Category: Interior Design Education

Clarifying Interior Design Titles and Labels.

If you attended an educational program that granted you a certificate upon completion- that does NOT mean you are “certified” interior designer.

If you passed the NCIDQ Examination- that does NOT mean you are a “licensed” interior designer.

If you received an interior architecture degree from a CIDA accredited school- that does NOT mean you are an “interior architect”.

If you want to be a “certified interior designer” learn what that means.

If you want to be a “licensed interior designer” learn what that entails.

If you want to be an “interior architect” take the ARE exam.

I do not know how much clearer this can be.   This is not my opinion folks…the above are legally and ethically demonstrable titles and labels that are often applied inappropriately and even illegally.  It is easy to get confused.  If this helps one person figure out who they are, or what they do, then I am good.

You are welcome to ignore the above…but now you do so knowing the difference.

Confused? Feel free to ask.  Disagree? Tell me why.

Thanks for reading on.

ADVANCING THE PROFESSION OF INTERIOR DESIGN- STEP TWO

STEP #2

The profession must better define itself and promote that message to the public

Of course this step assumes that the profession collectively agrees with Step #1 .  Short of that the rest of this proposal is simply moot.  I am however, willing to risk my time and two remaining brain cells none the less. I have faith that someone, someday will smack their forehead and proclaim….“He was right…he wasn’t insane”

You will note that I did not say “the profession must rename itself……”  Hard as I have tried over the past decade+ I do not have a decisive suggestion as to a label that might solve our conflicted identity crisis.  I wish it were that simple.  Again let’s not forget the growing cohort of interior designers that have adopted the label “architect” as a means to pursue an identity unique from “interior design”.  This certainly is not a new phenomenon and I am not the only one to express concerns with this trend.  While I sympathize, I am sorry they feel this is their best option.

We need to create a profession that will compel these label refugees to re-embrace “design” as well as to coax those who hide under the regulatory cape of their architect partners/employers to see the light of an independent and valued profession.

Whether the redefinition process leads to a logical semantic shift remains to be seen. Regardless let’s proceed here with the mutual goal of redefining interior design to better address the differences between regulated interior design and the decoration of interiors that need not comply with any codes and standards. For purposes of this discussion we will refer to our new identity as regulated interior design (RID) vs. traditional interior design/decoration that occurs in the unregulated realm (ID).

Enough title talk for now.

With a nod of respect and appreciation to the numerous scholars and progenitors that have pushed the profession to this point I think we can all agree that the profession of code regulated interior design has evolved. Unfortunately, our public message, or our brand identity, has not.  And as I have whined innumerable times prior…we cannot legislate our way out of this identity crisis.  We owe it to the profession’s forefathers (and foremothers) to re-define our professional domain so that it better aligns with our real value to society  .  In other words we need to reconstruct our collective identity which, according to Stacey Wieland¹, “occurs through ongoing mundane interactions in addition to critical moments”.  I maintain that we are at that critical moment….but acknowledge this blog post is merely a mundane interaction.

It is important at this point to also acknowledge that we are not the first to find fault with the current social identity of the profession.  In fact many have shared this concern for decades. One group of influential interior designers came together in the 1980’s to invest copious amounts of time and energy to create an advanced certificate process that they believed would help better distinguish code regulated (AKA “Contract) designers from those with merely baseline qualifications.  In 1987 the Governing Board for Contract Interior Design Standards was formed.  This was not a half-baked response to our ongoing identity crisis (like this blog;-) and was supported at the highest levels of the code regulated side of the profession.  Unfortunately it was dissolved due to lack of  support/inertia in 1999.  This was certainly a critical moment for this group.  I will continue to refer to their effort as the GBCID.  Simply put, the GBCID used advanced certification as a means to provide a means to advance their status separate from interior designers. And although they were certified Contract Interior Designers, in the public’s eye they were still Interior Designers.  Had the public definition of “Contract Interior Design” been widely available and promoted maybe the common understanding would have helped their cause.  You cannot self-regulate as one thing without some common understanding of the meaning of that credential or qualification.

This is why I believe the official definition of Interior Design plays a critical role in our advancement. It is really what defines us….pun intended.  It is how the profession sees itself and it is the public face of the profession.  It is the only mission statement we have.  It certainly is the one publicly accessible message we have in which we can maintain our unique position within the building design professions.  Agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (except the “read blueprints”part), the Council for ID Accreditation the Interior Design Educators Council, 3 out of 5 of the interior design professional organizations in North America, as well as many traditional dictionary sites reference it.

Most importantly much of the existing legislation involving interior design is based on this official definition.  It is codified and bound legally in many of our title and practice acts.  Therefore any change to the official definition must be made in this light.

Note that the current official definition has not been updated since 2004.  This is an eon in the constantly churning internet age.

It is not my intent to actually perform the work necessary to redefine the profession here. My point is simply to force us to acknowledge the opportunity to apply some design thinking to this issue.  The actual process to update/revise the definition will take a lot of “mundane interaction” and a lot of time.  However, if we choose our words wisely in order to describe the nuances between code regulated design and non-code regulated such that the common person can identify with it, I maintain that we will then have the basis of a cogent and meaningful identity.

Once we have collectively decided to make this paradigmatic shift, or tack (for you nautical fans), in our professional identity we need to make sure that all components of the profession are sailing in the same direction.

