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Legislating Good Design

From deregulation to new tax policies surrounding sustainable design, the 2012 ASID Legislative Symposium discussed the profession’s recent legal victories and charted a policy course for the future.

By Lisa Henry

From deregulation to new tax policies surrounding sustainable design, the 2012 ASID Legislative Symposium discussed the profession’s recent legal victories and charted a policy course for the future.

This past March I had the opportunity to speak at the annual American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Legislative Symposium in Atlanta. This occasion allowed me to engage in discussion with legislative leaders from around the country about the value of interior design legislation, as well as about the future direction of government affairs and public policy regarding our profession.

Students and emerging professionals were in attendance at the symposium, and I crafted a particular message for them. The resources the organization expends in terms of money and intellectual capital are in place to ensure that we improve the state of the interior design industry for them! I believe that the overarching purpose of the symposium is to ensure designers have legal standing in ways that support our own business objectives, maintain the quality and safety of the built environment, and enhance the career opportunities of the next generation of interior designers.

But before beginning to explore the future possibilities for broadening our government affairs agenda, we pondered the question, “What does interior design legislation do for interior designers and our profession?” The answer may not be quite what you think.

Over the past few years, we have worked in a very challenging regulatory environment. We have dealt with legal cases, successfully opposed deregulation legislation and, most importantly, worked to correct misconceptions of what interior designers do. Through all of this, we came together to promote our profession to key influencers, and built a greater understanding of the contributions that interior designers make to our communities, the environment and the world.

Many states have created legislation to establish pathways for recognizing both qualified interior designers and the unique scope of services our profession provides. However, as a professional association, ASID will not support legislation that limits or restricts the practice of interior design. The society is seeking to enhance and open up business opportunities for qualified interior designers by supporting legislation to modify any outdated or non-competitive architectural laws. These laws prevent anyone other than a “registered or licensed design professional” (read: licensed architect) to do work in many types of code-based built environments. And while many states currently have statutes on their books that ASID has supported, those laws contain language which includes qualified interior designers among those who are considered a “registered or licensed design professional.”

In short, we continually seek to modify architectural laws to provide registration or licensing for qualified interior designers so that they can do the work they have trained and qualified (by NCIDQ testing or a code exam) to do. Professional ASID members have the knowledge, skills and ability to work in an environment that requires experience with myriad codes and non-structural building elements. Legislation can, in fact, open work opportunities by recognizing qualified interior designers and our contributions to commercial and public environments. This has been the foundation of our legislative strategy, and will remain so in the coming years.

With that said, ASID also sees value in adding new policy issues to our government and public affairs agenda, especially regarding policy decisions that impact our profession. In one of the most recent shifts, state and federal governments have moved in the direction of incentivizing innovation in the development of high-performance green buildings. They are promoting sustainable design practices that safeguard the environment and people’s health and welfare, and designers play a key role in integrating these principles into the building envelope. But how does this work in practice?

The government has a stated policy of implementing green building tax credits to reach its goal of increasing the number of high-performing buildings. ASID is working to provide qualified interior designers with the ability to participate in the process of certifying that buildings meet the newly adopted sustainability codes and qualify for the corresponding credits. This will promote growth and provide additional jobs in the design profession.

ASID will also continue to advocate for government policies that help our members leverage their knowledge in more areas and expand business opportunities. Workforce development, controlling taxation of design services and small business tax credits are just a few of the examples of the potential advocacy areas that can benefit design firms.

In addition, we will pursue policy initiatives in the arena of federal and state design projects. This effort will hopefully lead to qualified interior design professionals being able to bid on federal and state jobs. Government organizations account for half of all commercial space in the United States, meaning this access will allow designers to compete for a wider range of jobs.

The ASID Legislative Symposium in Atlanta gave us the chance to share experiences that can benefit other designers involved in their state’s advocacy efforts. It was evident that there is a real commitment to our legislative agenda, and strong support for regulations that allow interior designers to work to their fullest ability, based upon their education and examination qualifications. It was also evident, thanks to our conversations in Atlanta and among the ASID board, that it is time to broaden our government and public policy agenda to include business issues, as they affect an even greater number of our members.

Interior designers are fortunate to have such a strong bench of talented people working on their behalf. All interior design professionals, whether a member of ASID or not, benefit from the resources of our Government and Public Affairs department, which is the team responsible for executing ASID’s legislative initiatives. This dedicated staff is joined by the Legislative and Codes Advisory Council, made up of ASID volunteers who add their perspective and talent to the team. Their most significant work in 2011 and 2012 has been focusing on managing the deregulation efforts that are evident on many states’ agendas. They analyze relationships with various stakeholders, including state interior design coalitions, and develop strategies to support regulations which align with ASID policy.

There is no question that they are battling adversaries who possess serious financial resources, but this nimble, smart group works wonders to advance the entire profession of interior design. I want to thank them publically for organizing a successful Legislative Symposium, and for all they continue to do in advocating for interior designers’ business and professional interests.


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