PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER urges all current and prospective students to read this blatant opinion posing as a “white paper”.  Find it here-  No really, read it. Granted there aren’t any pictures but the words aren’t too big.

So after the latest post on the IDPC Blog PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER thought it might be helpful to provide another side of the issue-since there are several. However, in order for you, the supposed uninformed student, to fully understand the issues of professions, professionalization and the role of the 3 ‘E’s in that paradigm you must first read the following resources; (conveniently ignored in the IDPC’s opinion piece) Ready?

1. The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor by Anthony Abbott. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press. (1988)

2. Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge by Elliott Friedson. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press (1986).

3. Work and integrity: The crisis and promise of professionalism in America by William Sullivan.  (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (2005)

And for a more specific take on the interior design profession;

4.  Interior design’s social compact: Key to the quest for professional status by Anderson, B.G., Honey, P.L., & Dudek, M.T. (2007). “”. Journal of Interior Design 33(2) v-xiii.

5. Defining our profession: The time to clearly and definitively identify the interior design profession is now by R. Wright.  Interiors & Sources.  13(6), 52-53 (2006)

Okay did you read all of that? Good. Now that you have some real perspective on the issues of what a profession is, how one becomes a professional, the pro’s and con’s (yes there are negatives) of professions, the fact that interior design as a profession has not evolved in a magic vacuum controlled by an evil cartel AND what your role in the profession is- here are my thoughts-for what they are worth. 

Interior designers are not unique in their effort to raise the standards of their chosen career. There are many parallel examples by which we can compare our efforts. Students should not be led to believe that our struggle is unique.  In fact it is pretty normal-just ask a nurse or your hair stylist.

When a segment of an occupation (interior decorating- in this case) decides to advance the status of their occupation to a “profession” there are vetted and expected steps that are required of that newly formed “profession”.  Educating its members for baseline competency and ongoing learning being a key component. NCIDQ happens to be the most widely accepted forum within the allied building design professions for this process. Despite what the IDPC says about the influence of NCIDQ it is the capstone professional credential in the field of Interior Design. There are many competitors that wish to become that default testing agency. In other words choose the education component of your career path wisely.

Also when a segment of an occupation chooses to advance the societal respect and benefit of that occupation through education, training and testing there will be those who are physically, mentally and/or financially unable to participate. Yet there are others who simply choose not to.  They do not care to advance their chosen occupation-they like it just the way it was.  Some accept this fate.  Others become the disenfranchised of that professional effort. Unfortunately when the proponents of interior design licensing began to pursue governmental regulation of the term and the practice of, “interior design” many of the disenfranchised became alarmed. So much so that they have formed a formidable group dedicated to stopping the professional development effort of interior design. Their mission is to reverse what progress has been made to advance interior design toward a legitimate “profession”.  Students need to think long and hard about this dilemma.  Frankly PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER does not blame them.  When we began the effort to license “interior design” we were hell bent on imposing our restrictions and our limitations on who could call themselves “interior designers” and who could practice “interior design.”

However despite our 35 years of legislative efforts to affect it, interior design has not changed. But we have.  This is a key distinction. More on this point later. Back to informing students………….

Unfortunately we have evolved (or devolved depending on your POV) into several camps.  One camp is trying mightily to push the profession of interior design to be on par with architects and engineers with all concerns for Health Safety and Welfare and the requisite liabilities and competing responsibilities that come with it. This camp suspects that it is no longer part of the old school traditional interior design camp but it is unsure what to call itself….Certified Interior Designers, Interior Architects, Interior Environmental Engineers, state registered interior designers……  They also are split into sub-camps the residential camp and the commercial camp.  This camp believes that a license will solve their professional identity crisis despite the public relations debacle that the effort leaves in its wake. 

Then the there is the traditional interior designer/interior decorator camp that firmly believes that interior design should remain a mostly artistic endeavor that requires nothing but innate abilities, a sense of creativity and good self promotion skills. Baseline competency in this camp is proven simply by having an appealing portfolio and a few good references. Continuing education is strictly optional and generally amounts to mutual gratification and self serving marketing pep rallies. In this camp it is more important to do the best looking thing than to actually do the right thing. These campers maintain that they are “interior designers”- Uncle Sam be damned. Professionalism in this camp is simply a term that is self-proclaimed.

Then there is PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER’s camp. It is a shrine to education where knowledge and skills are earned, continually exercised and treasured. This is a camp where creativity is honed and balanced with a sense of social and ecological responsibility. This camp believes that health safety and welfare are moral obligations and not our defining contribution to society.  More importantly this camp values the power of design to affect positive change in a way that that enhances quality of life -which should be sufficient validation for professional status.  These campers (okay there is only one) believe that once it’s message is heard and understood by the global society that government regulation and protection, if necessary, will become a mere formality.  We appreciate the importance of licensure in the professional paradigm but we also understand how crucial it is to understand who we are and what we do before we ask Uncle Sam to oversee our little domain.  We daydream a lot in this camp.

If you are a student in PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNERS camp you understand. If you are confused by the rhetoric and sand-flinging of the pro-legislation and anti-legislation camps feel free to join ours.

So this is how I, an interior design educator (not an angry disenfranchised decorator), justify the “indoctrination of interior design students” process and its real value to a civilized and constantly evolving global society.


  1. Very well put, you can count me as a PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNERS camper. It is like they don’t want to advance themselves and become more knowledgeable in the field, they just want to be stagnant and pick out pretty things.


  2. BUT, there is nothing wrong with that- the world needs stagnant pretty things picker-outers. What we have to realize is that we cannot change them and what they do.


  3. Kristen Henriksen Avatar
    Kristen Henriksen

    As a recent interior design student, this post is very helpful for those still forming their opinions about the professional issues in the real world. I’ve been looking for a good, condensed explanation like this and also find myself confused on which side I should take. The PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNERS camp seems like a good fit for me.


  4. Chris Birkentall Avatar
    Chris Birkentall

    Thanks for giving me some additional references for my final paper in my graduate studies at SCAD. Agreed to all of your “rant”. THERE is room in the world for those who are the decorators and those trained to be designers, I just wish we could explain it to the public what the differences area. But the public really doesn’t care, they just want a nice place to live or work. SAD but true.


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