We need to develop a message that is unique and intelligible by all. Then, and only then, do we roll out our new brand identity.

First and foremost we need to get our regulatory entities on board.  CIDA & NCIDQ will need to embrace the new focus on RID and may need to adopt the new title or label that falls out of this process.

Then ID academy will need to adapt.  Easier said than done but without a solid foundation of emerging ID professionals this change in direction will simply fail.  Maybe  it will become the RID academy?  I am sure there is a research opportunity in there somewhere.

More thoughts on this particular aspect of our identity shift later in Step #7

But back to how we might promote our new identity.

We are often guilty of looking toward our allied licensed design building professionals for how we might approach or solve our own structural identity and process issues.  The interior designers posing as interior architects conundrum being one.  In this case I would urge us to look outside that box for inspiring best practices that might help us step back and consider a new approach befitting our paradigmatic change in messaging.

For instance financial planners have faced a similar identity crisis to ours.  That is that the term “financial planner” and the act of financial planning are not regulated (unless by a Certified Public Accountant).  Therefore anyone can claim to be a financial planner and plan your financial matters….anyone.  Hence the CFP Board was created to self-regulate the profession such that the general public can begin to distinguish between a dead-beat with a gift for sales and flair for math vs. an educated, trained and ethically vetted financial professional.  You may remember these rather self-deprecating prime time commercials that tried to address that misperception;

See humor can be effective.

We can also look to the Society for Human Resource Management which again is trying to distinguish those who are qualified vs. those who are not simply by advancing a message on the private level.

Not quite as humorous but again a good example of shifting a paradigm without government regulation.  Some will argue that neither CFP’s or SHRM’s actions directly affect the health or safety of the public so legislating their professions is a reach.  I don’t disagree but if you consider how much of the public’s welfare, or wellbeing, they might affect, as in losing your life savings, or your career, the argument loses ground.  Keep in mind that both of these entities are simply promoting a message.  Both would like to become legally protected but both also realize that they cannot achieve legal recognition before the public really understands their worth and value to society.

I am also not advocating for TV commercials to solve our profession’s identity crisis.  I am advocating for a new approach.  How we do that leads me to Step #3.  Stay tuned

NOTES:

  1. Ideal Selves as Resources for the Situated Practice of Identity  Management Communication Quarterly,  Volume: 24 issue: 4, page(s): 503-528
    Article first published online: August 31, 2010; Issue published: November 1, 2010 retrieved 10/17/17 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0893318910374938

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.

 

building-permit 24HPERMIT DOT COM                                                             https://www.24hplans.com/do-i-need-a-building-permit/

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.

“INTERIOR DESIGN LICENSE AND REGISTRATION PLEASE…..”

COPAP/Rich Pedroncelli

But…But Officer I’m Not a Licensed Interior Designer

While there may be a few egalitarian designers out there who do NOT recognize the value of job titles, professional credentials or licensure – reality tells us that labels are a fact of life. What we call ourselves, how we label our work, and how we distinguish our personal occupational pathway is not only important to us and our egos it is also important to our professional domain and ultimately to society in general. For most of us – our jobs are who we are.  Our job’s define us and most of us do care how those jobs are perceived by the rest of society.  There is an entire field of science that deals with such identity constructs but Oen and Cooper¹ provide the most pertinent take away;

“Labels can serve well only if there are common definitions of terms and widespread association of a given label with a given set of activities. One who performs surgical procedures on humans , for example,  is labeled a surgeon.  For professional identity, such clarity of understanding is essential.”

My point here is that the profession of interior design (educated/trained/certified) has an identity crisis.  Our “label” is fuzzy at best.  If you do not understand please see my previous 340 posts on the subject.  My entire reason for this blog is to ponder how interior design professionals present our value to society and how we advance our profession in a world that is becoming exponentially more complex and competitive.

Unfortunately many of my peers believe that the most impactful way to advance the interior design profession is by regulating the title or the practice of interior design.  Meaning that if one has a license, one is automatically afforded a level of respect via a general understanding of our value to society and, voila, our identity crisis is solved.  Well…..no that is not how it works.  That is not how any of this works.

I acknowledge that there are a few code regulated interior designers who understand that regulating our profession is  fundamentally about our right to work in an economic sense and they are right. Their focus is the pursuit of regulation and licensure none the less.  Same objective…just different motives.

How do you advance the interior design profession via laws and regulations when many members of the interior design profession do not care to actually advance it?

Okay if you are scratching your head over that one let me explain.

Given that the humans have evolved to become essentially an “indoor species” that spends 90%+/- of its collective time in man-made shelter it baffles me that interior designers are not looked upon and sought out as essential contributors to the betterment of the quality of our indoor based lives and livelihoods.  I understand that humans are fundamentally adaptable and that our collective standards as to what constitutes suitable indoor living/working environments have evolved over time.  Generally, if it keeps us warm, dry, and relatively safe we call it “good” -no highfalutin design types are needed.  An oversimplification?  Of course.  I also acknowledge that not all human society has advanced in unison for reasons way beyond the scope of this argument but work with me here….I am trying to make a point.

While we have pretty much left dwelling in caves behind us, I think we can all agree that our standards for the quality and functionality of our interior environments could use some improvement.

