The Interior Design Profession-10 Years Gone.

Belated happy 2020……hopefully your vision matches the new year….or is that hindsight?  Well hopefully your vision and your hindsight are 20/20.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER woke up this morning feeling a bit melancholy and nostalgic ….getting older has a way of doing that to one’s psyche.  Assuming you do not wake up dead, which is a great way to start your day, one begins to question their purpose and meaning and whether their life has left a positive legacy, or any sort of legacy for that matter.  What does it all mean?  Why am I here?  Does anybody really care? Can I snooze the alarm one more time and still make that morning meeting?

Well what do you know this month represents my first full decade of blogging on the very narrow topic of professional code regulated interior design identity.  I do not have a track record of doing much of anything for as long as 10 years so this is a remarkable achievement ( yes this is gratuitous self gratification but it’s my blog).

Happy birthday PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER!  You do not look a post over 300.


Because I firmly believe a little introspection is important for all of us to appreciate the continuum of our search for answers, and that a lot can change over the span of 10 years,  here is my first post from January of 2010 where my assessment….or rather opinion, of this much maligned and confused profession was broadcast to the world;

I am actually surprised that my position on the title “Interior Design(er)” has not really changed;

“It is incumbant on the profession, as we have established it, to get it’s collective act together and figure out why and how we are going to correct our path to legitimacy. If we truly believe that we have a right to the term ‘interior design’ then we have a hell of a lot work ahead of us.”

Wouldn’t it be easier to consider another title?”

Carrying on with the theme we have to ask ourselves….okay I am probably the only one asking myself……………….

What has changed over the past 10 years?

I created this blog 10 years ago in the heat of the Institute for Justice campaign to eliminate the regulation of interior design in the State of Florida and eventually nationwide.  At the time, at least in my assessment, there were very few ways that concerned interior designers could inform themselves as to the issues at hand.  ASID and IIDA’s professional advocacy outreach were not not necessarily accessible or current.  To their credit both organizations have since stepped up their advocacy outreach greatly.  Back in 2010, and as an avowed independent designer, I felt it important to at least try to help broadcast the war on ID in Florida to those who cared about such things.   Prior to this blog the best I could do is glean news from the internet, popular media and, what was then, very active discussions on numerous LinkedIn Groups as well as the oppositions blog The Interior Design Protection Council (now defunct).  I also need to acknowledge the efforts by IDEC, CIDQ, and CIDA who expended copious amounts of time and volunteer effort to counter the IJ’s efforts in various venues. In particular I acknowledge Caren Martin whose name and scholarly counters to the IJ’s misinformation campaign, which I have cited throughout the early posts of this blog, should be required reading for any interior design student who wishes to practice at the highest levels of the profession.


If my efforts resulted in anybody becoming more informed and engaged as to the dire situation our little profession found itself in then it was worth it.  Even if my efforts were for naught it made me feel better about the situation, well worth the cost of this blog.

So in February of 2010 Judge Robert Hinkle handed down his decision on the Locke V. Shore lawsuit in Florida.  See my post from that time here

With that monumental precedent setting decision the term “Interior Design” and title “Interior Designer” became legally protected by the First Amendment.  In other words we lost the rights to claim the term and title as our own.  Anybody with a pulse can claim that they are an interior designer and that they perform interior design services. And they do….by the thousands.  Unfortunately that leaves those of us who practice in the code regulated realm of interior design in a bit of a quandary.  Are we interior designers with all of that label’s misunderstanding and confusion or are we something else?

In a nutshell the profession of code regulated/commercial interior design has spent the past decade trying to come to grips with this new reality as this blog highlights.

While there have been some wins in regard to our march to legitimacy and parity with other licensed design professionals I remain……..well let’s just say disappointed.

“Well it is a young profession and it is still discovering itself” you might counter.  Hmmm okay I keep hearing that defense thrown about….I have been hearing it for the past 40 years I have been aware of the profession of interior design.  And I know that it was bandied about for at least 30 more before I burst onto the scene.  Here’s a good question for you age conscious types…..Exactly how old does a profession need to be before it becomes legitimate?  Not a rhetorical question folks…..somebody?  Anybody?

