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Broadening the Scope

A new Associate Membership will open ASID's doors for professionals with non-traditional backgrounds, but the organization's mission remains the same.

By Lisa Henry

A new Associate Membership will open ASID's doors for professionals with non-traditional backgrounds, but the organization's mission remains the same.

We here at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) have a goal to be the leading voice of the interior design profession. This means the whole profession. We recognize that practicing interior designers have myriad backgrounds that are relevant to their clients’ projects and that add value to the spaces they are designing. We also recognize that interior designers are doing many different types of work outside of, and in addition to, the traditional design firm model and scope.

For that reason, we have added a new membership category, Associate Membership, for practicing interior designers with demonstrated professional work experience.

Multi-disciplinary collaboration and thinking are being leveraged more than ever in the design profession. How many industrial designers, interaction designers, organizational behaviorists, project management/construction management graduates, art historians, graphic designers, furniture designers, textile designers, semiotic specialists and other professionals, who, through career choices or chance, work in more than one discipline? Some have become successful interior design practitioners who excel in their wide-ranging professions. We have chosen to welcome professionals with non-traditional educational backgrounds and interior design work experience to ASID. In the process, we anticipate adding a rich variety of new voices and experiences to our conversations about design, the profession and work.

How can our vision of being the leading voice of the interior design profession happen if we do not represent the whole profession? Our vision has directed us in program development, leadership training, board structure and in our relationships with outside organizations; we need to energize that vision and add “aspirational” to it.

ASID provides a means and a place for designers of various educational levels, experiences and exam backgrounds to come to together to learn, network and get inspired. If we have confidence in our ability to inspire to aspire, we can reach out to all of our members in a spirit of inclusion, elevate thinking and provide access to an engaged community focused on helping members communicate the value of their work.

This is the time to create new training/learning opportunities and increase our educational programming choices, from which we can all benefit. We foster a culture of learning and have created pathways to ASID for all designers who qualify for different membership categories to commit to continuous education in order to expand their expertise.

For 36 years, ASID has fostered a professional community for those who believe in the power of design to transform the human experience. We believe in supporting designers throughout their careers. We believe in the value of interior design education, and that it is the preferred and most direct path to becoming an interior designer. We believe in our 300-plus student chapters and hundreds of ASID Educator members, and we will not waver in that support. We also believe that there are bona-fide alternative pathways into the profession, especially as second and third careers.

From its roots in the American Institute of Decorators, our organization has been open to evolution. If you look at our history and capacity for thoughtful growth, you know this is true. Interior design as a profession exhibits a wide range of types of interior design work and career paths. State legislatures have specific education and examination requirements for designers who do a specific range of work defined by different state laws. However, not all ASID members do that specific range of work or have the same education and examination requirements as the states that have governing laws around this issue. The fundamental point is that we as a professional association have designed and already accepted the concept of different categories of membership based on education, examination and experience. Membership in an interior design professional association as a credential is different than a state license or registration.

One of the main strengths of ASID is providing resources for designers. Some 55 percent of our members are sole practitioners; many others own or work in small design firms. Where can these interior designers go to get continuing education and small business support? ASID has the resources for networking, business help, continuing education, legislative advocacy and research. It’s our vision “to provide the tools to help our members excel.” A rising tide lifts all ships.

We have always been transparent about an individual’s particular path to ASID membership (NCIDQ, college education and experience). We have never presented ASID as an association that has members with identical qualifications. It is up to us as individuals to capitalize on our unique qualifications. ASID will continue to help raise the brand awareness of all ASID designers, and the value of interior design in general. After that, the consumer or the employer decides which designer is right for them.

If you are looking to engage with a community of your peers, I invite you to get involved in ASID. To learn more about us and the new Associate Membership, go to


ASID President Lisa Henry, FASID, LEED AP is the Knoll Denver region architecture and design director. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or, and on the web at