So this is where the profession of interior design as defined here comes in….right?

Well if you believe that to be true- then WHY when most people are asked “what is interior design” or “what do interior designers do”, do they most likely think of this? ;

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Lucidio Studio, Getty Images

Why is it that when most people in the civilized world fall ill they seek and respect the opinion of licensed medical professionals?  And when most people in the civilized world wish to build shelter for living or working they seek and respect the guidance of licensed contractors, engineers and architects.  However, when those same people find the need to ensure that the interior environments of those shelters are safe, functional, and are designed to improve the quality of their lives and/or livelihoods there is no clear go-to professional. That is not to say that everybody needs to hire a full-time-on-call-certified interior designer professional to “design” their every spatial need but when the need does present itself the public appears confused.  It is a challenge for event the most seasoned authorities of interior spatial needs to sort through the options. Seems to me that is both a problem and an opportunity for the actual profession of “Interior Design”.

There is no question that the market is there.  Yet the general public still cannot determine the difference between an innately qualified interior decorator posing as “designer” whose specialty is creating custom cashmere pillows for the uber-wealthy and a certified interior designer whose career specialty may be as complex as the overall design of the dementia treatment center that some of us may live out our final days…..depressing thought? Well yeah…but point made hopefully.

This fuzzy delineation of  interior design by its nature includes a large number of residential interior decorators and non-code regulated interior designers that have no interest in pursuing legislation that would allow them to practice as peers with, or independent of, licensed building design professionals.  In other words residential interior designers (AKA decorators) who do not practice in code regulated construction and design environments could care less about regulating the profession of interior design.  They have no desire to practice as peers with, or independent of, our allied licensed building design professions.  I will admit that I have no facts to back up that statement….other than 35+ years of experience watching the profession of interior design suffer through the misinformed stereotypes imposed by interior decorators proclaiming themselves to be “interior designers” and their work as “interior design”.  Pursuing regulation and obtaining a license to practice is the furthest thing from their daily occupational or career objectives.  In fact many of them have campaigned against any efforts by our profession to pursue regulation.  They actually see it as a threat. Yet our professional organizations still welcome their participation and dues monies.  Another story.  I digress.

Okay that is one group of interior designers that stands in the way of our advancement via regulation.

At the other end of the interior design professional spectrum is an influential and rapidly growing cadre of interior designers who are intentionally disavowing themselves of the label interior designer in favor of the more revered title of interior architect.  In other words these interior designers have simply abandoned the title “interior designer”.  They no longer wish to be subject to the stereotypes (if you need to know what those are please see my previous 320 posts) and despite the ethical and legal issues inherent in adopting a title of another licensed and regulated profession, more and more interior designers are bailing on the label “interior design”.  They do not see any value, or any future, in interior design as it is commonly understood by society.  If you have to ask how this semantic word play actually hinders interior design’s ability to achieve legal parity with other licensed building design professionals I really cannot help you.  The implications should be obvious.

So if you still think that all “Interior Designers” are all-in and on the same page regarding the effort to pursue a “license” please think again.  Another educated guess on my part but I am fairly certain that the number of interior designers who could care less about licensure far outnumbers the number of interior designers who do see value in a license, be that for the label cache’ or to actually practice independent of architects.  Which is another aspect of our misguided profession…many of us do not even know the difference between a certificate and a license.  I digress again.

To make the numbers even worse… somewhere in the middle of our vast professional domain (between the “I could care less about a license” residential decorator and the actual practicing licensed interior designer) are numerous legitimate/certified interior design professionals who are gainfully employed by licensed architecture or engineering firms.  While they may be highly qualified via certification, and may practice at the highest levels of the building design profession…they too have no immediate need for a license.  Why would they when they work for  licensed design practices that assumes that liability?  So be it out of fear of competing with one’s employer (usually an architect) or simple comfort with the status quo these designers care little to enlist in the effort to advance the profession via regulation.  I understand…I used to be one of these don’t rock the boat types?

Guess I fell out of that canoe.

Have I convinced you that the numbers simply do not work in the favor of those who are all-in the effort to pursue licensure for the profession?  None of us really know the actual number of interior designers who are investing copious amounts of effort to regulate the profession vs. those who claim the title of “interior designer” yet stand down on any effort to advance the profession and clarify our label.  Yet we continue to invest untold amounts of dues monies, time, blood sweat and tears into this very narrow objective.  We should all question the return on that investment and I should stop here.

But let’s assume for sake of my rant that every ‘Interior Designer” in North America supported the profession’s pursuit of government regulation that allowed them to hold a license to practice code regulated interior design.  Let’s say there are about 73,000² of us, for the sake of this argument, and we are all united under one organizational umbrella, we are all NCIDQ certified (or in pursuit thereof), we self-regulate via a North American Board/Council³, society grants us a level of respect similar to Architects and Engineers, and we are able to hire the best lobbyists nationwide.  73,000 members is a sizeable profession and would be a force for state and provincial legislators to reckon with. For comparison the AIA has 90,000+/- total members.  EDIT UPDATE 10/3017 THIS JUST IN FROM INTERIOR DESIGN MAGAZINE….THERE ARE ACTUALLY 112,000 INTERIOR DESIGNERS OUT THERE……Hmmmmm

With that we should be able to muster a successful campaign to implement legislation in many, if not all, states and provinces that would grant us a license to practice as peers with, or independent of, our allied licensed building design professionals.  Well I have more bad news for those of you who have bought into my hypothesis and are still reading this lengthy diatribe……there is a larger and seemingly more intractable force that stands in the way of this pursuit of government regulation and licensure real or otherwise.

