THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-REGULATION & THE DECORATOR vs. DESIGNER TITLE MATCH

WWE-Triple-Threat-Tag-Title-Match,-RLA-Melb-10.11.2007

I have spent a lot of bytes on this blog pointing out the drawbacks of relying on Uncle Sam to validate our professional status via title and practice legislation.  Unfortunately we tend to lump our decorator vs. designer identity crisis in with the massive effort to gain regulation that codifies our right to work in code regulated building design environments.  This broad objective for legislation causes confusion among our policy makers and raises the ire of those who feel that we are infringing on their rights to practice as interior designers.

While some see the effort to advance the profession using government regulation as the only path to distinguishing the qualified, ( earned credentials from “NCIDQ Certified” to “Licensed” to “State Registered Interior Designer/RID” to “State Certified/CID” to “ASID/IIDA/IDC/ARIDO etc”) from those who are unqualified (“Hmmm my Mom tells me I have a flair for color and I feel like being an Interior Designer today!”), I maintain that it is our responsibility to enforce the distinction.

We have to prove to Uncle Sam that we are serious about our right to work in code regulated design environments with other licensed design professionals before we can expect his full attention and respect.

In other words, it is not Uncle Sam’s (or Mother Canada’s- for our Northern neighbors) job to distinguish Interior Designers from interior decorators.  Unfortunately this common perception that interior decoration and Interior Design are interchangeable is the bane of our effort to advance the code regulated aspect of the profession. How much time have you spent trying to explain the difference between interior decoration and Interior Design?  Frankly the differences are so subtle that it is virtually impossible to educate the uninformed in an elevator pitch.  Hell I have been doing this 35+ years and I have trouble defining the nuances in way that succinctly defines our differences.  We need to stop with the academic and abstract explanations and start citing tangible and justifiable examples.

Regrettably,  for the vetted design professional, anybody can call themselves an “Interior Designer” and no amount of legislation and regulation will change that. So how do we earn respect as regulated design professionals whose primary focus is the health, safety and well-being of our clients, if others continue to blur the distinction between vetted design professionals and those who decorate and claim to be “professional” or “certified” when they are not?

Whose job is it to make sure the code regulated Interior Design professional domain is clearly defined and defended?

The answer is that it is up to us to make sure those who claim to be “qualified”, “certified”, “registered”, “professional” and most definitely “credentialed” are in fact what they claim.  While it may seem elitist or protectionist to police such claims it is essential if we want to add value to our conflicted and contested profession.

We have to ask ourselves “can the general public understand and respect the difference between someone who claims to be an “Interior Designer” and someone who claims to be a “Certified Interior Designer”…particularly when they are practicing in a state that does not have title legislation in place?

I find the efforts of the Certified Financial Planners to promote their message of qualification to the general public extremely relatable.  The CFP board seems to be focused and proactive in this regard.  The CFP enforcement of professional standards is admirable. Their national campaign to help the general public understand the nuances between a financial planner and a Certified Financial Planner are quite effective in my humble opinion;

 

Keep in mind  that it is a violation of professional ethics (ASID, IIDA, NCIDQ) to claim you have achieved professional status, or earned professional certification, within those organizations, when you have not.  That line is typically very clear and inarguable.  Of course there are many other forms of “certification” and many ways to define “professional” but to claim you are a member of the profession it is easy to confirm- or should be.

We need to do more of this self-policing and we need to start calling out the violators wherever and whenever we can.  We failed to take ownership of the title “Interior Design” in the courts but it is not illegal to begin a campaign to redefine Interior Design by shifting public perception…..or helping people understand what it is not.

Case in point.  We have all witnessed the evolution of on-line design service providers…much to our chagrin.  Laurel and Wolf Interior Design seems to be one site that has gained traction in the competitive dotcom decorator posing as designer foray.  I appreciate the convenience for those who have the money to spend on interior decorator services and I appreciate the fact that many interior designers and decorators can earn income from this site.  We should not denigrate them but we certainly can differentiate by countering their claims.

So is this really “Interior Design“?  And are Laurel and Wolf’s “top designers” actually “certified” Interior Designers?

Well in my not so humble opinion NO- it is not “Interior Design”. This site is clearly about “Interior Decoration”  and is in fact the epitome of decoration (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Let’s start calling it what it is…a website that promotes residential interior decoration. Again not that there is anything wrong with that.

To the more important question of certification or qualification…… Let’s just say that Laurel and Wolf plays fast and loose with the idea of “Certified” designers.  Many of the designer profiles do not have any certification at all and several list unaccredited degree and academic certificates of dubious origin as confirmation of being “certified” Interior Designers.  A degree is not the same as being “certified”…that is a big stretch.

Let’s start reporting those individuals who may be bending the truth about their real “certifications”.  ASID/IIDA/NCIDQ should all have easily accessible rosters of current/active dues paying members so we can confirm false claims of professional or associate membership where that applies.  With that they should also be able to enforce their membership rules.

