Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler – Designers or Decorators?

I figured I’d take on this controversial topic since I hope to do a series of posts soon on starting a design business (though it can apply to any business).  If you are thinking of starting a design business, you may well need to know what you can call yourself.   And, you may be surprised to learn that if you are a designer or decorator depends on your state, not the job description.

(Even if you are not starting a business, and just love design, this may be of interest to you.)

Take Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler, both very well-known designers…. their title depends on the state in which they are working.

Some states allow you to be called an interior designer if that is what you do, design interiors.  Others, have a “title act” in place that restricts the use of the title “Interior Designer” to those with the education that is arbitrarily deemed proper – which would be a 4 year interior design degree, 2 years of experience under ASID professional members (there aren’t many to choose from) and NCIDQ exam certificate.

What is the NCIDQ exam anyway?   The NCIDQ is an exam that is mostly about concepts like commercial codes and fire retardant fabrics.  And, the requirements that the title act states happens to be exactly what the ASID requires for their professional level membership (as opposed to allied or associate memberships).

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According to the IDPC, the NCIDQ  exam (that only 40% pass) that ASID is fighting to see in place for all designers was actually founded by ASID itself in 1974 and then “spun off” in an attempt to deflect attention away from ASID’s efforts to have states require such exams (expensive exams).

So, simply put, in many states, the answer would be that two of my favorite “designers” would just be called decorators.   They haven’t quite jumped through all of those hoops, nor do they intend to do so.   Regardless, whatever you call them, they design fabulous interiors.

Check out some of her work below.

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In fact, as Cote De Texas blog outlined, Kelly Wearstler, who lives in California began work on a Florida hotel only to be served this notice in 2007:

Kelly Wearstler: Case No. 2007-067706
Probable cause was found that Kelly Wearstler, Inc. of Los Angeles, California, is not licensed to practice interior design in Florida and contracted to provide interior design services on The Tides Hotel on South Beach in Miami. Ms. Wearstler specifically offers interior design services in the contract and is offering such services through a business entity without a certificate of authorization. An Administrative Complaint seeking fines will be filed and a Notice and Order to Cease and Desist will be issued.

Apparently Kelly was hired to work on the Tides Hotel, but she is not licensed to practice Interior Design in Florida, and a cease and desist order was issued to her.

It’s even more funny that the famous Kelly Wearstler was served this notice when her husband owns the realty group that owns the hotel she was designing in Florida.  But, she’s not the only one – this has happened to many in Florida.

And by what definition is Jonathan Adler not an interior designer?  He’s designed interiors for the Parker Palm Springs as well as numerous private residences – many of which have inspired furniture pieces sold in his retail stores.

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And, Jonathan’s work is completely awesome like Kelly’s.

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As stated earlier, a number of states have a “title act” in place that restricts the use of the title “Interior Designer” to those with the education that is deemed arbitrarily proper – which, to review, would be a 4 year interior design degree, 2 years of experience under ASID professional members and NCIDQ exam certificate.

What’s the big deal with that?  I mean, shouldn’t you need to get the proper education before declaring yourself a designer?  Aren’t they trying to protect the public?   Isn’t a designer different than a decorator by job definition?  A designer can rework walls and design built-ins while a decorator can just put things in a room and tweak layouts of furniture?  That’s a popular myth, but it’s not true.  That all depends on the individual designer or decorator and their personal experience and training, as well as ability to manage projects.

After all, are only designers allowed to follow building and health and safety codes to protect the public?   Decorators cannot?  Of course decorators or anyone working on a project (even home owners) would be allowed to follow safety codes, but the good news is that it’s not on their shoulders.  They are not architects or contractors.   Instead, for projects that require it (such as structural changes), any decorator or designer is responsible for hiring the proper help such as contractors who are licensed and familiar with building codes in that city.

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More of Wearstler’s work.

Of the estimated 112,000 designers in the U.S., only an estimated 4000 have passed the NCIDQ licensing exam and qualify to be called interior designers in states that require the exam.  To choose from only those design experts, you’d be limiting yourself severely.

Now, I don’t say this to belittle one with an ASID professional membership.   Your degree, internship work, exam scores and license were all hard work and you should be proud.  However, in my opinion, taking the exam should be optional and not mandated by the government.

