UPDATED 6/23/14

Okay fellow ID Professionals time for a history lesson;


Kudos to IDLNY for posting this great information on the history of Interior Design.  For those of you who took the time to follow the time line and note the various shifts in external influences affecting the evolution of the interior design profession as well as the internal struggles to maintain meaningful identity and cohesion you will note that it has not always been a clear path that we interior designers have forged..lots of organizational schisms along the way.  The list of organizations, acronyms, and titles is impressive for a profession that is 100 years old…(or 50+/- depending on which flavor of Interior Design you prefer).

“Schism”….always wanted to use that word in a post….just what is a schism?

noun: schism; plural noun: schisms
a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief.
synonyms: division, split, rift, breach, rupture, break, separation, severance; More
chasm, gulf; discord, disagreement, dissension
“the schism between her father and his brother”
the formal separation of a church into two churches or the secession of a group owing to doctrinal and other differences.

What’s my point?……Glad I asked.

To me it is clear that interior design, unlike “architecture” or “accounting” or “law” is a relatively new profession in comparison* that has taken an incredible effort to define and validate its place in the building design professions.  Kudos to our earlier professional leaders for their time and dedication to get us to this point.  Interior Design’s march to societal respect and legal recognition as peers with other licensed design professionals has been  challenging at best, definitely frustrating and fraught with legal and political missteps. But trying to stay on the positive side of this  process I see a very constant state of  evolution mostly for the better.

It is time to keep the evolution going.  It is time for those of who wish to practice regulated interior design to the fullest potential of our learned and vetted abilities to have that opportunity unimpeded by those who find such evolution threatening.   It is time that we have a meaningful credential and it is time that we have a professional organization whose sole purpose is the legal, political and public advocacy of our rights to practice as peers with, or independent of, other licensed building design professionals.

History…or rather…Time is on our side.


* Personally I find the excuse that we are a “new profession” weak.  Times have changed….100 years ago a 50 year old professional entity would be “young”.  In today’s rapidly evolving business/professional landscape 50 years is ancient.  My perspective of course….you may be a tortoise for all I know.

P.S What is left of Michigan’s ID title legislation effort is on its way to being deregulated/repealed;

Michigan House Bill 4378, Repeal interior designer registration: Passed 29 to 9 in the Senate

“To repeal a law that establishes a government interior designer registry and makes it available to state or local government agencies. To be included on the registry a designer must have passed a test created by a national organization of incumbent interior designers (which has sought repeatedly in previous legislatures to impose a full licensure and regulatory regime on interior designers).


What does this mean for the above described effort?  Is there anything we could have done to prevent this?  Should we care?  Don’t ask me.

Like I said earlier…..there are unregulated interior designers and regulated interior designers….that is,  in my humble opinion, the quickest and cleanest way to distinguish our domain from this;

“• Let pillows pack a punch.

Seasoned design pros often regard pillows as the ultimate accessory on an upholstered piece. A brilliant strategy: Outfit the sofa body in a neutral base cloth. This shows off the silhouette of the frame to maximum effect.

Next, introduce pillows to add pizzazz. Develop a color palette with pillows using fabrics and custom options.”   http://www.news-press.com/story/life/home-garden/2014/06/20/behind-scenes-designer-reveals-secrets/11165443/ 


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.