Other cases in point. Here are a few more examples of individuals, companies and trade practices that need to be continually called out for dubious if not deceptive portrayal of professional code regulated Interior Design services and/or interior decoration presented as Interior Design.  Again I appreciate the fact that companies and people need to earn a living but to claim you are doing something you are not is unacceptable and compromises my ability to gain respect for my skills and for accredited Interior Design students to justify their significant tuition investment.

Ethan Allen’s “Free Design Services”   Our design knowledge should not be free.  Don’t even get me started on trade only pricing practices.  Ethan Allen is free to run their business however they see fit.  However, we are also free to use their questionable ethics as an example of who we are not and what we refuse to do.

“Designer” Showhouses…they are decorator showhouses…period. Let’s start calling them what they are.

Kwikie design diploma or certificate courses promising successful careers as certified “Interior Designers”.  They aren’t and they don’t!  We have to have the collective fortitude to defend the term and title of interior design particularly when an on-line decorator certificate mill makes the following claim;

‘This online interior design course is a comprehensive program that will teach you everything you need to know to become a professional interior designer.’

Again it isn’t and it will not.  If nothing else we can help unsuspecting decorator wannabe’s understand that they are being mislead.  If we do not set their record straight, these decorator mills will simply continue to produce interior decorators who are empowered to misrepresent the profession of “Interior Design”.

Finally our professional membership organizations must do a better job of holding their professional members to the highest standards.  Again I fully respect a designer/decorator’s right to make a living and their freedom to self promote..but if you are going to sell pillows please understand that your message has broader implications for our effort to combat certain stereotypes.  I am sure this will tick a few folks off….I accept that…cue the criticisms.

We have to stop being concerned who we are upsetting….if they are clearly in the wrong then let’s diplomatically help them understand the errors of their ways.  We have to stop trying to be everything to everybody.  We have to accept being offensive so we can stop being defensive.

Or maybe…..just maybe I need to heed the advice of drag star and renown interior designer Ru Paul and stop taking this stuff so seriously;

AD: Would you say that drag influences your interior design sense?

RuPaul: Absolutely! Yes! Drag is all about reminding people to not take life too seriously. Our goal, our mission, is to say: This body you’re in is temporary. Have fun with it. Dress it up. Use all the colors in the rainbow. It’s there to enhance your experience. You are God, for lack of a better term, experiencing humanity. Have fun with it. Don’t hurt anybody else. Don’t take it too seriously.

(image: By jjron (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons )

 

 

ID REGULATION: WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT?

I appreciate Robert Nieminen’s support of the ongoing effort to regulate the profession of Interior Design . I agree with all of his points regarding the unification of the profession and the efforts by the anti-regulation contingent to stop any and all ID legislation.  As far as Utah’s new ID practice law we can claim it as a battle won but I am concerned by his broad brush definition of “Interior Design Laws of North America” as represented by this map (source unknown-attribute to Interiors & Sources) Sorry the resolution is limited.

I_0316_robblog2

(Attributed to Interiors & Sources?)

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER would like to see such graphic depictions of our efforts to regulate the profession truly represent those laws that allow qualified Interior Designers to practice to the fullest extent of their abilities.  That includes the ability to sign and seal documents to legally obtain building permits as necessary to fully own one’s design work.  While it looks more impressive to apply a color to all states with some form of Interior Design law or act in place, when you actually consider our right to work as peers with or independent of other licensed design professionals in each of these states the battle field is far less impressive.  And let’s not forget our allies in Canada who have their own similar battles.

LegislativeMap

Color in Utah green-yeah! But read the Utah bill and consider that it does sanction the title “Commercial Interior Design” and the ID scope is limited. A victory none the less.

We have to stop depicting any and all ID legislation as legislation that is good for the entire profession (it isn’t) one, and two, we have stop looking at ID Regulation as nothing but a means to distinguish us from the unqualified decorator wannabe’s. That is a battle that was lost years ago.  Sure it makes us feel good to see all of those states colored in….but is it a true assessment of the battle?

So if we are going to look at this as a “war” we need to be working from the same battlefield map with a cohesive strategy to win our right to work at a minimum.  Otherwise what is the point?

ASID Counters Claims of Racial Bias In the Interior Design Profession

Wow……..the anti-ID regulationists finally played the race card.   ASID’s counter statement is well written.  Let’s hope it is well read.

https://www.asid.org/content/asid-defends-interior-designer-capital-hill

All that said, the licensed design professions have struggled to increase racial diversity.  We acknowledge this and from my experience there is, and has been, a concerted effort to address this issue.  To claim that we are conspiring to limit access to the profession due to race is simply politically correct race baiting in reverse.

Ain’t politics fun?