The sociopolitical tides against occupational regulation are growing with each passing session of state and federal government.  While the effort may be rooted in Libertarian ideals, the notion actually crosses over into all political parties and few can argue that we in the states are over-regulated.  Well okay, there are probably a few licensed florists, auctioneers, and sports agents that might argue for needless regulation, but common sense tells us that much of what is included in the latest effort to reassess occupational licensure is true.  In this age of anti-everything the tide against regulation is growing and marginally defined occupations such as Interior Design remain in the cross-hairs http://licensure.rethinkwhy.org/

So fellow designers if we are going to rely on legislation and licensure to pull us out of our professional identity crisis we  must position code regulated interior design so that it fails the questionable regulation sniff test.  And we must do it YESTERDAY!

“But……but…PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER if the numbers really are not on our side and our own government is skeptical of our right to regulation what can we do to fundamentaly advance the profession of code regulated Interior Design?”

Funny you should ask.

I have actually thought about this.  Here is my outline of a plan that in the coming months will help me provide a framework for your consideration.

“Seems pretty arrogant of you PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER. You are not the boss of me or Interior Design…….Who do you think you are?”  

Well okay why don’t you tweet me your plan then and I will be happy to post it here…..plus you have read this far into my latest diatribe cut me some slack and read on.

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.

If step one does not happen the following points are moot. But let’s assume the best.

STEP #2

The profession must better define itself and promote that message to the public

STEP #3

We must all understand that certification is NOT the same as a license.

STEP #4

We must recognize that certification is a means, or a tool, to self-regulate the profession (see point one above) not solely a means to a license

STEP #5

Licensure is a right to work issue based on proven abilities to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and NOT a means to validate the profession.

STEP #6

Licensure is a political and legal quagmire that we are not prepared yet…to realize substantive success. 

STEP #7

The interior design academy and the regulatory agencies of the profession need to better collaborate to shift the culture of the code regulated interior design profession.

STEP #7

We need one professional membership organization

STEP #8

We need one national (or U.S./Canada) council to oversee regulatory efforts of the profession³

Still here?  Thank you.  Check back later and I will elaborate on the above.

NOTES:
  1. Oen, Carol; Cooper, Marianne.  Professional Identity and the Information Professional, Journal of the American Society for Information Science (1986-1988); Sep 1988; 39, 5;ABI/INFORM Collection pg. 355
  2. This number includes ASID’s 13,500 members, IIDA’s 15,000 members, IDC’s (Canada) 5,000 members in total.  I also include an additional 40,000 certified interior designers that are unaffiliated with any professional membership organization. Myself for example.
  3. For those of you who have been around awhile….this idea may sound familiar.  An influential group of contract interior designers created The Governing Board for Contract Interior Design Standards in the mid 1980’s.  This group was a voluntary certification board with no real regulatory influence and disbanded in 1999 due to lack of inertia and support from the larger profession.  So please do not tell me this label confusion is a new problem.

 

 

 

Can We Really Legislate or Define Our Way Out of This?

Kudos to Ms. Coryell for taking advantage of her right to promote her business. I don’t agree with her methods but I admire her entrepreneurial spirit.

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MY C.I.D. CREDENTIAL CAN BEAT UP YOUR C.I.D.® APPELLATION

Following up on my recent post regarding California’s Certified Interior Design, or C.I.D. credential I came across this recent missive from the CCIDC regarding the legal rights to the “C.I.D.” credential.

https://ccidc.org/consumer-alerts.html

Seems those pesky decorators at the Certified Interior Decorators International also lay claim to the acronym C.I.D. as in Certified Interior Decorator.

http://www.cidinternational.org/membership.php

I have mentioned this little alphabet tug-o-war, or mudfight, depending on your metaphorical preferences, in several previous posts and really try not to think about it too much in the hope it will all go away.  Unfortunately the three letters of C, I, and D, in that order, make for a perfect credential in our industry.

Oh the irony.

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photo credit- country-life.tumblr.com

LEARNING FROM NORTH CAROLINA’S EFFORT TO REGULATE THE PRACTICE OF INTERIOR DESIGN

or

What is the AIA’s Beef?

The latest example of ID regulation to consider is occurring in North Carolina where H-590 is currently making its way through the NC Legislature.  As of July 6th the bill has been referred to the Committee On Rules and Operations of the Senate.  I am uncertain if this means the bill is dead or it will be sent back out for debate when the NC General Assembly reconvenes in August (stay tuned).

