Category: Careers in Interior Design

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.

lazeramazer

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; https://wordpress.com/post/professionalinteriordesigner.com/11

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.

FUN TIMES THOSE………

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 https://wordpress.com/post/professionalinteriordesigner.com/108

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;

https://space10.com/project/digital-in-architecture/?utm_medium=website&utm_source=archdaily.com

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?

If This Is Interior Design………….

and she is an “interior designer”…… then why would I want to be a “certified” version of this?

https://www.ktnv.com/morningblend/dwg-home-decor-11-22-19

Once again if we, the code regulated commercial interior designers of America, wish to establish a public image that demands understanding and respect we need to do one of two things;

  1. Establish a public messaging campaign that will overcome decades of confusion and misunderstanding of  interior design and the interior designer’s role in the design of the code regulated built environment.   OR
  2. Leave “interior design” to the innately qualified by creating our own unique professional identity* that distinguishes us from “interior designers” by default.

If anybody has a better idea please come forward.

*See Interior Architecture.

P.S. If you think the above popular media piece in the nation’s 39th largest T.V. market  is a rare one-off segment you are wrong.  It is by far the most common public face of “interior design”.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

 

 

 

IT’S THE MESSAGE PEOPLE!

beach bottle cold daylight
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Now that we have beaten back another effort to deregulate the profession of code regulated interior design, this time in Florida, again (see previous post), it is time to ask ourselves the proverbial question….

“WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?”

My short answer is that interior designers do not deserve to be regulated…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….(pause for effect)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“BLASPHEME!”– you say.  Let me explain.

Unfortunately for us, the public perception of interior design is far different than the reality of code-regulated or commercial interior design.  So when we stand before a lawmaker or policy maker and we ask them to consider creating a law that regulates the practice of “interior design”, or we are forced to defend existing interior design laws from deregulation efforts, our message is less than cogent and convincing.  There is, unfortunately, a wide gap in perception between the message bearer and the receiver.  We often use helpful descriptors such as “we are ‘commercial’ interior designers”, or “we are ‘certified’ interior designers”, etc. to close that cognitive gap and to interject some distinction.  After all the lawmakers we are speaking to simply represent the general public and we all know what the general public thinks about interior design and interior designers.

So most policy and law-makers, when confronted with the issue of licensing interior design are left to ponder “why should we regulate a profession that has no impact on the health, safety or well-being of the public”?  While we (the code regulated) all know the truth and reality of our social obligations toward public safety and welfare we have not been able to frame and promote that important distinction in the realm of interior design.

My mission (nay obsession) has always been to compel those educated, apprenticed, and NCIDQ certifed code regulated interior designers to rethink their message.  This “message” includes what we call ourselves, how we define ourselves, how we promote our value to society, and ultimately how we parlay that message into serious consideration as peers with our allied licensed building design professions.

I am well aware that the profession hangs it’s hat on the official definition of “interior design”  which clearly describes, in great detail, a vision of “interior design” that we all wish was commonly understood.  Many of my peers maintain that with time, persistence and patience we can realize a paradigmatic shift in the public perception of our true value to society by promoting our version of interior design.  On the other hand many of my peers have acknowledged their doubt in our ability to define our way out of this identity conflict by adopting “interior architect” as their go to title.

Frankly I do not blame them.  While many see this as simply a way to engender a modicum of respect it is hard for me to see this title transgression as nothing but a vote of no confidence in “Interior Design”.

When will we ask our collective selves……“Why do we feel obligated to defend our domain from those who do not fit squarely into our vision?”   When will we stop trying to convince the public what we are not decorators as explained in the ever present “difference” argument?

The Professional Difference Between”Interior Designer” and “Interior Decorator”

 

Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.  Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. 

Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things.

In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture.  Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project.  Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.  The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology — including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process — to satisfy the client’s needs and resources. 

U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered and to document their formal education and training.  Many states and provinces also specifically require all practicing interior designers to earn the NCIDQ Certification to demonstrate their experience and qualifications.   By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure. 

https://www.cidq.org/find-ncidq-certified-int-designer

Those pesky interior decorators, who have every right to call themselves “interior designers”, simply will not cease confusing our public image.   Hence the ongoing battle for the title of “interior designer” and its incumbent, albeit intangible, professional identity and societal respect.   