I do realize that if you have jumped through the hoops it could feel unfair for others to call themselves by the same title. However, had you chosen not to jump through the hoops, you would be in their shoes, yet with the same talent you have now.

States where “title acts” are in force, designers like Wearstler can have the same education but choose not to take the exam and not be allowed to call themselves an interior designer.  And, in some states with “practice acts” such as FL (which has since been revised on some level), they also cannot practice in the said field.

Other design professionals such as my mother-in-law, can be in business for herself for 30 years with an extensive portfolio, yet not be allowed to advertise herself as an interior designer.

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More of Adler’s work.

Another not so uncommon situation is to have your interior design degree, work for two years as an intern for someone who is a professional member of ASID and then not pass the test.  Oopsy, no can work at all in “practice act” states unless they have modified the act to be commercial design only.

So, why are “title acts” and “practice acts” in place in certain states, anyway?    To keep the public safe?  That’s not it – there are no safety issues with interior design due to them hiring the appropriate architects and contractors if needed.  Such responsibility is not on their shoulders.  Nor should it be.

These acts are the doing of ASID (American Society for Interior Design).   This organization lobbies for such regulations and allegedly have spent $6 million plus on that effort.  After all, it benefits them to have people pay to take the exam and pay to join the ASID.   They want to pass laws that prohibit anyone who has not taken the NCIDQ from practicing,  and in that regard, they would be forcing designers to either take the exam or stop practicing, thus putting them out of business and limiting the competition.

ASID’s Allied members (which make up the majority of ASID’s members) don’t seem to see that their own organization is pushing for regulation that will not include them, as they did not take the test and are therefore not professional members.

I am all for regulation and licenses when it pertains to architects who could actually put the public in danger, but not with interior designers.  I also advocate private certification as a means to gaining additional knowledge as well as enhancing marketability.  But, I do not condone the government forcing it on businesses when it does not enhance safety, but serves the lobbying organization instead.

Design professionals should simply have a choice. If you are one of the minority who is a professional member of ASID, please put those letters behind your name and get the recognition.  If not, at least in non-practice act states, you can still practice and use whatever title you choose.  Ultimately, your portfolio and work will speak for itself.

So, back to what would you call yourself if you started a business?  Better check your state.  It depends on the state, not your job description as many believe.   Not all states have rules and regulations that have been pushed by the ASID, and others even have reversed previous acts.

In fact, according to IDPC, “in 2007, the Supreme Court of the state of Alabama struck down their Interior Design Practice Act.  In his opinion, Justice Parker stated: ‘Nor should this court embrace the paternalistic notion that the average citizen is incapable of choosing a competent interior designer without the state’s help. The economic liberty of contract remains a protected right in Alabama, especially in a field like interior design that involves expressive activity.’”  

It was concluded that there is no public safety at stake within the field of interior design.

“In 2009, the Connecticut limitations on the title “interior designer” was declared unconstitutional, and the four remaining states with “pure” title laws have corrected their constitutional defects to avoid legal challenges. In a legal decision earlier this year, the title prohibition in the Florida law was declared unconstitutional, and the court sharply narrowed the practice act’s anti-competitive restrictions on commercial design by unlicensed persons.”

IDPC says “virtually all new bills being introduced after 2005 exempt all residential scope of practice, do not restrict the title ‘interior designer.’”  

For instance, the title act bill in Massachusetts reads: “Nothing herein shall prohibit any person from performing interior design services or using the title “interior designer,” “interiors consultant,” “interior decorator” or the like, so long as the word “registered” is not used in conjunction with the word “interior designer.”

So, that begs the question – does your state have a title or practice act, when was the bill in your state passed and how is it worded?

The good news is that organizations have been able to successfully argue against claims that licensing is needed to protect the public, that consumers lack the ability to make informed choices about who they retain for design services.  So, things are changing.

For a rough idea, the Interior Design Society says the following is true when it comes to state laws and boards.  However, I do not know the date of when this was published, so please double check the rules in your state.

