AN OPEN LETTER TO INTERIOR DESIGN STUDENTS IN THE GOOD ‘OLE U.S. of A.

So this article from the Louisiana State University Reveille came across my screen yesterday;

https://www.lsureveille.com/news/some-lsu-interior-design-students-want-to-change-degree-name/article_05974fc2-01f5-11ea-9f21-170a20137f86.html

First I commend the LSU ID students and faculty for taking on this issue.  Since I somewhat follow this topic I took a moment to understand what the students were actually considering.  Well duh!

They want respect.  Plain and simple and ‘Interior Design” does not provide that.

I get it.  BUT…………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Yes there are many “Interior Design” programs that have adopted the title “Interior Architecture” in response to the same issues you are struggling with.  But that does NOT make it right nor will it eliminate your problem.  Stay with me here…………..
  2. Unfortunately the academic side of the profession of interior design has let the ‘interior architecture” cat out of it’s bag.  It is going to be difficult if not impossible to lure it back in so that we can present a meaningful, unified and independent “interior design” profession that can in fact earn its place among our peer licensed building design professions.  As an academic and an “interior designer” this deeply concerns me. I am glad that you share my concerns.
  3.  I am not so sure that “the terms “interior design” and “interior architecture” are interchangeable” as Professor Campbell states.  At a higher level I agree the nuances are arguable and is much like the line between interior decoration and interior design…mohair fuzzy.  But when one is on the ground actually practicing the design of code regulated interior spaces the nuances become MUCH more complicated and they have serious later career implications. As students it is easy to be short-sighted.  You just want to get a job in a career that you can be proud of….20 years down the road is way off your radar.  It shouldn’t be.
  4. I call B.S. on the justification that “Interior Architecture” is a more common descriptor for our peers in Europe.  Interior design students need to understand context in order to properly develop a design solution so these points should be clear;  North is up and this is not Europe. Prove me wrong.
  5. Be wary of any tacit or direct allegiance with “Architecture” lest you loose your independence and become simply a subset of “architecture” (AKA subservient).  A lot of effort has been expended to create a unique and independent  career path that, while it has its identity issues, still has far more potential in providing meaningful career options for students.  Turning your back on the effort has some very heavy long term implications.  Proceed with your eyes wide open.

Now my most important point for all U.S. based interior design students, who are not enrolled in a NAAB  accredited program in which you are earning a degree that will allow you to take the ARE so that you can pursue state registration as a licensed architect- you will not be able to use the title “Interior Architect”.  Despite what your diploma may state you will still be relegated to practice as an interior designer.  Again I welcome anybody to prove me wrong on that point.

Ultimately students, you can actually call yourselves, and academic programs can label themselves, whatever they want. We can debate the ethics of all of this title nonsense till the sun sets in the East.  It isn’t……ethical.   But when you are in actual practice within a code regulated and professionally licensed design environment titles matter.  Legally.

My final 2 cents to the LSU students and any other current or emerging interior design students is that changing your program name is not the solution.  Your time and enthusiasm would be better spent asking these larger questions of your current academic and professional organization leaders;

How can the “interior design” profession capture the societal respect and recognition that architecture and engineering conveys?

If interior designers are also interior architects, as many argue, then what is the profession doing to address that very thorny title dilemma?

Why is “interior design” constantly thought of as a lesser occupation than architecture and engineering?

What are you doing to resolve the title confusion so that we can be proud of our chosen career path and practice to the fullest extent of our knowledge and skills?

These are not rhetorical questions.  Have somebody tell you.  That is why they are getting paid the big bucks.

P.S. Full disclosure…I just do not want to pay to change my domain name to PROFESSIONALINTERIORARCHITECTANDDESIGNER.COM so stop with the interior architecture talk will ya?

 

 

2 thoughts on “AN OPEN LETTER TO INTERIOR DESIGN STUDENTS IN THE GOOD ‘OLE U.S. of A.

  1. All very good questions.
    Let’s tackle RESPECT first. Why are we not respected? Is it because anyone with taste can fulfill the role? This may be true with residential decoration, but it is not true of commercial code-regulated design. Taste has really almost nothing to do with it. Safety, health and welfare is what that is all about. We will consider the aesthetic as part of welfare. If respect is what we want, we have to earn it. Building architects may be able to do “interiors” but they may be limited in their knowledge of humanistic finishes and furnishings. While progress has been slow, it is moving forward and will continue to do so as programs like WELL become more established.
    Architects and engineers do have state licenses which do help cement the legal respect and recognition. The ID profession is on this path; much like the landscape architect – it will take time.
    TITLE thorns- ouch! this is truly a rose question. While IA is common worldwide, legally IA is using the term “Architect” which was more protected here in the States. ID is common in North America, but the problem is that while ID was trying to be more inclusive to encourage professional growth ( in numbers), we allowed the residential decorator to latch on to the name “designer”. While it may seem to split hairs- homes get decorated, houses get designed ( this relates back to structure)- the residential decorator used the term designer to elevate their status. Moreover, TV and magazines also took the word Designer and attached it to the Decorator. “Designers” then began to look down at Decorators- which by the way is a very good way to make a living. Decorators should own that title and also make it more respectful- which is not so easy when HGTV ( and the like) makes everyone a designer.
    Our current student population has grown up on this type of show, and while it makes for good entertainment, it is not a realistic depiction of the process ( even though they are called “reality TV”).
    LESS IS MORE- are we considered Less or do we think we are less, thus creating this dilemma? Until we are completely consistent, we will continue to have this inferiority complex. My hope is as our students get out into the profession, they will work side by side with our fellow building professionals and earn the respect they deserve.
    I will dream on….

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