PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has posted many times regarding the issue of California and its private self-regulated, voluntary Interior Design certification program.  While California is the largest interior design market in the nation it remains an anomaly in the big picture of the domestic U.S. Interior Design profession’s efforts to establish nationwide practice licensure status. I have just […]

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

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?

Defining Our Right to Work

Or in other words….what is our “work” and do we really have a “right” to it?

PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER stumbled across this missive from the recent American Institute of Architects State Government Network forum.
I can only assume that this presentation was not meant to be public knowledge and would not be surprised if the link dies…..none the less if you are quick you will note that the issue of interior designers seeking permitting rights and those who claim to be “Interior Architects” was a main topic of conversation. See slides #9-#14

My take away is that the AIA is clearly drawing a line in the sand by defining what a Registered Architect can legally design and what a non-licensed Architect can design…or get built.

Actually anybody can “design” a building…..getting it permitted and constructed is the real key. I won’t even touch the issue of “Interior Architecture”…….it is lightning outside my window and the sky is cloudless. I digress.

Back to the SGN network document. We, as a profession, have struggled with how to define what is that we do, where we do it and how. Ultimately much of what passes as the common definition of “Interior Design” is simply intended to distinguish us from interior decorators. When it comes to defining our actual scope of responsibility we are not quite sure. We know we should be able to submit permit documents for our own work but what exactly is that “work”? Is it anything less than 5,000 square feet as some practice legislation defines or is it interior work that does not affect base building life safety systems, building egress and tenant separation? There are several attempts to define the scope of our rightful work out there….this is not a good thing. Well why we have been trying to figure that out the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) has provided their own answer….and we are not going to like it. To wit;

“Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent: 1. The practice of architecture performed in connection with any of the following:

(a) A detached single- or two-family dwelling and any accessory buildings incidental thereto, unless an architect is otherwise required by law or by the building authority having jurisdiction over the project; or

(b) Farm buildings, including barns, silos, sheds, or housing for farm equipment and machinery, livestock, poultry, or storage, if such structures are designed to be occupied by no more than 10 persons; or

(c) Any construction of particular features of a building, if the construction of such features does not require the issuance of a permit under any applicable building code and does not affect structural or other life-safety aspects of the building. ” ( )

So if your brain is not frozen at this point what this means is that NCARB has clearly defined our scope of practice to small scale residential, barns, silos or any construction that does not require the issuance of a permit. “Duh.- I knew that!” you might say……

My point is…if we can’t define where the line of work truly lies then we need to accept that others are going to define it for us……

Now does anybody know a good floorcovering material for a grain silo?


Kudos to Emily Kluczynski, IIDA’s Director of Advocacy, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs for putting this presentation together. Evidently this was presented to IIDA members in Colorado back in February. This is the most imformative and entertaining take on the issue of professional recognition and legal/political advocacy that I have seen come out of any ID organization….but hey that’s just me.

That said I am concerned by the continued confusion over the term and ultimately the very definition of “Interior Design”. The presentation continues to beat the tired old semantic nuances between Interior Decoration and Interior Design as if the distinction is straightforward. It isn’t. It never will be. Within this presentation I counted 5 different prefixes to the traditional term “Interior Designer” that the speakers relied on to help distinguish us from them.


“Licensed” (grossly misunderstood)
“Registered” &
“Certified” Interior Designers
Then by default THEM=

Uneducated- Ouch
Unqualified- Maybe…..but who makes that call…state boards I guess?
Unlicensed- Only in 2 states and D.C….but whose counting?
Unregistered – Well only where “Registration” is legally enforced which is the exception. Or
Non-certified Interior Designers…Certified as in passing NCIDQ, or by the State, or as in California (which this presentation dances around) privately “Certified”….confused? You should be.
Why do we continue to think this is an acceptable way to advocate for our profession? Hell I can’t keep it straight. The one term/prefix I did not hear or see is “Commercial” Interior Design(er) – which is how IIDA is positioning itself to be different than it’s allied professional organization ASID. At least that prefix gets at the difference between Commercial vs. Residential Interior Designers which in my opinion is a much cleaner distinction – even for the layperson- I digress.

To Ms. Kluczynski’s credit she did reference Andrew Abbott’s Theory of Professionalization from his book ‘The System of Professions- An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor” to provide some perspective on our profession and how it has evolved. I refer specifically to Abbott’s stage #2 “Name change of the occupation to help create definition for the new profession”. The presentation then alludes to the evolution of “Interior Design” from “Interior Decoration” which occurred sometime in the 1950’s…..well yes…..Interior Design did evolve from Interior Decoration but somebody forgot to tell the general public that that happened-evidenced by the brief street interviews included in the video. So without acknowledging the almost 30 year and constitutionally illegal effort by the profession (mainly ASID) to legally own the term/title of “Interior Design(er)” we continue to flail at how to differentiate us from them. 50 years ago is an eternity in the evolution of professions….haven’t we evolved beyond ‘InteD

So as Jenny West of Knoll asked in the video “How can we clear up the blurred line between decoration and the profession of Interior Design?”- my simple answer is we can’t. Let’s stop trying to use legal prefixation of the term “Interior Design” and let’s stop beating ourselves up trying to redefine “Interior Design” and make it what we want it to be by way of legislation.