So while arguments and excuses against creating a cogent title and a unified voice for the profession of code regulated interior design go on we continue to try to define and codify “interior design” to be what we want it to be. Those of us who do practice interior design within the code regulated realm, and wish to practice at the highest levels of the licensed building design professions, continue to suffer from the ongoing societal confusion brought about by this overly broad occupational label.  For more detail see my previous 10 years of laments on this blog.

At ground level there has been some effort to shift the focus of our identity crisis but whether it is a positive shift or not depends on which side of the label/title fence you sit.  At the professional level our two primary membership organizations continue to “represent” the profession of interior design. Although IIDA has made a strategic shift to be the “commercial” interior design organization.  Whether this is simply a semantic shift or fundamental change in how the profession of code regulated interior design presents itself to society remains to play out……maybe I can be more helpful on this shift in my It Was Twenty Years Ago Today retrospective…..look forward to that sometime in 2030.  Oh boy!

To their credit ASID and IIDA have seen fit to collaborate on legislative advocacy issues both at the grassroots level and at the law/policymaker level.  They continue to invest large sums of money and personnel capital in combating deregulation efforts and those few new legislative efforts that the profession can claim as wins over the past decade (Mississippi, Utah, and a few others).  I am happy to acknowledge their advocacy efforts.  They can also legitimately claim several wins on the deregulation front.  We can only hope that this evolving mutual experience creates an environment wherein the logic of creating one voice and face of the profession becomes obvious and unavoidable.  Let’s talk again in 10 more years.

Additionally, and very unfortunately, on the academic side of the issue many more interior design degree programs have adopted the title “interior architecture” into their program names, diplomas and recruitment messaging.  I see this as nothing but a collective vote of no confidence, by the academy, that “interior design” is a viable and unique identifier.  Another story.

So it really isn’t just me.

What’s my point and what have I accomplished here?

Now you may be wondering…….“Okay PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER what the hell have you accomplished in the past ten years of ranting and pontificating?”  Well I know one thing- I sure as hell am not getting rich off my sponsors here (I have none).  Unfortunately I do not have any evidence that this blog has had any impact on anything.  Over the past 10 years, and as of January 13, 2020, this site has had 97,564 views, 44,590 visitors and 1,504 followers, with much of that activity occurring during periods of contentious legal and regulatory efforts involving the interior design profession.  I suspect many of those views were misdirects but given I do not cross promote this blog, or pay for clicks, I am good with those numbers.  I could search the web for emerging designers, students, policymakers, and academics, who may have Googled this blog for inspiration, or a handy hotlink, but I doubt any of them would bother to cite this blog as a scholarly reference.  I get that.

Also in that time I have answered a few questions from folks looking for information on education and licensing.  But not enough to make me think that I am making an impact.  I have replied to numerous comments on my posts, both favorable and critical, and have enjoyed the banter.  But really has it made a difference?  I doubt it.

Where is this going?

With Ten Years Gone it appears that our march to legitimacy has evolved from defending our profession from the interior decorators claiming to be interior designers to defending our right to practice to our fullest capabilities within the architectural realm.  Our biggest hurdle for the next decade is convincing the American Institute of Architects that we have every right to own our little portion of the built environment and to practice as peers with, or independent of, them and other licensed building design professionals.

Instead of getting beaten up by interior decorators, the architects are now throwing hurdles in our march to legitimacy.  Seems to me this is a perfect opportunity for our professional membership organizations to decide if they want to help define and defend the code regulated interior design profession or continue to play both sides of that well designed and code compliant fence.  Many architects understand our value to society and their practice….unfortunately many of their peers, and in particular their professional organization, do not.  That is the real fight for us.

Certainly gives me something to complain about for the next 10 years or so.

After that all bets are off that we will even have a professional domain worth validating;

There is a big disruption coming and if we are not prepared it will render us irrelevant regardless of how right I am or not.  I hope to be sitting on a beach (somewhere in Kansas I suspect) sipping my daily umbrella drink drenched in SPF 1,000 sunscreen.

Since I started this little bit of reminiscing it would be a waste of time if I failed to ask myself the most difficult question;

Was it worth it?

Well we’re still here aren’t we?

6 responses to “The Interior Design Profession-10 Years Gone.”