While I appreciate that discretion is sometimes needed in the early phases of these legislative efforts I also maintain that there is a lot to be learned from each state’s efforts to advance the profession via title and practice regulation. Let’s face it once a bill has hit the state house floor it is public knowledge and monitoring/assessing the effort should not be some big professional secret.  In my opinion we do an inadequate job of keeping the general profession abreast of these efforts, particularly those that are tabled/sent to committee or fail completely, if for no other reason than to learn from other’s mistakes….of which there have been many.  In addition not all registered/certified interior designers are dues paying members of our professional organizations which does not mean they do not have skin in the ID regulatory game. We are all in this together.  To my point.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects has mounted an effort to lobby against H-590 and their pushback is enlightening.  In addition to the general anti-regulation contingent and interior decorators who see ID legislation as an infringement on their rights the national AIA is our most vocal and forceful opponent.  If we are to achieve any success in regard to pursuing practice legislation we have to understand our opponents objections so we can address them head first.  Let’s look at their formal opposition letter.   To wit;

  • The AIA believes that the level of education, the experience requirements and the NCIDQ testing for interior designers does not appropriately and competently address the full array of health and safety issues that impact the public for interior architecture.”

This is a common statement of opinion by the AIA….we (Certified Interior Design practitioners) need to provide factual evidence to the contrary.  Based on my experience the NCIDQ exam is a widely accepted baseline vetting of a designer’s ability to appropriately and competently address the full array of health and safety issues that impact the public for interior.  That is the NCIDQ Examination’s focus and those that pass the exam are entirely competent to practice certain aspects of code regulated interior design.

  • “HB 590 looks to sever interior elements of architecture in an attempt to carve out building segments for less qualified designers. Severing the regulation of building interiors could do serious harm to the integrated practice of architecture.”

Again “less qualified designers” is their opinion devoid of any factual evidence.  Furthermore it is not our objective to “sever the regulation of building interiors” of which the AIA has established a monopoly that infringes on the rights of educated/trained and vetted interior design professionals from practicing to the fullest potential of their knowledge and abilities.  We are not here to take over your work.  We simply want to be fairly considered for work that we well qualified to perform.  Simple.

The stranglehold that the AIA has instituted over the past 50+ years on the regulation of building interiors actually infringes our right practice to the fullest of our abilities. This is a classic example of simple turf protection on the AIA’s part.

  •  “As an illustration, we point you to the devastating fire less than a month ago just three blocks from the Legislative Building. An entire city block of apartments under construction went up in flames threatening hundreds of residents in the fully occupied Quorum Center and the Link Apartment Complex. In the dead of night those residents were awoken by emergency alarms, they were protected by fire rated building materials, and they were escorted through smoke filled corridors designed specifically for fire egress for such emergencies. All of these systems are interior architectural elements and because of the education, training and testing of licensed architects, we are happy to report that these structures performed as designed, giving the residents and first responders the level of protection needed to save their lives.”

NEWSFLASH!  All of the “systems” Mr. Crawford mentions above are part and parcel of a qualified Interior Designers education vetted by the NCIDQ examination.  Mr. Crawford goes on;

  • “In no way do we believe this level of life safety should be compromised by allowing less qualified designers to verify building design through stamp and sealing authority.”

There he goes again with conjecture…we can prove that we are as qualified.  Maybe Mr. Crawford would like to sit for the NCIDQ examination so he can back up his claims.

  • No Evidence of Need
    “There is really only one reason for the State to convey a license for any occupation or profession and that is to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.” WE AGREE! There is no body of evidence calling for interior designer licensing. The public is not clamoring for, or perishing as a result of unlicensed interior designers.”

Then why, for one instance, is there a chapter of the International Building Code dedicated solely to interior finishes?  And we all know that Architects don’t do finishes (okay I can play the rhetoric game too).  The vast majority of Certified Interior Designers are unable to accept liability and own their work when it is regulated by local building codes.  As stated above most ID’ers are obligated to surrender their work to licensed Architects simply to obtain a building permit.  Granted the licensed architect assumes liability for the work of that designers but that could be why evidence of litigation involving the work of interior designers is negligible.  They do not legally own their work.  Yes of course there are legal nuances that provide for designers and specification writers and CADD detailers to be held accountable for their work even when signed by a licensed designer (think Kansas City Hyatt bridge collapse) but in general the licensed designer assumes basic legal accountability for the safety of a permitted project. Qualified/certified Interior Designers can prove that they have the knowledge and skills to assume this liability.

  • Consumer Confusion and Limiting Choice
    For more than 100 years, building inspectors and consumers have turned to the three major licensed design professionals; architects, engineers and landscape architects to ensure that their buildings have been designed and constructed according to the stringent building codes that are regularly reviewed and updated for current science and construction practices to maintain the safety of the public.
    The addition of another class of licensee able to sign and seal building plans for acceptance by building officials adds an unnecessary level of confusion and regulation that the building industry does not need nor want.

Times have changed.  It is time that the AIA accepts that the built environment has become much more complex and there are many professions that are performing work that was traditionally owned, or claimed, by architects.  The addition of another class of licensee offers the public an option to what is currently an economic monopoly that infringes on our rights to perform that work..

  • “Barrier to Market Participation
    The real reason interior designers seek to institute a licensing law is to create a protected market for their services. As stated above the only legitimate reason for the state to entertain such market limitations is for the protection of the public’s health, safety and welfare.  Interior contractors, kitchen and bath specialists and traditional interior decorators would all be prohibited from performing their traditional services if HB 590 is passed. We’d like to point you to an excellent study, as mentioned above, done by the Institute for Justice, “Designing Cartels: How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition,” by Dick Carpenter, III, PhD. 
    The report covers most of the arguments we have outlined in this letter but it pays particular attention to the idea that non-health and life safety professions that have obtained or seek to obtain state sponsored licensing protection are in effect creating barriers to market entry from other professionals in the market place.”