If we are going to talk like Educated/Qualified/Licensed/Registered/Certified Interior Designers then we should also walk like one…..


If you have visited PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER.COM before you know that I have a thing for titles and professional recognition…okay it’s an obsession….but if you are back maybe you understand the importance of this issue as it relates to “Interior Design” and our particular identity crisis. I have posted previously on the effort by the lighting design profession to establish a professional credential. Their effort is relevant in that they are a relatively young profession sprung from the rapid specialization, and relative dearth of design sensitivity, within the lighting engineering profession- much like interior design was cleaved from the well established profession of architecture…and its brief dalliance with interior decoration- I digress.

I see many parallels between Interior Design’s effort to establish professional credentials (note I did not say “licensure”) and members of the International Association of Lighting Design’s (IALD) effort to distinguish themselves as a self-regulated professional domain who deserves respect and a place at the proverbial building design profession’s table. We can learn a lot from them. Conversely there are also many things that the lighting designers are doing that are far different than interior designers and our alphabet soup of professional credentials (ASID, IIDA, NCIDQ, AAHID, IDS, CID, RID)…I think they have learned what not to do from us…..but I speculate.

Here is an update to the efforts of the IALD to establish the Certified Lighting Designer (CLD) credential;

Here is the link to the CLD website;

My take away from this effort is that a strategic approach that has a singular and inclusive mission is much more impactful than one that has multiple competing/conflicting interests who seek credentials, private, public, or otherwise, purely to distinguish themselves from each other. Furthermore the CLD seeks to self-regulate in order to achieve professional respect as opposed to utilizing government regulation to gain professional respect. A subtle and oh so misunderstood nuance amongst us professional interior designers. In short theirs is an effort to “certify” and not “license”. The distinction here is critical particularly as it pertains to regulated interior designers effort to validate themselves as a peer profession with other licensed design professionals. As Elizabeth Donoff explains in her update;

“The most commonly mistakenly interchanged terms are the difference between licensure and credentialing, and the distinction is a very important one to make. A license allows someone to practice a profession in a particular state and is governed by health and safety issues. Credentialing, on the other hand, is a “method for maintaining quality standards of knowledge and performance, and in some cases, for stimulating continued self improvement. Credentialing confers occupational identity.”

In my bumble opinion the profession of Interior Design has spent the last 35 years trying to confer its occupational identity with a license. My hat’s off to the IALD task force for making this nuance clear and starting with establishing a clear identity based on performance and not the simply leaping for the brass ring of licensure.

Unfortunately it is too late for us (the regulated profession of interior design) to go back to our roots so to speak and rethink out path to societal respect and then pursual of licensure. But it isn’t too late to think about how we proceed from this point forward.

Stay tuned.

Here’s a New Title to Consider

How about Registered Design Practitioner?

I know…..I know….PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER tends to get way hung up on titles and credentials and the semantic implications thereof. OCD? Maybe. Insane? Duh!

So it appears that the Illinois Interior Design Coalition (IIDC) has introduced a bill in which Illinois Registered Interior Designers, and other qualified Interior Designers, will be able to become licensed as Registered Design Practitioners. Let’s think about this.

Inform yourself here;

So with that we now have 5th possible regulated title and credential to deal with;

Licensed Interior Designer

Certified Interior Designer & State Certified Interior Designer where such legislation applies. California CID’s have a private voluntary system that is unique from all other CID legislation…confused?

Registered Interior Designer

Commercial Interior Designer & now….

Registered Design Practitioner

Please note, if you have not already done so, the absence of the term “Interior”. And the shift from “Professional” to ‘Practitioner”. Curious solution to the anti-ID regulation backlash and possible conflict with the International Building Code I suspect. But wow are we ready to disavow the term “Interior” just to get a license?

While I am all for state coalitions doing what they have to obtain right to practice/permitting privileges for the designers in their respective states I really wish we would all step back, take a breath and figure out what the implications for these semantic machinations really mean for our profession. Maybe it does not matter. Maybe it really should be up to each state to do what they can to earn a modicum of respect for our right to practice as peers with other licensed design professionals….er um…registered design practitioners. Should we care that we may end up with numerous iterations of our professional identity?

Who cares? I do.


