Or at least minimizing the cries of disenfranchised interior designers.
PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has been bantering about the blogosphere lately with anybody willing to discuss the issue of interior design regulation. I gotta say it’s a thin crowd. None the less I have been enlightened by the ways in which we as a profession see regulation and, as my previous 250 posts point out, how the general public, vis-a-vis our lawmakers, sees interior design regulation.
I am now able to boil the justification for the entire effort into two (Okay 3) words; Respect and Practice Rights.
Let’s nix respect as it is not the government’s job to regulate, or grant, respect for any one professional domain. Unfortunately many in our profession do not realize this and due to a dearth of other means to gain respect they pursue licensure as a means of validation. “But….but….won’t weilding a license automatically distinguish me from the mere designer wanna-bes, self-proclaimed interior design posers and innately qualified decorators cum designers?” Ummm let me think about for a second- NO!
It won’t, it hasn’t, it can’t, and it aint never gonna ya’ll- Get over it.
Now on to pursuing regulation as our right to practice as peers with, or independent of, other regulated design professionals within code based construction environments.¹ My discussions with California ID’ers on both sides of their regulation efforts have helped me focus on two key aspects of our effort to regulate; Intellectual Property Rights and Permitting Privileges.
PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER was under the misunderstanding that once a licensed design professional signed and sealed permit documents they became the owners of the intellectual property. Basically if an unlicensed/unregulated interior designer designed and documented a design project that, for whatever reason, needed the signature and seal of a licensed design professional (typically a Registered Architect) that the interior designer surrendered ownership of his/her design to the endorsing professional. Well I was wrong. Evidently ownership depends on the use of copyright protection and confirmation of ownership in the project contract. Of course if a designer does not copyright their work and there is no contract (ie. AIA Document B-141 or similar) then all bets are off. Ultimately the argument that the endorsing licensed professional assumes ownership of the design is full of holes. This is one aspect of ID’s march to professionalization that needs much more exploration and dissemination and until then should not be used as a justification for licensure.
As to the issue of practice rights, the most important aspect of which is permitting privileges, that is being able to design, document, sign, seal, apply, and be awarded a building permit for our work within defined scope limits². Add to that when the project scope exceeds those set limits and involves structural, M/E/P or base building life safety issues, registered ID’ers should be legally allowed to lead or be the prime design entity for such professional collaboration. That’s really the crux of all of this regulatory licensure legal political brouhaha in my not so mumble opinion.
Okay how do we get there? (see https://professionalinteriordesigner.com/2011/08/18/the-goal-is-clear-the-path-not-so-much/ ) Well the light at the end of that tunnel…er path, lies in 3 key words included in the International Building Code- “Registered Design Professional” or R.I.D. for those of you into brevity. Specifically the IBC states in Section 107.1 Submittal Documents that;
“The construction documents shall be prepared by a registered design professional where required by the statutes of the jurisdiction in which the project is to be constructed.”
Repeat “registered” not “licensed”. Now certainly local jurisdictions can muck with the terminology so that “registered” becomes “licensed” but we can all guess who is motivating those subtle semantic changes. This is where a strong advocacy effort with the ICC and other code official organizations would be a wiser investment of professional dues monies than lobbyists pursuing “licensure”…I digress.
So with that PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER posits that the entire ID regulation effort be focused in on the nuanced pursuance of legislation that regulates the title of “Registered” Interior Designer. Not the practice of anything…..don’t even mention it. Our public mantra should disavow any effort to regulate the practice, or licensure, of the act of interior design. In fact legislation from here forward should not even mention the definition of interior design…to the lawmakers- ID is what it is and it can remain that way forever. We simply seek title protection for those interior designers who make the free choice to qualify as Registered ID’ers. Gross oversimplification? Maybe- but the current approach isn’t really working is it?
Now the pursuit of title acts is nothing new but for the past 35+/- years we have typically tried for full licensure of the practice of ID only to be allowed regulation of the title at best. Still many of us still want that license and claim that title acts are simply a step toward full licensure. Not so fast.
Those of you in the know are aware that the most recent legislation attempts (California, South Carolina, Massachusetts etc.) are careful to frame their bills around the term “registered”. This may be a concerted effort by the ASID led ID coalitions to alleviate sticky legal conflicts with exclusionary language and legal infringement on “interior design” and “interior designer” as well as copyright protection on the acronym CID – I doubt it. But as usual I am willing, and in fact hope, to be proven wrong.
What we need to do is start thinking, acting and promoting ourselves as RID’s. We need to educate ourselves as RID’s, we need to apprentice as RID’s and we need to vet our professional status as RID’s. This is where self-regulation comes into play- which is another discussion. Once we present ourselves as a profession that has earned the right to title protection without infringing on the rights of non-registered interior designers or registered architects then we might have a chance at realizing our true professional aspirations. It’s the permit stupid.
If you’ve read this far I would love to hear your thoughts. Is this a legit model or am I missing something?
1. Paraphrasing a joint statement by Don Davis of ASID and Alyson Levy of IIDA issued in response to the 2010 ID deregulation effort in Florida.
2. The definition of the actual scope of work that a Registered Interior Designer can legally/contractually accept all liabilities for is another moving target across the country. Additionally local jurisdictions apply their own interpretations so there is no consistency and little chance for reciprocity. Like our title effort this is another aspect of our professional validation process that needs to be applied consistently despite the vagaries of state and local regulations. In other words if we do not define and vet it first others will do it for us- much to our disservice.