BLINDLY DEVOTED OR SIMPLY OUT OF OPTIONS?

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has ruffled a few feathers by claiming that proponents of interior design licensure seem to be blindly devoted to use of legal force to achieve professional parity with architects and professional engineers.  The ID licensure effort has, because of legal ramifications, evolved from one of redefining the term and the practice of “interior design” to one that is solely focused on providing ID’ers limited scope permitting privileges.  Basically we have gone from pissing off the decorators to flustering the AIA. So forgive me for asking- what have we achieved here?  While some see the licensure effort as a success I see it as a terrible waste of intellectual and financial capital…..at this point in our professional development.  I am sure that 40 years ago licensing interior designers seemed like a great way to distinguish the qualified from the not. And given the dearth of organizational leadership for the profession it sadly remains our only option for advancing the status of the profession.  Well fast forward 40 years and one would have been trapped in a cave with their head buried in the sand to think that society, technology and design processes have not evolved. So is a 40 year old effort to establish some sort of societal recognition and professional parity best achieved through force of law?. Ummm….NO!  It is not too late for the profession to evolve as well.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has been watching the lighting design profession, represented domestically by the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), strive for respect and recognition. The parallels with their professional identity effort  are remarkably similar to those of ID’ers.  They are the bastard step children of the Illuminating Engineers and we are the shunned offspring of a failed relationship between decorators and Architects.  We could learn a lot by zeroing in on the IALD’s effort. I particularly appreciate an editorial piece from the Jan.-Feb. 2011 issue of Illuminate (a supplement to Architectural Products magazine) by Kevin Willmorth titled IT TAKES A VILLAGE. Mr. Willmorth discusses the revolution in the lighting design process and how design decision are made and he makes this pertinent point;

“Half a Century ago,  architects were the core of all decision making, often with more power that the owner. In today’s processes they are less empirical. The decentralization of lighting design is just one of the many areas where the vertical petards of conventional professes have collapsed. From glazing to HVAC systems, bringing in a wider array of experts is an integral a part of contemporary design practice . This collective of knowledge results in the infusion of information beyond any individual’s capacity, allowing more complex systems to be considered.”

We, the profession of interior design, must reconsider our effort to combat the AIA mano y mano in order to achieve professional parity with them and yet be independent from them. Why are we so determined to distance ourselves from decorator/designer wannabes by emulating architects for a very limited scope of the building design paradigm?   In order to prove that we are just as capable we are keying on the building codes (egress/life safety) aspect of the regulated building professions.  We claim that we also can protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public and therefore deserve licensure. Well any reasonable and informed policy maker (oxymoron intended) will weigh the value of architect’s ownership of that responsibility and adding another layer of legislative bureaucracy to appease interior designers.  Remember,  times have changed. The complexity of building design systems has increased exponentially and opportunities to stake out preeminence within those systems are there for the taking. It is time to redirect our misguided investment in Uncle Sam in order to develop a strategic and focused investment portfolio that promotes our expertise and value so that our infusion into increasingly complex systems is simply logical. Let’s get locked in instead of locked out.  All it takes is a strong and dedicated professional village.

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