For several years now I have been lamenting the lack of a unified and cohesive professional identity for those interior designers who work within code regulated interior environments. My position has evolved over several years…of endless rants and debates, but ultimately I maintain that we (the code regulated) are much more than “Interior Designers”- at least as society understands the practice of “Interior Design”. I have gone as far to say that we should do what we can to distance ourselves from this term. We are not merely ‘Interior Designers”. However, as long as we try to distinguish ourselves solely by pursuing governmental regulation, that supposedly grants society the collective recognition and respect of our learned and vetted abilities to improve the quality of their lives and livelihoods, we will never achieve parity with other regulated/licensed building design professions. I get tired of saying this….We have to create this distinction BEFORE we pursue such legal/political recognition. Let’s assume that our current mode of distinguishing our professional domain from the larger domain of “Interior Design” by use of regulation achieves success on a national basis…it won’t, but let’s just assume for a second that all states recognize qualified Interior Designers from the innately qualified by way of title or practice legislation. What we will end up with is a collection of Certified Interior Designers, State Certified Interior Designers, Registered Interior Designers, Commercial Interior Designers and Interior Designers. Got it? Some of us will feel better because of the semantic title twist…some of us may or may not be able to pull permits for our work, some of us will be registered/certified via some quasi-public board with no real right to practice and some of us will just have to settle to be lumped in with the local carpet store sales person who has a flair for color and a title in his/her business card “Interior Designer”. But as I said we will not even get to this level of consistency.

We have numerous state Interior Design (note the reliance on “Interior Design” nomenclature) coalitions many of which work as private support entities for their state boards where Interior Design is legislated. Currently there are 39 such coalitions…in various stages of activity as far as I can tell only 28 state coalitions exist in states with active Interior Design legislation. Michigan just de-regulated its title act and the MIDC appears dormant, California has a quasi private/public regulatory effort and of course there is a litany of various title and practice regulations in place. Have I convinced you that there may be a better way?

So I have given this dilemma a bit of thought…..”how do we achieve a critical mass of societal comprehension and respect for our profession that will allow us to effectively pursue our right to practice as registered/licensed design professionals?

We need a National Board of Regulated/Registered* Interior Designers. There I said it.

* I don’t care what we call ourselves…let’s just stop calling ourselves “Interior Designers”. Let the Interior Designers have it. Confused?…..join the club

Now back to my big idea. I have not fleshed this out, obviously. I am sure my interpretation is rife with misunderstanding I do not know everything about our professional domain particularly on the public/regulated side of things. Know that I exist in State that may never achieve legal recognition based on the current status quo. I digress.

So here is a link to a graphic model of how I see the profession of Interior Design currently and how it might look with a National Board. NATIONAL BOARD.pdf?dl=0

If you have ever taken the time to do an organizational chart of the profession of Interior Design (sarcasm intended) you know how difficult this can be to represent graphically. Yes it looks confusing, and I will admit to lots of graphic mis-steps but I hope that you can see the kernel of an idea….a big idea.

While the first inclination might be to compare this idea with the architectural profession (AIA & NCARB) I am leaning toward other examples of private/state regulated professions. Certified Public Accountants for one. Obviously I have a lot of work to do to fully flesh my idea out. But I am more than willing for anybody who has taken the time to hear me out to comment for better or worse.

Bring it.


PROFESSIONALINTERIORDESIGNER has previously posted about Architecture’s image problems. Because Architecture is, for better or worse, our bastard step-father (metaphor stretch for amusement only) we need to be mindful that not all is comfy cozy in their professional house. Indirectly there are lessons to be learned and in this case I believe there is a big opportunity for the Interior Design profession. But first refresh yourself as to the issues Architects are facing;

While I do not think the image problem that the Architectural profession currently finds itself is new I do think there is a widening polarity in that profession that will make it very difficult for them to overcome. They may need to implode and start over. As long as Aaron Betsky and the Starchitect/Artistes as provocateurs are allowed to set the tone, or have a voice in it, it will. Let’s face it the 1%’ers are the only ones who generally can afford to hire “Starchitects”….we get what is left which is usually value driven and profit motivated. At our level much of the built environment is managed not by designers but by ‘Project Managers” or “Builders”. Much of common Architecture, as Mr. Gehry posits, is Shite. While I do not disagree I find it amusing that he is the one to call out the profession in that manner.

There is no question this is as much an economic issue as one of a conflicted and increasingly polarized profession, like society in general.

Back to my point. Architects have failed on two levels in my opinion. First they have allowed the concept of great (or even good) to be upended by the Starchitect as Artiste faction. Yes mind-blowing innovation is important but just because you can afford to do it does not mean you should do it. And obviously there is a great cost to these “designs”. The stories of blown budgets are legendary. This idea that good (or even great) design comes with a high cost has allowed the bean counters to drive the design discussion on the common level.
Opportunity #1= Good design should not equate to cost.

Professional/Regulated Interior Designers can help change this paradigm.

Second, and more intrinsically tied to the near interaction of the human inhabitants of architecture (read “Interior Design”), is a constant thread through all of the non-Starchitect’s laments (with the exception of Gehry) that “Architecture’s disconnect is both physical and spiritual” (Bingler & Pederson). Ultimately much of modern Architecture as we commoners experience, lacks a soul, or as we Interior Design academics (and Germans) call it “Gemütlichkeit”.

Opportunity #2= Interior Designers who are trained to focus on the human interaction with the built environment should claim the mantle of the profession best suited to design interior spaces that improve the quality of the users lives.

To carry on with German The metaphorical door is now wide open-