  1. HI Michael. I’m still here! You have inspired me and others in the fight in Wisconsin. More news on the way soon! Thanks for all your research and insights – can keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most definitely worth it. You’ve helped shape my thinking around more issues than you know. I am very grateful for all the work you put into keeping the blog up and I am sure I am not the only one. Thank you. Here is to 10 more years : – )


  3. Julie kilby (baker) Avatar
    Julie kilby (baker)

    Hi Michael

    I am Peter munton s neice, need to get in touch ASAP .


  4. This blog has been helpful to the consumers, students, interior designers and interior decorators. Its comments and different point of views are necessary. The interior design industry is one big mess. There’s just no other way to describe it. Think of the consumers and the interior design students that look into this industry going what the heck is happening? You’ve got multiple titles, licensed, certified, and registered. Each interior designer claims their path is the right path to certification or licensing. Even though the design is broad and yes it is really broad. If it wasn’t then people wouldn’t be arguing about it. Commercial Interior designers want to separate residential and commercial interior design and want unlicensed designers to not use interior design to label their services. So, how do commercial designers expect residential designers to advertise their interior design services if they can’t say they provide interior design services? Interior designers who have passed the NCIDQ want every designer on the same path and will not have it any other way because they say it’s to guide the consumers, put respect on the name, and be able to stamp docs. Only then the interior design would be a recognized profession, they say. Wrong. consumers will still confuse the name between decorator and designer because as I mentioned, people describe these things differently.

    Decorating is an industry that is booming. Most interior designers also provide interior decor services and will not turn down the job just because the consumer wants decor only. So yes, interior designers are also decorators. Interior decorators could lose jobs because consumers would search interior design when they really only want décor and the interior designer won’t correct them. They wouldn’t dare correct the consumer at that point. They will accept the job and charge a higher price then a decorator would. Some Interior designers don’t respect other industries. Some Interior decorators are passionate about their jobs and want to be recognized and so they made an effort to call themselves certified interior decorators and then interior designers become upset because decorators got to the CID name first. Now both industries are using the same name AGAIN, when they were trying to get away from the confusion. But no one cares because the title isn’t the real problem, they just want to cover up what the real issue is. Can you guess? It’s money.

    Architects stop interiors designers from stamping because that’s where the money is. Architects say to interior designers, “you want to stamp? Become an architect.” Interior designers can’t admit that architects have a point, even though that’s their solution to interior decorators. Interior Designers say to decorators, you want to have the privileges of working in the commercial industry, become a certified interior designer. Then once again, there is the consumer, looking upon the industry and shaking their heads. Why? Because in the end, the consumer will hire who they want. Consumers are not stupid. They research before they hire. If they want an architect to design their kitchen, that’s who they will hire. If they want an interior designer to decorate their bedroom, that’s who they will hire. If they want an unlicensed interior designer to design their commercial office, that’s who they will hire. All industries know the consumer is smart. So they try to make it illegal for others to practice in their field so they get all the money. It’s like any other profession, where one group of people want to run things. They want to keep the competition at a minimum. That’s why there will NEVER be a common ground on this issue because everyone is pretending money isn’t the issue. This blog has been helpful to the consumers, students, interior designers and interior decorators. Its comments and different point of view are necessary.


    1. Wow thanks so much BOYD. I always appreciate thoughtful comments both positive and critical. It has taken me awhile (well about 10 years) to get to the point that I see all sides of this issue and I try to be mindful that everybody just wants to make a living. You may be right that there will NEVER be common ground on the title or label issue but as long as I am able, and as long as I think it matters, I will advocate for Interior Designer who want to practice as peers with, or independent of, other licensed building design professions to find another title. Anybody can be an interior designer and I welcome that liberty. But as long as interior decorators claim to be interior designers and interior designers claim to be interior architects the code regulated portion of the interior design profession will never be recognized as licensed building designers in all 50+ states.


  5. Boyd, In Wisconsin, Registered Interior Designers (WRID), those who have met the NCIDQ requirements and have passed the NCIDQ, want to modernize the existing WI law to allow WRID to sign and seal for our scope within the built environment so we can practice to the fullest extent of our professional abilities. It expands economic opportunity for WRID and small businesses. It provides more options for consumers. It doesn’t try to control other professions.


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