Hey Farooq…..Maybe it’s Time to Change Your Business Model

http://www.newstimes.com/business/article/Ethan-Allen-re-ups-CEO-next-up-designers-6551652.php

Maybe, just maybe, if you considered Interior Design as valuable service and not a free hook to lure in the occasional big sale your staff might earn a bit more respect and increase their sales, and your profit, via ethical business practices.

But what do I know?

PITCHING A NEW INTERIOR DESIGN PARADIGM

UPDATED 4/22/2014

There are several irrefutable facts, based on my opinion, regarding our professional identity crisis that requires us (okay…me) to reconsider our current professional paradigm.

1. Interior Decoration and Interior Design will forever be entwined.  The general public will always think of us as interior decorators (not that there is anything wrong with interior decoration).  No amount of government mandated title legislation will change this perception.

2. The past effort to own the term “interior design” and shift the meaning and standards for individuals to call themselves interior designers and practice interior design has failed.

2. Our current professional membership organizations are incapable of addressing this identity crisis in a meaningful and non-divisive manner.

3. The current model for advancing the value of professional interior design within the eyes of the general public and ultimately our policy makers is broken-IT DOES NOT WORK (see my previous 300+ posts)

4. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to combating the efforts of those people/organizations that stand in direct opposition to the advancement of Interior Design via government regulation (not that I am supporting that particular model of professional validation).  We have failed to create a common sense definition of the title “interior designer” and the act of “interior design”.  And even if we had, as the AIA acknowledges, the difficulty with such semantic machinations to define and own certain terms and titles is a costly legal process. http://www.aia.org/about/AIAB091369

I will acknowledge that there has been some progress particularly on the sign/seal permitting front but given the disconnect between our professional member organizations, their professional and non-professional members and our policy makers this “progress” has been too slow and too costly.

What is the ROI on this effort?  This is not a rhetorical question- I first asked this question several years ago on this blog- I am still waiting for an answer (that is a rhetorical statement- I am not waiting for the answer to come to me…I am not that arrogant…but I have looked and I can’t find it….nobody knows….isn’t this bad business? I digress)

I could go on.  Suffice it to say I am not a fan of the current professional validation model(s)

SO DO WE CONTINUE TO SOLDIER ON AT GREAT EXPENSE (TIME/MONEY/INTELLECTUAL CAPITOL) WITH MARGINAL RESULTS?

That would be the easiest thing to do right?  Given the dearth of options it makes sense.  Of course there are those who choose to leave this madness behind them by co-opting the term “interior architect” even though they are not architects registered, licensed or otherwise. Can’t say I blame them and before I really dove into this issue from the perspective of a practitioner turned academic I also ignored  the time honored stereotypes by calling myself an interior architect.

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER actually considers this semantic co-opting to be a legitimate option to solve our identity/societal respect issue.  If we assimilate the term “interior architect” and change all of the legal trappings that would allow interior designers to call themselves interior architects and legally practice interior architecture this professional pathway MIGHT work. But IMO the effort required to make this shift is insurmountable.  I have a better idea.  Here is my first step of a several step plan to reinvent the profession of interior design…no really that is what I am doing……well if you have a better idea I am happy to listen.

Step 1. Redefine Interior Design to acknowledge two important aspects that clearly distinguish those that are qualified via education/experience and examination and those that are simply innately qualified or self-proclaimed. TO WIT:

There are two types of interior design. Unregulated Interior Design and Regulated Interior Design (refer to cool graphics).  No longer will we be sucked into the never-ending debate about interior decoration vs. interior design, or residential vs. commercial interior design.  It is simply unregulated ID or regulated ID.  The distinction here is clear.  For 50+ years we have been looking to Uncle Sam to help us validate our efforts to be design professionals….well he’s already done it for us.

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The evolution of the profession of Interior Design has reached a point where difficult decisions must be made in order for it to advance to the next level which is TRUE parity with other licensed design professionals.  We must provide a clear and powerful message about our right to be considered peers with our allied design professionals. This will not happen organically, by chance or one acquaintance at a time.  It will take courage, patience and commitment.  Crazy as it sounds I do not think it will take more work……we just have to be much more strategic about where we dedicate our financial, physical and intellectual resources.  That’s my plan and I am sticking with it.

 

 

Suffering from Professional Interior Design Incontinence?

http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/stylemakerspotlight/article/Blair-Morgan-accidental-interior-designer-5109590.php

After 3 years of daily Google Alerts in my email box I continue to be amazed by the number of articles espousing the ease by which anybody can claim status as a professional interior designer- as if it is an accident. I am also saddened by the absolute dearth of articles countering this misinformation.  We need a message to counter the proliferation of this professional malady….you know some P.R. we can DEPENDS on…………

Architects vs. Interior Designers vs. Interior Architects

From the Society of British Interior Designers

and from the Interiorarchitect.com