Defining the FUTURE of DESIGN

John Lijewski, FIIDA, LEED AP

Why the NCIDQ Exam still matters.


Why the NCIDQ

By John Lijewski, FIIDA

As someone who has spent many years in service to the design profession, I frequently have been engaged by colleagues in various discussions on the need to raise the bar of professionalism in the industry. Such conversations often circle back to influencing public perception of interior design and the role of interior design professionals. While IIDA is involved in multiple strategies promoting educational opportunities for our members, their clients, the public and legislators, sometimes advocacy starts closer to home, among peers. It's time to show we're serious about design.

In the 30 years since NCIDQ administered its first test, a little more than 18,000 people have registered for and successfully passed the exam. Given the recent estimates of more than 100,000 individuals currently practicing interior design, that leaves a large portion of those working in the profession without certifying credentials.

In a society where designers and architects are given press coverage for projects that seem more like publicity stunts than good design, it is easy to see why certification is dismissed by some. However, top firms increasingly are mandating passage of the NCIDQ exam as a requisite for promotion, and it is a required path for professional membership in IIDA. Also, many states have legislation that requires it in order to practice in the field. We quickly are reaching the tipping point when accreditation will become more than a solid resume item, but a definitive requirement for practicing.

Additionally, signs point to a natural evolution in thought as an ever-growing workforce is fueled by a new generation of designers. More than 95 percent of IIDA Student Members plan to take the NCIDQ exam; more than half of them within two years of graduation. And these are not just 20-year-olds. Nearly 46 percent of these students are second- or third-career professionals 31 and older who have returned to school to pursue their interior design degree. These graduates will be entering the workforce with not only the design skills necessary to compete, but business skills learned from previous employment. Regardless of age, these are designers who will begin to vie for leadership-track positions within the next few years, and nearly all will have an NCIDQ certificate number listed on their business card.

What can you or your firm do to advocate professional standards? Commitment to
education should be a part of your workplace culture, not just a tagline on your Web site or in a brochure. Set an example by encouraging employees and coworkers to sit for the exam. Lunch-and-learns can be used as study sessions, and many IIDA Chapters and other industry groups host NCIDQ study sessions that can be supported. Additionally, it takes little more than a desire to help to be a mentor, formally or informally, to a young designer in your firm or community. We often learn by example, and encouraging another's professional development by offering lessons learned from your own experience is an invaluable gift for the future of design.

Further, we all should commit to lifelong learning even after studying for and passing the exam. IIDA can be a resource for you—download structured research through the beta
version of our Knowledge Center, attend one of our chapter-sponsored CEU programs, or access one of the various self-study options available online or by contacting the
Headquarters education department.

Professional associations are an important resource for dissemination of information, and IIDA can be a resource for you and your firm. Don't hesitate to contact IIDA for resources and information as we take a stand together to promote professional standards of practice for ourselves, our peers and the next generation of designers.

  • IIDA president John Lijewski, FIIDA is a principal at Perkins & Will, New York. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL, and can be reached at (888) 799-IIDA;