OR 54% ≠ 17%
Ask any professional interior designer how many states have Interior Design laws on the books and you might get a range of puzzled looks to quasi-knowledgable swags at a number. The common message touted by ID organizations is that a little more than 1/2 of the states legislate Interior Design or somewhere between 26 and 27 states or about 54% (more if you include D.C., Puerto Rico). And let’s not forget Canada since our practice is closely aligned due to similar building design regulations. One of our professional organizations cannot recognize our northern neighbors since they are an “American” only entity- fair enough. Our other professional organizations do acknowledge Canadian ID laws but understandably it is hard to compare Canadian ID laws with American ID laws. For instance Canadians can own the term “Interior Design” and redefine it to suit- we cannot. None the less those ID’ers that work within code regulated design environments have that common bond regardless of national boundaries. But back to the U.S.
So should you know an ID professional that claims to be knowledgable in this aspect of our professional identity try asking them the same question. PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER bets that few will be able to cite accurate numbers. That is because the issue of ID legislation is a constantly changing mind numbing mess of political processes, legal nuances and terminology that only a constitutional scholar (or anti-ID legislation lawyer) might appreciate. We designers are not so inclined. There are no pretty pictures, haute design or bright shiny finishes involved to attract our attention. Which given legislation’s importance to our professional identity is a shame. Apparently many ID’ers are comfortable that the profession is recognized in more than half of the U.S. and that somebody else is trying to pass a bill here and a law there. All in all it looks like we are progressing very well….but are we?
Well let’s blow away some of the smoke and crack a few mirrors.
NCIDQ recently composed a version of the Interior Design legislative map of the U.S. and Canada that takes a different tack;
The defining distinction in NCIDQ’s map is whether or not existing ID laws allow qualified ID’ers to sign/seal and submit their own documents to obtain a building permit for their work. Period.
You may need to read that twice….it is a critical yet very subtle distinction. What this means is that all of those laws that regulate the title “Interior Designer” in all of their numerous incarnations (as described ad infinitum in this blog) do not factor into the legislative equation. Let’s look at this another way.
Once upon a time there was a concerted effort to redefine the term/title “Interior Design(er)” legally. Hence the litany of title acts in this country. But the paradigm has changed and the goal of our regulatory effort has evolved to create legislation that allows qualified and vetted professional ID’ers to sign/seal their documents and pull permits for their work. You may have heard it framed as “practicing to the fullest of our potential” or “earning the right to work” or “parity with other licensed design professionals”- something to that effect. This is now our collective goal. Title acts do not achieve this goal. If you agree then we need to measure our progress on that front and in that light.
With that….if you really look at the map of the U.S. at least….there are only 7 states and 2 territories that provide for some form of permitting privilege. Mathematically that is only 14%. Canada seems to be doing a better job as their map is almost all colored in (that has to be good right?) but they still have differences in what they can call themselves vs. how they actually practice. I continue to include Canada in this discussion, as does NCIDQ, because they are our allies….but again to keep the math simple I focus on domestic U.S. regulations.
So in the U.S. at least some say the ID legislative math works out to 54+/-%…..I say it is only 14%. That is a big delta. If my math is wrong please correct me.
Now some will say that Title Acts are simply a first step in the process to gain the ability to sign/seal and submit for permit- and they should count. Well that may be, and Minnesota and Georgia are examples of success in this regard*, but they are hard-won rather circuitous efforts and by far exceptions to the title act paradigm. The California CID contingent will undoubtedly proclaim that they have a working sign and seal permitting process, the success of which is suspect (cue the CCIDC counter claims*).
If we agree that the objective is practice legislation that provides us a license to practice similar to any other licensed building design profession then that should be our goal and our collective focus. We should not be wasting our valuable time trying to sort out the qualified and the not via potentially unconstitutional and exclusionary title laws- see Louisiana. So what should all of these states with title acts do? Well I can’t answer that one. I guess either start over or try to move toward some form of practice licensure or permitting process that follows our model legislative language** more closely. We are going to have to deal with this issue though. We have to be on the same page if we are to be taken seriously on the legal front.
My main point in this post is that the picture, or the ID legislative map, is not entirely as rosy as we may believe. This is how I see it. Maybe it is time to start being honest with ourselves.
* To my knowledge there is no data that verifies the success of designers in those states being able to permit their own work (note to ID policy research wonks and/or ID legal advocates).
** Currently there is no model language for ID coalitions and their legislative efforts.