The definition of interior design is wide-ranging and includes semantic territory claimed by everyone from carpet sales people to real estate stagers. Ask anybody what the definition of an interior designer is and you will probably get a similar range of suggestions. Unfortunately most of them will be true- legally anybody can be an interior designer. But not everybody can be a professional* interior designer. In case you are unaware this is the definition of a professional* interior designer;
* A professional interior designer is qualified AND VETTED VIA ACCREDITED education, MONITORED APPRENTICESHIP AND PASSAGE OF A HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELFARE BASED examination PROVING BASELINE COMPETENCE to create interior spaces that are safe, enhance the health, and welfare of the public WITH MINIMAL ECOLOGICAL IMPACT while ultimately improving the quality of the users lives and livelihoods.
Anything less is simply interior decoration….but don’t let that stop you from proclaiming yourself to be one of the greatest interior designers of all time….go ahead make my day.
Given the rather fuzzy definition of “interior design” many professional* interior designers feel that the investment of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears in order to achieve their professional* status is under appreciated, misunderstood, or even completely disrespected by society in general. This societal group includes our allied design professionals, our policy makers, building code officials, and even our current professional organizations. In other words pretty much every bi-pedal carbon based humanoid.
Many of those claiming to be “interior designers” are not legitimate professionals. They are what we call the innately qualified….they have a flair, or a hidden talent, and thus self-proclaim their professional status. At best they have received the benefit of being grandfathered into professional status. Much to our chagrin, in the U.S.A. at least, that is their right. In that sense we must admit that we, the vetted professionals, are outgunned. The innately qualified even have their own major television network. We…..well we have two of the four major interior design organizations on our side..somewhat….and we have this blog group.
You will note that the definition of “professional”, at least as we see it, does not include government regulation. There are some who see government regulation as the ultimate validation of professional status. That is not our position. We see the regulation of interior design as simply another path one can choose after they complete their Education/Experience and Examination vetting process. The primary benefit of licensure is that it provides a legal basis, for those so inclined, to to sign and seal permit documents as a “licensed” or “registered” design professional. It does not mean you are a better interior designer than one who may be innately qualified and self-proclaimed and it certainly does not guarantee societal respect of our profession. It is simply a means to an end for those who wish to own their intellectual property from inception to fruition. It is important to keep that in perspective.
Government protection of our profession (or intervention, depending on your point of view) is a very complex, contentious, and divisive process and it needs to be approached with much more care and consideration than it has been given since the ID regulation effort began in the 1970’s.
Unfortunately the term “professional” is not protected and virtually anybody can claim that they are a professional simply because they dress or act professionally. Furthermore, thanks to the 1st amendment, the term “interior designer” can also be claimed by any American citizen. For those of us into titles, credentials, and the concomitant respect of society, this is quite a conundrum. Our position is that if no one informs the general public of the difference between the self-proclaimed and those who have earned and validated their professional status then the difference is a moot point. Our effort to gain professional* interior designer status earns us no respect and ultimately has no meaning.