Alabama (Title Act)  – Alabama State Board of Registration for Interior Design
• Arizona
• Alaska
• Arkansas (Title Act) – Arkansas Board of Registered Interior Designers
California (Self Certification) – California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC)
• Colorado (Permitting Statute) – No state board
Connecticut (Title Act) – Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Professional Licensing Division – Interior Design
• Delaware
Florida (Title/Practice Act) – Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design
Georgia (Title Act) – Georgia State Board of Architects and Interior Designers
• Hawaii
• Idaho
Illinois (Title Act) – Illinois Department of Professional Regulations
Indiana – Indiana Professional Licensing Agency
Iowa (Title Act) – Interior Design Examining Board
• Kansas
Kentucky (Title Act) – Kentucky State Board of Examiners and Registration of Architects
Louisiana (Title/Practice Act) – Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Interior Design
Maine (Title Act) – Maine State Board of Licensure of Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers
Maryland (Title Act) – Maryland Department of Licensing and Regulation Board of Certified Interior Designers
• Massachusetts
Michigan – Michigan State Board of Architects
Minnesota (Title Act) – Minnesota AELSLAGID
Mississippi
Missouri (Title Act) – Missouri Interior Design Council
• Montana
• Nebraska
Nevada (Title/Practice Act) – Nevada State Board of Architecture, Interior Design & Residential Design
• New Hampshire
New Jersey (Title Act) – New Jersey State Board of Architects
New Mexico (Title Act) – New Mexico Board of Interior Design
New York (Title Act) – New York State Education Department Board of Interior Design
• North Carolina
• North Dakota
• Ohio
Oklahoma (Title Act) – Oklahoma Board of Governors of Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers
• Oregon
• Pennsylvania
• Rhode Island
• South Carolina
• South Dakota
Tennessee (Title Act) – Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Board of Architectural & Engineering Examiners
Texas (Title Act) – Texas Board of Architectural Examiners
• Utah
• Vermont
Virginia (Title Act) – Virginia APELSCIDLA Board
• Washington
Washington, DC (Title/Practice Act) - DC Board of Architecture and Interior Design
• West Virginia
Wisconsin (Title Act) - Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing
• Wyoming

Should you know more specifics about any of these states, I’m happy to update the list.

I hope that helps you a bit if you are thinking of starting a business.  Now you know a bit about what may be required to call yourself a designer or if you need to call yourself a decorator.

And, if you are hiring a design professional, I hope that deciphers some of the names and letters a bit.

As an extra tidbit, you also now you know that the “practice act” concept could really hurt some legit small businesses out there.  IDPC is trying to fight against this, if you are interested in rallying.

So what does your state allow?  For me, UT and AZ allowed me to be called an interior designer.  Even in Texas, though it has a title act, due to HB 1484 (passed May 2009), I can be called an interior designer, just not a “registered interior designer.”   Makes me no huge difference to me as I still offer the same services and enjoy awesome clients, no matter the title.  But, it is at the least, interesting, huh?

If you find that you can’t use the term “interior designer” try designer or home stylist.

Where are your favorite designers from?  What can/do they call themselves?

kristysig

33 Comments :

  1. Great post! I actually “retired” out of the medical world where education and initials after your name are everything. I can respect the requirements and hoops to call yourself a professional because of my background. However, after 6 years of university and post graduate work, I do find it frustrating that I would have to start all over again to obtain a design degree and certification. There should be other avenues to get there besides the University track in my opinion. For now I am happy being a “decorator!”

    • I guess decorator it is, UNLESS your state doesn’t have a title or practice act! Then, you are a designer! By the way, the medical field has those letters after the name for safety reasons – I am ALL for that being required and not just an option.

  2. Extremely interesting and eye opening. I have no intentions of “opening a business” at this time in my life, but I did have a business license in the State of Virginia around 2005. I have no Design education, and thank goodness, I called myself a Consultant! Thanks for doing all this research. Patty

  3. What a great informative post Kristi! I do not have an interior design degree but have a couple certifications (one in Staging, one in Color consultations and also one that says I’m a Certified Interior Redecorator).. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on these certifications and yet, I rarely get asked about my education.. I am always careful though to say I am interior decorator (not a designer) and I’m in NJ..
    Looking forward to the rest!
    Have a great weekend!