And for those emerging interior design professionals who think this identity crisis is simply the result of us being a young, still emerging  profession, I offer this proclamation from the late great interior design progenitor Florence Knoll;

                 “I Am Not A Decorator!                   

Sound familiar?  This is essentially, albeit using other descriptors, what our policy makers and family members hear when we stand before them to defend “interior design”.

So you are thinking Ms. Knoll said that in her later years…..say 2014? No.

Given her lengthy career maybe she uttered those words say in…..1994? No.

1984?  No.

1974?  Well okay you are getting warm.

Try 1964.   Think about that dear readers…..both of you.  Since Ms. Knoll uttered that defense we are now onto our 3rd generation of interior design professional.  Yet we face the same perceptual confusion and right to practice road blocks.  Yes it just keeps “HAPPENING”.

So as you can see this has been going on awhile.  Have I made my point….again (see previous 350 posts on the subject)?

When will we recognize that we do not own “interior design” and we cannot define, or legislate, our way to respect?

When will we realize that we have to change the message in order to shift the paradigm?

Unfortunately PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER is an outlier.  I accept that.  I will never be asked to sit at the grown-ups table while they continue to ignore the 800 pound pink tutu wearing gorilla sitting in the corner of the profession.  What keeps me going is the hope that in 55+ years some poor interior design academic or professional will be neural blogging the same message via BCI telepathy…..

…..And did you know that PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER proclaimed on his old school internet blog;

“I AM NOT A DECORATOR”

And do you know when that was? 

2039?  No.   

2029?…….No.

Carry on.

 

 

 

How Do I Become An Interior Designer?

If you reached this site because you are interested in pursuing a career in interior design in the United States (or Canada- to an extent) please know this;

  1. This site is not funded or financed by anyone. I am not here to promote any particular interior design degree/certificate program or interior design organization (do you see any ads?).  I am here to help you make informed decisions without any judgement.
  2. I am an NCIDQ Certified Interior Design profession with 25 years of commercial and residential design experience.  I have also been teaching interior design for the past 14 years at a highly regarded 4 year interior design program.
  3. Interior design is a broad and somewhat ill-defined occupation.  It can be confusing and if you make the wrong decision in your journey…it can also be very expensive.
  4. This blog post is focused on getting to the point.  The internet is getting clogged up with a lot of information.  I want to help you cut through it. Even sites such as the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics, while helpful, can be overwhelming at this stage of your journey.
  5. I will provide links to trusted sources so you can explore your options a bit deeper but know you should be on the right path.  Okay ready?

Q- WHAT TYPE OF INTERIOR SPACE DO YOU WANT TO DESIGN?

A) I want to design people’s homes.  I love to watch home make-over shows and videos.  I prefer the more artistic aspect of design and do not want to deal with a lot of technical, or complex, problems.  While I am confident in my innate sense of creativity I also know that some specialization, such as kitchen and bath design, does require some advanced training.

OR

B) I want to design restaurants, nightclubs, high-end retail, and hotels.  I like the ultra creative aspect of glamorous entertainment or shopping spaces but I do not want to get too technical or bogged down with the details.  I do not want to design people’s homes….too much drama for me.

OR

C) I want to design a variety of commercial interior spaces including hotels, retail, healthcare and offices.  I am interested in Architecture and want to help design the interior spaces of larger buildings.  I like technical challenges, working in teams, and find solving complex problems rewarding.

OR

D) I want to design residential and commercial interior spaces that are creative and also help the client live a better quality of life.  I want to make a difference for people of all ages and social levels.  I enjoy working in dynamic and challenging environments with other like-minded professionals.

If you fall on the fence between the above options that is fine.  Read the details and that should help you focus on one path.

