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01/01/2004

Raising the Bar

Lewis J. Goetz, FIIDA, FAIA

Why higher standards are needed.

 
FORUM IIDA

Raising the Bar
Setting higher standards must be ingrained in our personal and professional development.

by Lewis J. Goetz, FIIDA, FAIA

Raising the bar of professional standards is an important component in the maturity of a profession. One just needs to look at professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers or architects. Each has elevated its knowledge base, ensuring quality control of the profession without being exclusionary or elitist. The knowledge required to understand, evaluate and synthesize critical information and knowledge attributed to that profession and the demands to protect the public at large make it essential to "raise the bar." As the profession of interior design matures, it becomes important to raise its standards as well.

In legislative circles, it is common knowledge that licensing is proposed to protect the public, not necessarily for the advocacy or good of an industry. As an association and a leader for our profession, we believe it is time to raise our standards . . . advocating a higher benchmark for both the protection of the public and what is good for our profession. It is necessary for the development of the profession of interior design and it is necessary for the protection of the public in issues of their health, safety and welfare.

Setting higher standards for the profession help insure that the public is protected from practitioners who don't have the knowledge or experience to provide the services required by trained and licensed interior designers and to further protect the public from designs that could actually be harmful to individuals and/or the general public.

Raising the bar encompasses all aspects of the current profession's standards including education, post-education, testing, licensing and continuing education. In today's environment, and at a minimum, this means graduation from a FIDER-accredited, four-year interior design program. Knowledge is gained as much on the job as in the classroom, and internships are a crucial component of one's professional development. Two-year internship programs should be the minimum requirement. NCIDQ's Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP) can help, but internships are available through most university career centers as well. IIDA can also be a resource to track career development leads. Internships and full-time employment opportunities are available through the Career Center on IIDA's Web site at www.iida.org.

Testing is the next step in the professional development path. Consumers would not hire a lawyer who has not passed the bar exam or a doctor or architect who has not sat for the state boards. Likewise, passage of the NCIDQ is an essential qualifier for a professional in interior design, and another step in the protection of the public for health, safety and welfare issues. A first step is to educate the public of the importance of hiring licensed practitioners supported by an association of like-minded individuals with a commitment within the industry to the highest standards of practice. Practitioners, too, need to understand the importance of passage of the NCIDQ and licensing within their states, an element that should be reinforced by recognition within their firms. Whether recognition comes in the form of title change, or elevated project role, peer and community recognition of the importance of testing is an important marker in the development of the profession.

Further, IIDA is committed to supporting interior design licensing laws for every state. Licensure can give the state the power to revoke the license of an unethical or incompetent practitioner and the ability for a consumer to legally resolve grievances. It differentiates true interior design professionals from those without the necessary expertise or credentials, who merely pose as interior designers. Thus, the public image and the quality of the profession continue to rise fastest in states with legislation. Through continuing education and stringent requirements for licensure, we are able to ensure the quality of those who practice interior design, and those that receive their professional services.

As all professionals know, learning does not end at graduation. As the only professional interior design program to require continuing education for membership, IIDA remains forceful in its belief that continuing education is essential to the advancement of the profession. Here membership in professional associations like IIDA can be critical to an individual's development with access to cutting-edge research, symposiums and keynote speakers. In addition, IIDA supports legislation that requires continuing education as a part of any licensing, certification or registration program at the state level. It is important to ensure life-long learning in a profession that continues to grow and mature in its knowledge base.

Finally, the mark of a mature profession is knowing at which stage of a project's development to get involved and the true scope of services a licensed interior designer can provide. Knowing when to call in other experts in allied fields is essential, as is entering a project early enough to audit the scope of the project. Collaboration can ensure the success of a project in its entirety, not just in its interior solution.

In the end, though, "raising the bar" must be more than a theoretical imperative. It must be part of the culture ingrained in all of us individually, in our firms, in an element of our mentoring to young designers, and it must be reflected in all of our interactions with clients. A call to raise the bar for the profession must mean support for individual best practices, which become the building blocks for the advancement of the profession. The success of others should be seen as good for the group, rather than as competition. In every industry, there is the select group of professionals pushing the profession forward with true innovative solutions to common problems—those on the cutting edge, using evidence-based research in support of applied techniques. These are the leaders of the future. Technical skill can be tested; creativity and innovation cannot.


  • IIDA president Lewis J. Goetz, FIIDA, FAIA, is founding principal and CEO of Group Goetz Architects, Washington, DC. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL, and can be reached at (888)799-IIDA; www.iida.org.

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