This is a tired old libertarian anti-regulation song that can be rendered irrelevant in one sentence…. Interior contractors, kitchen and bath specialists and traditional interior decorators do not perform code regulated interior design services and H-590 in no way limits their ability to continue performing their unregulated interior design, interior construction, kitchen and bath work and decoration. In other words if your work does not require a building permit then this argument is moot.

  • “Monetized Conflict of Interest
    It is a long-held practice for interior designers to work closely with interior product manufactures in specifying their products for client projects. That’s not unusual in the design and construction industry as a whole; however, the difference within the practice of interior design is the lack of transparency and disclosure to the client about the monetary benefit the designer receives for the specification of those products. Interior Designers make commissions on the sale of product, other licensed design professions do not, and in the case of architects, they are specifically prohibited from this practice in performance of their duties to their clients under the following
    statute.

    G.S. 83A-15(3)(c) states:
    ‘It shall be unprofessional conduct including but not limited to:
    Knowingly undertaking any activity or having any significant financial or other
    interest, or accepting any compensation or reward except from registrant’s
    clients, any of which would reasonably appear to compromise registrant’s
    professional judgment in serving the best interest of clients or public.’

As interior designers have attempted to enact practice act legislation in other states, this issue has come up time and again. In all cases attempts to address the conflict of interest issue with some sort of transparency language has been rebuffed. We see this as a major consumer protection issue that cannot be overlooked.”

The impropriety alluded to above is common in the interior decoration realm where decorators maintain to the trade only alliances and yes…dubious pricing and procurement practices.  However, such practice rarely occurs at the higher level of code regulated commercial construction which is typically governed by legally binding contracts in which product specification and procurement practices are clearly spelled out or at least required to be transparent as part of the project budgeting. Professional/Certified Interior Designers are obligated by the same contractual requirements for product specification and procurement as architects.

Now if you want to complain about unethical business practices in the unregulated interior decoration realm we would be happy to join you.  But that is not your beef here is it and you should stop using it as evidence against code regulated Interior Designers.

Following is a list of talking points offered by the North Carolina AIA in the hopes that their members will use them to lobby their friends family and policy makers to act against the break up of their monopoly on the practice of regulated Interior Design…..I offer my rebuttal to their facts in red;

Interior Designer Claims Rebutted
IDs say: “NC Restricts IDs from obtaining building permits”
The Fact: NC requires qualified design professional to submit for building permits.

Well-hence the bill. 

THE TRUTH-North Carolina HB-590 seeks to expand opportunities for qualified interior design professionals thereby creating expanded job opportunities and consumer choice in what is now a very limited and restrictive aspect of the building design professions.

IDs say: “IDs must pay excessive fees to an architect”
The Fact: Categorically false and completely unsubstantiated. If unlicensed individuals choose to work in a regulated building environment, they must have a qualified design professional verify and assume responsibility for permitted plans.

THE TRUTH-While the adjective “excessive” is relative the issue is even for the most minor interior REMODEL/renovation or tenant fit up projects that require a building permit qualified interior designers must pay for an architect to sign and seal their documents.  The cost to pay an architect, or licensed engineer, to sign and seal the permit documents is seen as an added expense on the Interior Designers part.  If the interior designer were able to accept liability for their design by signing and sealing their own permit documents this would eliminate the added expense for the architects seal and signature.  Again, qualified Interior Designers who are trained and vetted by examination to perform limited scope regulated interior design projects should be able to act as their own “qualified design professional” on projects in which the scope of interior work is limited to non-structural and minimally affects the overall base building life safety systems and assemblies.

This will allow consumers to have more choices for their limited scope interior design projects and it will expand opportunities for qualified design professionals.

Interior Designers who are forced to pay premium fees for licensed Archtiects or Engineers to sign and seal their documents simply to pull a permit need to document those charges and quantify the added expense to their clients and their policy makers.  This can easily be substantiated.  Thanks for the suggestion.

IDs say: “Having to use architects to approve ID plans costs ID firms an additional 12%.”
The Fact: No basis of verification for this number.

THE TRUTH- Note to North Carolina ID’ers….you did not make up the 12% fee upcharge…..you should cite the source.  None the less this argument is redundant…see discussion above.  12% does not seem “excessive” but it is an added expense to North Carolina consumers that could be eliminated.   

IDs say: “Architect owned design firms will always be less in fee because design plan approval is free for them.”
The Fact: Plan approval is never “free.” The business costs associated with an architecture firm vs. an interior design firm would contradict this statement. The assumed liability associated with a professional license ensures that a licensed design professional assumes the high cost of liability insurance, something interior designers do not have in their overhead now.

THE TRUTH-Again this is another way to look at the issue of who should be able to sign and seal limited scope interior design projects and how the fees for signing and sealing permit documents is passed on to the client.  Interior Design professionals fully understand the legal ramifications for signing and sealing their documents.  Currently Architect owned firms that provide interior design services have a built-in process for the signing and sealing of permit documents which does provide for an unfair advantage over those Interior Designers who may not work within a licensed architect owned business.