If you answered ‘A’

Okay your options are actually pretty wide open here.  You wish to pursue a career in interior design that utilizes your innate creative skills but does not require knowledge of building structures (math…yuk!), codes, standards or regulations.  You are more interested in furnishings and colors than wall framing or floor joists.  More commonly known as interior decoration there is a lot of cross-over into interior design.  At a minimum you will need a baseline knowledge of floor plans, construction and materials.  Obviously the more you know in this regard the more valuable your skill-set becomes.  You may not need to know any advanced computer design programs but, as with any profession, a general knowledge of basic office programs is essential.  Again the more you can offer a prospective employer in the area of technical skills the broader your options.  Ultimately this aspect of interior design requires no formal design education but if you wish to pursue advanced education or certification to elevate your opportunities in this rather competitive aspect of interior design here are several legitimate organizations that can provide much more detail for your consideration.

The Interior Design Society

The National Kitchen & Bath Association

Certified Interior Decorators International

The Home Furnishings Association

A note of caution here.  Since this is the lest restrictive aspect of interior design there is a lot of misleading info on the internet in this regard.  Buyer beware.

If you answered ‘B’

If you wish to pursue a design career that deals with public commercial spaces such as restaurants, hotels or chic retail stores you have two sub-options to consider.

  1. I prefer to be involved with the furnishings and color choices for these spaces and not so much the details or technical aspects.   OR……..
  2. I would like to be involved in the planning and construction of these types of spaces. I am technically inclined and understand that there are many codes, regulations and standards that must be dealt with.

If #1 above describes you then your choice aligns with career path ‘A’ above.  It is possible to find a rewarding career decorating and furnishing these types of commercial spaces without any advanced education or certification.  But your involvement will be limited to those aspects of the project that do not involve building codes  which are typically performed by other licensed or registered design professionals.  Again if you do pursue some advanced education or certification, or demonstrate an affinity for technical skills your options will be greater.  See the links under path ‘A’ above for more detail.

If you answered #2 above then you are beginning to head down career path ‘C’ described below.  In order to practice in any form of commercial architecture or interior design, which must abide by building codes and life safety standards, you will typically need an advanced/accredited education.  Most likely you will also need to validate your baseline knowledge and competency to work in these regulated environments by earning your NCIDQ Examination certificate.  See the links under path ‘C’ below for more details but there is one professional membership organization that will have good information for those who may straddle the professional fence between residential/unregulated design and commercial/code regulated interior design;

American Society of Interior Designers

If you answered ‘C’

Interior designers that practice in commercial spaces that are typically regulated by building codes (does it need a building permit?), life safety regulations, accessibility requirements, and other contractual obligations will need an advanced education, monitored apprenticeship, and a certification via examination.  While innate talent is helpful one must also be able to work on complex problems in a team environment that is driven by time sensitive deadlines.  If this is not your ideal environment then consider career path ‘A’ or ‘B’ above.  One can expect to invest at least 6 years in order to practice at this level of the profession.  Here are some important links to review and consider;

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (accrediting body for interior design college degree programs) I am not in the business of ranking ID programs- you are on your own there.

The National Council for Interior Design Qualification (oversees work experience programs and administers the accepted industry standard examination)

The following professional membership organizations also have good “how to become” interior designer information;

International Interior Design Association (commercial interior design focus)

American Society of Interior Designers (residential and commercial interior design members)

Canadians wishing to pursue a career in code regulated interior design here you go;

http://www.idcanada.org/

If you answered ‘D’

Congratulations!  You are here for the right reasons. I commend you.  That said your career path options are a bit more open.  I am going to show my bias here but if you truly want to help people lead better lives or livelihoods, apart from a career in medicine, I am not sure of a better option.  In order to achieve some level of influence in this regard you will want to practice at a level that it is overseen by federal, state and local regulations.  An awareness of various public policies and socio-economic trends will be helpful.  Research, information gathering and problem seeking skills play an increasingly important role.  Hence an accredited education will be important to have any influence. If these topics scare you do not get discouraged.  Again your objective is noble and the profession needs you.  With that you should explore career paths as described by the links under career path ‘C’ above.  In addition you should explore the following human health, and design for social justice links;

Well Buildings (oversees programs promoting building design that promotes human health and wellbeing)

Institute for Human Centered Design

 

So there you have it.  I hope this has been of some help to someone.

If you are still confused or uncertain please let feel free to ask me a question.