Category: Careers in Interior Design

IT’S THE MESSAGE PEOPLE!

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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.