IDs say: “The law restricts IDs from partnering with an architect to form a business partnership.”
The Fact: Not true. The NC Professional Corporations Code allows for 33% non-license ownership in a professional corporation. The Architects Practice Act is not the appropriate place to address professional corporation ownership issues.

THE TRUTH-So let’s say two professional designers, a licensed architect and a certified interior designer decide to form an equal partnership.  By law the Interior Designer can only own 33% of the company.  That is not at all a fair partnership. There should be no such limitations in a free market.  In many states the AIA lobby has managed to provide legalese both in practice bills and business/corporation regulations that limits or fully restricts the right of certified/qualified interior designers to own an equal share of the business entity. What are you so afraid of?

IDs say: “Creates voluntary registration for IDs”
The Fact: All licensing and registration is voluntary.

THE TRUTH-Interior Designers must include this qualifier in their pursuit of title registration so as not to incite the ire of the unregulated Interior Design community that sees such legislation as an infringement on their right to the title “Interior Design”.  The AIA does not have a dog in this hunt but if you really believe that all licensing and registration is actually voluntary talk to our friends at the Institute for Justice about their well-funded campaigns to litigate regulatory infringement and discrimination.  

IDs say: “The bill does not restrict any individual from referencing themselves an interior designer or interior decorator.”
The Fact: If the State is carving out a scope of practice for interior designers, this will create complete confusion on the part of the consuming public and regulators.

THE TRUTH-There is a fine line between a “Registered Interior Designer” and an “Interior Designer” but such subtle title distinctions are common in professional regulations….think accountant vs. Certified Public Accountant or financial planner vs Certified Financial Planner. 

IDs say: “The bill does not restrict any individual or business from practicing interior design.”
The Fact: Then what is the NEED for the bill?

THE TRUTH-The bill actually seeks to open up a market that is currently restricted by, and for the benefit of, licensed architects.  As long as building permits are required to construct interior design projects…many of which most architects would not consider due to scale, scope or lack of fit, certified interior designers will pursue these right to work bills to open up the market for regulated interior design work.

IDs say: “Interior Designers focus on how an occupant and the space around them inside a building is going to interact and function together.”
The Fact: Interior architecture includes all of this plus the very important relationship of how the interiors’ relate to all the other building systems.
YOU CANNOT DIVORCE INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE FROM THE REST OF THE BUILDING!

THE-TRUTH- You assume that code qualified interior designers do not understand “building systems”  Again I refer you to the breakdown of subject areas in the NCIDQ Examination and the Professional Standards as defined by CIDA.  Furthermore we both know that there are millions of square feet of interior space that exists quite successfully that is devoid of any relationship (apart from structural) to the exterior architecture. In fact there is an entire typology of buildings that were intentionally designed with no regard to interior/exterior relationship…Spec. office buildings or big box retail for example.  You also presume that a building can be parsed into interior architecture and exterior architecture.  Did you consult with any Exterior Architects to confirm your assumption? 

I think we can all agree that most examples of textbook architecture from Andrea (Palladio) to Zaha (Hadid) are admired because they comprise a holistic solution. There is no distinction between the design of the inside and the outside -other than one offers protection from the elements.  But we can also agree that these projects are the exception and much to architect’s chagrin this ∇ is the norm for “architecture” in the public’s eyes.

1200px-Strip_Mall_Troy                                                                                   (https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/9/6/strip-malls)

Shall we continue?

IDs say: “Interior designers impact health safety & welfare.”
The Fact: Yes they do, but their education, training and testing is incomplete to address all the building systems that must work together to ensure complete building occupant safety.

Well thanks for acknowledging that our work does impact HS&W even though this conflicts with other claims you make later.  Unfortunately there is no easy, or clear, line of demarcation between the legitimate scope of Interior Design work and that of Architecture.  Interior Designers do not claim to have expertise in “all the building systems that must work together to ensure complete building occupant safety” and we never will so calm down. We are not coming for your jobs.

Maybe instead of a wasteful turf battle, which is what this argument really is, we can begin to appreciate, understand and respect our particular knowledge and skill sets.  I can assure that qualified Interior Designers have a deep respect for your body of knowledge- so the ball is in your court -so to speak.  With that understanding and respect maybe we can begin to work together to understand how we both can improve our professional domains in a manner that mutually benefits our bottom lines and our clients interior spaces. I digress.

IDs say: “The NCIDQ exam formalizes a structure and path to ensure an interior designer has an adequate amount of education and experience in order to uphold health, safety and welfare.”
The Fact: The NCIDQ and its education/experience requirements does not come close to the necessary training and testing required to meet the minimum life-safety benchmark for stamping and sealing authority. See chart below that highlights the standards for interior architecture.

Unfortunately based on your rhetoric posing as “facts” below you do not have a clue whether the NCIDQ comes close to necessary training and testing required to meet the minimum life-safety benchmark for stamping and sealing authority.  Your arguments are misinformed at best. 

Finally I wonder why the AIA is so defensive when it comes to protecting such a minor portion of its domain.  I know many registered architects (AIA members and not) who support the idea of licensure for qualified Interior Designers. They understand the concept that educated and vetted designers make for better teammates and ultimately add value to their projects and even their bottom lines.  Do you really care about 7,500 square foot cubicle re-shuffles or 1,500 square foot tenant fit-ups? Could the AIA be threatened by the fact that Interior Design is a female dominated profession?  Don’t make me play the gender card- oops sorry guess I just did.  Could it be that Architecture, as represented by the AIA, is suffering from loss of relevance due to other emerging professions such as Project Management and Design/Build Contractors?  It does seem like you have bigger issues to address.  

