ADVANCING THE PROFESSION OF INTERIOR DESIGN- STEP ONE

STEP #1

The profession has to muster its collective courage, creative problem solving skills, and intellectual capacity to address the disparity between those interior designers who do not practice in code regulated building design environments and those who are educated/trained/certified to practice in code regulated design environments.

 

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Per my previous post on this subject I surmised that the identity crisis within the profession creates several impediments to advancing the profession.  My main premise is that not everyone is on board with the idea that we have to advance the profession on any level but in particular by way of regulation and licensure.  Consequently the numbers simply are not there for us to realize any momentum, or inertia, to move the profession forward on the legislative front.

So in that rather dim light how, or where, do we start in order to successfully advance the profession?

First we have to accept the fact that there are two types of interior spaces. Those that are regulated by codes and standards ……….and those that are not. PERIOD. END OF STORY……Okay not the end of this blog though.

Consequently there are two factions of Interior Designers…those that work within code regulated building design environments and those whose work is not encumbered by the restrictions of codes, standards, and concern for their clients health, life safety, and well-being.

Of course there are exceptions.  There are some interior designers that are able to cross-over into both aspects of the interior design realm outlined above, hence the title “generalist”. To be clear these generalists must prove that they are knowledgeable of codes and standards that apply to their permitted work in order to truly be considered generalists. So for all intents and purposes of this argument we consider these generalist interior designers to be code regulated.

And yes we also have a litany of ways in which we have tried to distinguish the qualified, code regulated, and professional from the innately talented, self-proclaimed interior decorator/designers. For example you can be a Certified Interior Designer, a State Certified Interior Designer, a Registered Interior Designer, a State Registered Interior Designer, or a Licensed Interior Designer.  But to the general public we are still Interior Designers.  A licensed barber does not mean by default that an unlicensed barber does not know how to cut hair. A subtle nuance no doubt.  Yet that is how I see our various labels of interior design at this point in our professional journey. No matter how we parse our legal and ethical obligations or regulate titles or add credentials to our names….. we are still “Interior Designers” and that is how society sees us for better or worse….generally worse.

So back to my point.  Again we have code regulated interior designers and we have unregulated interior designers.  Note I am not trying to apply a title to this rather nuanced distinction. I simply want to clarify this fundamental point.  More on the label issue later.

And if you think I am making this bi-polar identity issue up you need to know that this crisis has haunted the profession for decades, as noted in this lament by Florence Knoll in 1964 and this reflective editorial by Walter Ford II penned in 1967 (date crossed out on copy- reprinted by Contract Design Magazine in 2010).  Let me reiterate our identity crisis is now one half of a century old.  While we may be a “young profession” (compared to Neanderthal cave decorators) it is clear that we have not made much progress on our identity crisis. Basically while a few scholars have tried to force the profession to ponder our conflicted professional identity nobody has been willing to say “Enough! It is time to get serious”.

If you are keeping up with me you should be thinking….”yes…yes PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER that is why there is a growing contingent of interior designers who are abandoning the label “designer” and adding the title “architect” to their name even though they are not architects”.  While they are not shouting their disdain for the failure of interior design to fully describe their work, or provide a modicum of respect for their professional identity, their actions certainly speak volumes.  Frankly I do not blame them.

If you do not already know where I stand on this topic let’s just say I have been calling ‘ENOUGH”! for at least 10 years.

IT’S TIME.  LET’S DO THIS.

Call it a strategic separation.  Call it a divorce.  It is time to distance ourselves from our eternally conflicted interior decorator/designer past.  Hopefully the separation can be amicable..but if not then so be it.  Such a paradigmatic change is not going to be easy, and there may be some hurt egos/feelings, but we have to stop being everything to everybody if we are to have any control over our own professional identity.  This is the only way we are going to garner the numbers of like-minded individuals who are willing to invest the time, energy, and resources necessary to change the paradigm

I believe we can do this potentially nasty bit of business and professional housecleaning but it is going to take more than this diatribe to make it so.  As Stacy Wieland explains in her article on how individuals and organizations frame identity constructs this will require individuals within the profession to undergo a “dynamic back and forth relationship” in order to settle on an identity construct that is amenable to the “stencils” among the profession.  I understand that this platform has a very narrow market and limited, if any, influence but I know my mother reads it…so for me that is a start.

Now if you are still following me and see the need for, and benefit of, forcing a divorce between unregulated interior designers/decorators and those who practice in code regulated interior design your next question is probably something to the effect of… “what in the Sam Hill do we call this new form of interior design?”

Ahhh yes the age-old question and the one that is most difficult to answer……….which makes a perfect segue to my Step #2 “The profession must better define itself and promote that message to the public”

Stay tuned.

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