  4. What a great and extensive article, Kristy! I can tell you from experience that there is a huge amount of snobbery regarding the designer vs. decorator delineation. I do not have a design degree. I have 2 graduate degrees in psychology (my first career) and certifications in staging and color. I am self-taught, otherwise. I have had young “designers” look down their nose at the fact that I don’t have a design degree, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to do what I do. Many designers with degrees work in retail because it is so difficult to build and maintain a successful business as a designer or decorator. So I may not be a “real” designer, but I can pretty much guarantee you I am the busiest and most successful decorators in Nashville because of what I offer my clients. My understanding is that the designer designation mainly comes into play when you are dealing with commercial projects, not residential ones. I don’t think Kelly Wearstler would be unable to design residential interiors in Florida, just commercial ones. I have also encountered issues with “to the trade” sources not allowing me to purchase or receive commissions because I am not a degreed designer. But the truth is, most of my clients don’t want to dole out the money for strictly “to the trade” items. People are so internet-savvy that they know you can get things for less if you look around a bit and think outside the box. Again, great article – thanks for sharing this info!

    • Thanks! I appreciate the awesome comment. Actually, the way I understand it is that at the time, FL did have a practice act on both residential and commercial, but it has since been changed to mainly cover commercial interior design. And, I have seen similar issues with “to the trade” – depends on the company. And, just like you, most of my clients aren’t wanting to dole out that kind of money anyway.

  5. A very informative post! I live in Canada, where the title laws are provincially based. In most provinces, anyone can call themselves a designer, just not an ‘interior designer’, then you have to meet the NCIDQ requirements. I personally think that legalizing the industry term is important, as interior designers have more qualifications than designers or decorators. For example, once you are a designer you are able to sign off on blueprint up to 5000 square feet, and many other more technical aspects without hiring outside contractors. I think it’s important for the public to be able to differentiate between those with those responsibilities and those without.

    Either way though, I think your portfolio, more than your title and anything else, will dictate your client base!

    • Thanks for the great comment.

      In the US many counties require that architects or engineers sign off on blueprints, however, some make it alright for other trades to sign off. Even home owners can sign off in some areas. Why? Because they have to go through the process of being approved, then a permit can be issued, then an inspection. So, no matter who signs off, the public should be safe. It’s important that all of those are in place, and a designer (of any kind) isn’t the final say. This is why the majority of states in the US are not concluding that a term monopoly has to be put in place in order to protect consumers.

  6. Wow great article Kristy! I personally feel that ASID is not for me. They have a aura about their “group” like they are better than everyone else. Passing an exam does not mean you are a great designer, your examples proves that point.

  7. Great article! Lots of really great information! I would be hard pressed to call myself much of anything at this point other then a “crafter”…but I love design (I went to school for graphic design…) Thanks for all the info! :)

  8. Cyndia Montgomery

    Thanks for posting this! I live in Alabama where the laws until recently have been very strict; even threatening jail or heavy fines for calling oneself an interior designer. I am a decorator.

  9. Great info, Kristy! As you know, I’m going to school to become an interior designer and hope to take and pass the NCIDQ and be apart of ASID. I think it is important to recognize the people who take and pass that test studied their booties off, as I know it’s a HUGE test and a big deal to pass. However, if I don’t pass, I will still in my heart be an interior designer, because I’ll have my bachelors degree in interior design. Of course having this degree isn’t what “makes” me good…like you and Tiffany said, your portfolio speaks for your talent, not the letters behind your name. My grandma is a decorator, but she does great work as well. So while I definitely would say there’s a difference in designer vs. decorator, I think ultimately it comes down to your portfolio and your design aesthetics.

