at levels appropriate to the work. There is flexibility in the system.”

And there are numerous comparisons one can make between the two occupations.  Decorators and Medical Assistants , Interior Designers (non-NCIDQ certified) and LPN/LVN’s, and Certified Interior Designers and RN’s or Nurse Practitioners.

He is also correct in stating that the ID education model has many of the academic prerequisites in place but getting buy-in from the architect side of the equation would require a quantum leap in cross profession collaboration

“This model could be developed jointly by NAAB and CIDA and might need to exist for some period of time in test mode, not replacing but paralleling current standards.”

Well yes and when all 8 planets, Pluto and the Sun align these discussions MIGHT be possible.  Call me a skeptic.

There are also some parallels with the examination and licensure of nurses…they protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and so do we…..or at least that is how we try to frame our right to be regulated. But let’s face it- justifying nurses responsibilities in that regard is a no brainer. Interior designers ability and obligation to protect the HS&W of the public…well that is a very hard sell….even if you are shopping for ID services.

And to address the 800 pound white male gorilla in this discussion.  What about the issue of gender subservience?  Articles on the subject abound; http://www.nursingtimes.net/home/clinical-zones/leadership/nursing-has-still-not-escaped-its-subservient-past/5061426.article


So what is the difference between being subservient to male dominated profession of architecture?  Well nothing- no improvement here.

It also appears that at the highest level of the medical profession that Nurse Practitioners and Medical Doctors are vying for control of the patients health… http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/the-gulf-between-doctors-and-nurse-practitioners/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Sound familiar?

And let’s be honest the profession of architecture as we know it is evolving and reinventing itself.  The days of the black caped walking stick wielding master of the built domain are long gone.  Given the quantum leap in construction and design technology, coupled with the great economic resetting of the past decade (resulting in up to 45% unemployment in the profession at the peak of the downturn), architects, vis-a-vis the AIA, are scrambling to redefine their position in the design of the built environment.  So maybe architects need to retool their image and approach as to how they validate their value to society as well.

Given the UNDERLYING issues of subservience, turf (or in this case patient) protection and gender bias inherent in the nursing model PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER would like to think outside the box a little bit…….okay maybe a lot.

I would like to be so bold as to propose a new model for ID professional advancement….oh and this applies to the architects as well.

The Musical Profession Model


Cutting to the chase. Let’s imagine that the role of the conductor is played by the architect and the interior designer is first chair violinist or if you’re so inclined…the pianist.  Obviously in the design and execution of a large multi-discipline building somebody needs to make sure everybody is in tune, on time and contributing their individual effort to the betterment of the whole composition.  For me the analogy between architect and conductor is much more palatable than architect and doctor.  Another nuance of this analogy that should appeal to ID’ers is that when an orchestra is not necessary, as in a violin solo, or simple string quartet recital, there is no need for a conductor.  If an interior designer/violinist wishes to go solo…they are welcome to do so and can even make a living performing solo.  Arguing with myself here- YES Nurse Practitioners can also treat patients to a certain extent without the oversight of an MD…..but then remember all of the other legal, political and territorial baggage that comes with that.   No thanks.

Now obviously the professional musician analogy looses some validity when you drill down to the issue of regulation and licensure.  But if we believe that ID leaders and architect leaders can get together to even consider the possibility of some sort of mutually beneficial education/examination/practice pathways then what the hell….let’s take full advantage of this fantasy and create something that benefits both of our professions.  Just some food for thought folks.

Cue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj9bXn4jr6M 

Fade out and fade in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFt-Y4gUySU

Fade to black.

Roll the credits

Cut. Print. THAT’S A WRAP!