Interior Designer Claims Rebutted;

Certified Interior Designers                         Licensed Architects

Education Requirement:

Minimum 2 Year Associates Degree                         Minimum 5 Year Accredited Degree

The facts.  In order to sit for the NCIDQ Examination an Associate Degree (60 hours of ID Coursework) is currently acceptable as long as the exam candidate has also logged 5,280 hours of monitored internship/apprenticeship (see Internship Requirements below).  The current pathway to sit for the NCIDQ Examination that allows Associates Degree with 40 hours of ID coursework & 7,040 hours of apprenticeship is being eliminated in 2018.  Needless to say that the work/internship threshold for the Associates Degree pathways provides for a higher threshold than simply stating “Minimum 2 Year Associates Degree.  This is an insurmountable hurdle for many AA degree holding designers to take on.   In states in which the practice or title of ID is regulated the minimum education threshold is far more stringent and none allow 2 year degrees. Of course if you care to really understand the facts for this important comparison you will have to read the ID acts in 27 states and thoroughly read the eligibility pathways for the NCIDQ Examination.  But why let facts stand in the way of your opinion.

Certified Interior Designers                         Licensed Architects

Examination Requirement:                                                                                         

2 tests 300 questions 7 hours total                           6 tests 605 questions 21 hours total

The facts. The NCIDQ Examination consists of 3 sections with 370 questions over a total of 11 hours.  Out of the gate Mr. Crawford’s comparison is moot.  Again if you care to know the facts please visit the NCIDQ Examination website.

Certified Interior Designers                             Licensed Architects

Testing for Code Related Issues:

Less than 15%                                                                               At least 22%

The facts. The NCIDQ Professional Examination (part 2 of 3) includes 18% of its content which is directly related to building codes and standards. The ID Practicum Examination (part 3 of 3)  includes 25% of its content which is directly related to building codes.  Again this is content that deals directly with building codes and does not include additional content that also tests for more indirect health, safety and welfare or “code related” knowledge.  Mr. Crawford’s numbers are not based on any factual evidence and therefore are moot. 

Certified Interior Designers                            Licensed Architects

Continuing Education:

0-6 undefined hours a year                                                     12 HSW hours a year

The facts. CEU’s are typically not measured in hours but in credits earned.   For those of you that prefer factual evidence over baseless claims here are the NCIDQ CEU requirements;

NCIDQ Certificate holders are expected to meet continuing education minimums set by CIDQ (0.6 CEU), a professional organization (ASID, IIDA, IDC) or a regulated jurisdiction.  CEUs must be tracked through the IDCEC System.  To ensure compliance, CIDQ reserves the right to conduct random audits of IDCEC accounts each year of those who signed the Appellation Agreement Form

In order to maintain professional membership in any of the North American Interior Design Associations there are strict requirements for CEU’s.  None allow “0 hours” of continuing education to suit their membership requirements.  Again in those states that regulate the title and/or practice of Interior Designers are held to CEU credits similar to licensed architects. 

Certified Interior Designers                          Licensed Architects

Education in Health Safety Welfare

None Required                                              Must graduate from accredited university                                                                                                                                                    

Wow that is misleading.  Here are the facts.  To be clear there is a difference in “Certified Interior Designers” that simply take the NCIDQ examination and those that actually practice in a state in which the title and/or practice of Interior Design is regulated.  But neither allow for a designer to become “certified” or maintain their certification without proving baseline competence and knowledge of Health Safety and Welfare issues that impact our work.  Most* certified interior designers have earned 4 year minimum degrees from an accredited institution that must offer students the opportunity exposure to and understanding of a multitude of HS&W content.  Again if you care to understand the facts in this regard, please visit the Council for Interior Design Accreditation website for professional standards and expectations for accredited Interior Design programs.

* While I do not have actual figures for this statement I am confident based on 30+ years of experience in Interior Design my generalization is sound.

Certified Interior Designers                             Licensed Architects

Internship Requirement:

3520 Hours                                                                                        3740 Hours

Given the much narrower scope of Interior Design work vs. Architecture this comparison seems reasonable.  Interesting observation to note here is that the NCARB is now allowing qualified candidates to take the exam based on experience and less stringent education requirements as explained here.  Furthermore, NCARB has created a “streamlined” pathway that allows certain Architecture degree students to sit for the examination prior to graduating and earning their work experience. Seems the numbers of ARE candidates has been declining for years due to the cost and effort to qualify for the Architectural Registration Examination in pursuit of licensure. Again I suggest that you have much bigger issues to concern yourself with than impeding Certified Interior Designer’s right to practice to the fullest of their potential.

So if anybody has taken the time to read this diatribe I commend you.

In closing I offer this;  The AIA and the Certified Interior Design profession have so much to gain by working toward a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s professional domain.  This petty turf war does really does nothing to benefit either of our professions.  I also know there are many Registered Architects that hire and rely on certified Interior Designers to help them create the best projects for their clients.  The AIA is out of step with the profession in this regard.