    Thanks all the great information! Looking forward to your posts about the business aspects :)

    • Thanks for voicing your thoughts. While I don’t agree, I definitely can understand your view. While it’s great to be recognized for taking the test and passing (only 40% pass) a test (which was put in place to benefit an org more than the public), in my opinion, that is what the ASID after your name is for. To recognize that effort. However, if you and your grandma were doing the same exact job, you should be allowed to carry the same title. If one gets hired or not, regardless of title, it will depend on their portfolio, knowledge and experience. Just my opinion. But, that’s what I like about the topic – it carries varying perspectives and can be discussed. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Wow! What a great overview and eye-opener for me! I did study Interior Design but did not take the NCIDQ. I have no desire to do structural drawings and if the project required it, I would call in a licensed architect to do those. I used to call myself a ‘decorator’ but felt that didn’t highlight the degree I earned so I became an Allied ASID. I thought I could call myself an Interior Designer but was just restricted in what I could perform (no structural changes) It states that NY does have a title act for “Certified Interior Designers” does that mean I can still call myself an Interior Designer? Sadly, I went to school, I am an Allied member of ASID and I still don’t know what to call myself- I can imagine how confusing it is for clients! There really should be an easier way. Thanks for the info!
    Joanne @ Homestyling101

    • Exactly. It stinks if you are doing the same job, yet due to not taking one test you cannot have the title. Huh? It has to do with how the title act is worded. If you wanted to be really sure, I’d contact the governing board and just ask. But, if it specifically only says “certified interior designer” you should be fine to use “interior designer.” Ridiculous, huh?

      • Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure you are fine. NY is one of those states that has some of the best designers (in my opinion) and almost all of those I know of are not “certified” but still use the term “interior designer” no matter the degree or internship or ASID membership. So, you should be safe. But, yeah, it never hurts to double check.

        • I’m a formally trained interior designer. I’ve been with ASID, I’ve taken the NCIDQ exam, and if I hadn’t gone to school I’m sure I’d be a much less effective designer. I think there are very talented decorators who have an uncanny eye for color, fabric and all the various furniture styles, but I’ve worked for some of those decorators and some of them can’t produce or properly read construction documents, they don’t understand certain codes, building materials or current building methods. When the general contractor has a request for information, it’s taken days for them to respond with a notice of clarification because they don’t know the answer and have to consult with another design professional. This can hold the project up and cost the client money. I’ve learned quite a bit working for decorators before I opened my own business, but if it wasn’t for my training I would never have been hired to move walls, remodel bathrooms, renovate kitchens, design cabinetry and custom built-ins. It’s a very gray area when it comes to designers versus decorators. I can design a home from the ground up, design additions; anything an architect can do, I can do too. Yet I don’t call myself an architect because I don’t have the required education and I’m not licensed. Some of my projects are purely decorating and some are renovations. If you are home schooled or learned about interior design over many years, that’s great, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a few classes, learn about current construction methods, understand building codes, title 24 (California) energy, etc.

  11. This is a great post! There is always so much discussion about this issue….I am self taught [or home schooled!] and have been in the business for almost 25 years. You can call me what you want….but I am there to make your space more livable and “pretty”. I have worked with builders and designed homes from the ground up and gone into a room and just redesigned it using what the client has. I certainly have learned a lot about my trade over the years….which is true in any profession.
    Thanks for doing all of this research and nice to know some of the biggest and best are also “home schooled” and just have the natural gift!

  12. Very informative post & great thread you have going here Kristy. I remember all too well working with other design professionals in Colorado that were in fact NOT members nor certified in either organization. They were among the very best & super expensive in the State. Having said that, many of them were extremely egotistical and arrogant. All too often they would title others in the business as “decorina’s” as they were trying to elevate themselves in the process, still not having the so-called credentials. In my opinion, their insecurities were quite transparent, thinly veiled with those remarks.

    I think the general public want someone who truly cares & puts forth a great deal of effort & does a great job. They don’t care about initials behind someones name. You are to be commended with all your research you put forth in all your blogs. That’s my 2 cents worth anyway.

  13. I love this thread :) I would also like to add that even though I plan to take the NCIDQ test, I don’t mind if others don’t and certainly wouldn’t see myself as a better designer than someone who hadn’t taken it. I would hope not to become an arrogant designer like some have mentioned in the comments above. That would make me sad! I would hope clients of mine would hire me because of my character, design ability and taste level– not merely because I did or did not have ASID behind my name :) I have definitely met some of those designers in ASID who are arrogant and it ain’t pretty! For me, I’ll be taking the test just to see if I can pass because I did spend 4 years going to school for interior design, I think my mentality is “why not try?!” :)

    • Oh, Michaela, I could not see you becoming snobby as some have mentioned. You are a kind, sweet soul with great character and morals. You’re adorable and you’ll do great. I’m sure you’ll pass, too! Go for it!

