WHO OWNS THE TERM “INTERIOR DESIGN”

http://www.nhidc.org/NHIDC.NH%20Bus%20Rev.08%20article-ad.pdf

Well nobody owns it of course. But there are some who feel that they do.  This is a fundamental flaw in the use of interior design regulation to distinguish who is an Interior Designer and who is not.

Although the above link is one year old it is probably the most succinct and reasonably accurate justification for “professional” Interior Design services. Since the article is linked by the New Hampshire Interior Design Coalition, AKA Interior Designers for Certification, I believe it is also a rallying cry for the need for professional interior design to be regulated in the state of New Hampshire. Or is it?  Ms. Coleman and Ms. Guest are highly respected design professionals who are passionate about the virtues of interior design education, experience and examination.  I certainly cannot argue that point. However their case for the need of government regulation to distinguish those that merely claim an entre’ to the profession vs. those that have passed an exam (with the requisite education and experience) is less solid. 

For one just because you have received a design education from an accredited school, practiced under the supervision of a qualified interior designer and passed the NCIDQ exam does not provide you with sole ownership of the title “interior designer”. What you have done is earned the right to call yourself an NCIDQ certified interior designer. Nothing more-nothing less (unless of course you are also a registered architect too..but that is another story). However in the interest of brevity most will call themselves simply interior designer. Problem is at the same time there are untold numbers of creative and highly motivated individuals who may have a suitable education, hard earned practical experience and/or a flair for the creative powered by a knack for self promotion. Who am I to say that Vern Yip http://www.vernyip.com/about_vern/index.html or Kelly Wearstler http://www.kwid.com/company/biography.html or Phillipe Starck http://www.starck.com/  cannot also lay claim to the profession of interior design?  Seems pretty arrogant to me that just because they have not passed and exam or attended the right schools that they cannot call themselves Interior Designers. I am sure they scoff at the very premise. And I do not blame them.

So where is this going? Stay tuned.

Is  it the governments responsibility to sort out those that claim knowledge and expertise from those that can prove it?

One thought on “WHO OWNS THE TERM “INTERIOR DESIGN”

  1. Here is how Texas views the semantics;

    Interior Designers Have the Right to Call Themselves “Interior Designers,”
    even if they don’t have a state license, the Fifth Circuit held yesterday in Byrum v. Landreth. Texas doesn’t require interior designers to be licensed, but forbids unlicensed designers from calling themselves “interior designers.” The Fifth Circuit held that this likely violated the interior designers’ “commercial speech” rights (i.e., the lesser but still substantial First Amendment rights recognized by the Supreme Court as to commercial advertising), and thus ordered the district court to grant a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law. In principle, the Fifth Circuit just made a preliminary finding of likelihood of success on the merits, but the reasoning of the case suggests that the same result would likely be reached on a motion for permanent injunction.

    Here’s an excerpt from the court’s reasoning:

    The State advances a circular argument that the speech inherently tends to mislead consumers. It runs: Texas created a licensing regime; therefore, unlicensed interior designers who refer to themselves as interior designers will confuse consumers who will expect them to be licensed. The descriptive terms “interior designer” and “interior design” are not, however, inherently misleading. They merely describe a person’s trade or business. The terms can be employed deceptively, for example if a person does not actually practice interior design, but the speech is neither actually nor inherently misleading. This argument also proves too much, as it would authorize legislatures to license speech and reduce its constitutional protection by means of the licensing alone.

    The State next relies on two pieces of evidence to prove that unlicensed interior designers who use the title are engaged in misleading speech. The district court correctly rejected both proffers. The State offers a survey that asked irrelevant questions concerning the respondents’ general preferences for “licensed” professionals. The survey included five substantive questions and seventeen demographic questions. The only question even arguably relevant to whether the job title “interior designer” is misleading was, “if there were two professionals offering the same service, one with a license, and one without a license, do you think that it is deceptive or misleading or both that the licensed and unlicensed person can use the exact same professional title?” Unfortunately, because no definition of the qualifications of the “licensed” professional was included, no probative value can be attached to the responses. We are also unable to attribute probative value to a legislative report, prepared three years before the statutes here at issue were passed, finding that some people are confused about what type of services interior designers provide and marshalling comments for and against licensing these occupations. Significantly, the legislative committee that authored the report made no suggestions for legislation of any kind.

    Both the survey and the legislative report expose the fallacy in the State’s effort to characterize certain interior designers’ professional practices as misleading. There is no fixed definition of the covered occupations. Interior designers may confine their work to harmonizing color schemes and selecting furnishings for private residences; or they may design the physical layout of commercial spaces, including aesthetic, functional and safety attributes; or they may furnish services on a wide spectrum between these alternatives. Where no fixed definition of the services exists, there can hardly be a claim that the public is being misled about particular individuals’ truthfully expressed level of expertise or services. The State has offered no evidence that the public has actually been misled about interior design services
    (from http://volokh.com/posts/1240530940.shtml )

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