  14. Hi Kristy,

    This is a great article, I hear your pain and understand your point of view, and I hope you share my comment because have a different point of view.

    If you are a designer working in commercial, hospitality, and healthcare you deal with space planning and specifications for materials that involve health safety and welfare, while in residential you are not as likely to.

    For example, flooring that does not meet the requirement for C.O.F may result in slip and fall and tremendous liability to the designer who selected as well as the property owner.

    When I worked for a hotel developer and was on a property tour, I actually experienced this – I’m young with decent balance so did not break anything. The person who selected had not studied for and passed the NCIDQ and did not have a license.

    Flammable fabrics and wall coverings not selected to meet the fire codes may result in burns and hamper egress in a hotel fire, and again pose a threat of liability to the designer, developer, owner. People smoke in hotels, even in non-smoking rooms and often try to cover the smoke detector so they don’t get caught.

    Improper space planning and not calculating finish material thickness correctly can mean that a restroom in a facility does not comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines, and will not receive a permit to open, and cost the business owner who hired the unlicensed designer time, money, and lost business while they redo new construction. I worked in a salon that had this exact situation before I went back to school, and stylists who had left their previous salons could not cut and style hair in the new salon until this was fixed. They lost money.

    Improper specification of finishes in a hospital room could result in infection, and serious complications that could have been prevented.

    These are all examples of things that the designer plans and selects, not the architect or contractor.

    So even if the cease and desist order gave Kelly some pain, it probably saved Kor Hotel Group some in the long run. Plus you can amortize the materials and finishes when you build or renovate a property, but when you have to replace because of improper selection, they can fall under CAPEX and cause the owner and operator more pain.

    This is why I’m working to help make it more accessible and easier for designers to study for and pass the NCIDQ Exam. So they can become eligible to take the exam if they want to, and I put together a program to help them learn the material.

    The exam is a big source of pain among designers, so I want to help.

    My 2 cents.

    Thanks Kristy,

    Lisa

    • I actually agree with you to a great extent as it pertains to commercial interior design. Of course, all of that will be cross-checked by inspectors and such as they make sure the facility is ready for business. But yes, the test is geared towards this and the information covered (even if you do not take it) is beneficial to commercial design for the reasons you listed.

    • I 100% agree with you, Lisa. There are many items involved with interior design that are related to health and life safety in non-residential projects. You’ve done a good job of listing many of them. It’s not only related to permitting and inspection, but also helping your clients prevent future litigation or unnecessary expense due to improper specifications. I think there’s great value in having standards for designers – and these standards not only protect clients and the general public but also other practicing professionals.

  15. So well said. I have been politically opposed to ASID for many years and actually dropped my self from the process of completing required courses to become a member. I have also written the mucky mucks at ASID and requested they consider allowing “decorators” to be a member just on a different level than those who have jumped through all the hoops. This would increase their membership and their revenue and further a positive image of ASID vs. the current image.

    My mother was a “decorator” in Florida for over 30 years and after some of their original laws were passed she was no longer able to receive trade discounts at furniture stores she had shopped at for many years! This wasnt the law, just part of the snootiness that goes with ASID. There are many, many well known and prominent designers out there who are self-taught or are educated and have not completed a NCIDQ exam etc. I am so happy that many states have done away with or denied ASID’s attempts to regulate a business that does not need to be regulated. While designers may know something about code etc they are not architects designing a room from that end so the public is not in danger. ( the exclusion, of course, are those who choose to work on public spaces) There is already enough regulation in place to keep small design firms out of business, why add more hoops to jump through? So well said and thanks for saying it!

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I really appreciate it.

      In a sense, decorators can become members of ASID if they meet the requirements, take that test and pay the money.

      The way I understand it, NCIDQ requires the things stated in this post, including the 2 years of work experience to be under one of the few NCIDQ passers and ASID professional members.

      Oh, and now (possibly thanks to your input) ASID does have membership options for those who do not have that type of degree but another 4 year degree. Requirements for this new “associate member” option? 6 years of full time id work experience, copy of college transcript showing you earned a four year degree, and you must commit to so many hours of continued education. Fair enough… but… though you pay the same fees as professional members, you don’t get to use the specific titles! You didn’t take the test.

      Then, there is an Allied member of ASID. Requirements? 40-60 hours of architectural courses, and continue their education. And, same – no qualification for the title act or practice act states.

      ASID fights against its own members.

      http://www.asid.org/members/

  16. To further clarify, in case you are interested in every detail…

    The state requires the NCIDQ certificate, thanks to ASID lobbyists. The NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Quailfication) requires a 4 year degree in interior design, as well as 2 years of entry level work such as an internship in order to qualify to take the exam. And in addition, NCIDQ requires that the two years of work experience be under one of the few NCIDQ passers and ASID professional members – that’s not easy to find as there aren’t many members.

    Then, ASID requires the NCIDQ exam certification in order to become a professional member. And, in turn to use the title “interior designer” in some states.

    Hope that makes sense.

  17. Thanks so much for this post! I am really looking forward to your posts on starting a design business! :)

  18. Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been trying to do my research before picking a program/school for interior design and FINALLY someone has answered why some of my favorite designers don’t have a bachelor’s degree in interior design, even though most institutions seem to push for or market CIDA / NCIDQ / ASID / IDI as if that was the necessary path. Cheers!

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  20. MoniqueEclectic

    Kristy, I concur wholeheartedly with your comments about ASID. I went into Interior Design as a second career. As a business professional I was shocked at the blatant “restraint of trade” attempts by ASID. Without doubt, commercials projects need people who understand (and are competent) in building codes, ADA requirements and the like. For that I guess NCIDQ is as good an indicator as any although a degree should be sufficient. The potential liability is huge and so you would want to limit your risk as an architect or developer.

    For interior design, however, as many have commented, it is more about having a like appreciation for style and the ability to communicate it.
    I live in Maryland and even though Maryland has a title act, I can list myself as an Interior Designer – just not a “certified” interior designer.
    To add to the questionable intent of ASID (as a former member), their lobbying is in direct opposition to the National Kitchen and Bath Associations members – because the laws have to be very carefully worded or the ASID lobbyists have put the NKBA member out of business. – causing great friction between the two groups.

    The bottom line in a depressed economy with irrational HGTV expectations: ASID should be more focused upon demonstrating to the public the value of hiring design professionals instead of being so self-serving and internally focused on restricting the industry. This is why I left ASID. It’s all about VALUE. When consumers understand that they get a better result and avoid costly errors by using a design professional, they are satisfied and the industry grows.

    Thank you for publicly taking on this issue. I cannot believe the ASID is still aviable organization in our current economic reality.

  21. We all have gone through those arguments that you have made in your article.

    I can only speak for myself but, after practicing “decorating” for many years, I returned to school (yes, financed it myself after financing my BA) because I knew that it would be to my greater benefit and I was right. My father, an architect, had something to do with my decision. Until you have gone through the process yourself, it’s hard to understand why. In fact, my former employer didn’t understand why. However, education/licensing simply IS the better choice for the profession, and even Kelly and Jonathan would have benefitted from it. Remember, what they say: talent is over-rated. The truth is, talent is only the beginning to allow you into the profession, but it does not assure your success. By the way, K & J call themselves “tastemakers” and only hire educated designers to work for them. Interesting, isn’t it? Look it up.

    For more understanding, look up the history of registered nurses and licensed architects. This might shed light as to why the interior design profession is trying to “professionalize” itself. Even contractors need to be licensed.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the trend is indeed moving toward licensing, although it won’t happen for at least a decade. It has to do more with our litigious society rather than talent or tests. Everything Lisa said in her post was spot on and that’s the direction interior design is taking. Instead of doing away with the NCIDQ, maybe those 98,000 who haven’t taken it should. It’s simply a test that will assure their place in the future of design.

    I hope this comment sheds a little light and open-mindedness to those you who don’t see the value of education, licensing or the NCIDQ. We are not trying to alienate you or prevent you from practicing your profession. Rather, we are trying to create consensus among designers in the eyes of the public — consumers who are more savvy and well-informed than ever.

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