ASID: The Importance of Registering the Profession


The profession of interior design in the United States has reached a tipping point. From its birth, that many trace to the New York "society decorators" and Syrie Maugham's iconic white rooms in the early 1900s, to the current class of advanced degree designers who are addressing sustainability; health, safety and welfare; and—yes, still—white rooms, this precocious baby of a profession has been shaped by its practitioners. Now, more than ever, interior designers' involvement in the growth of the profession is critical to its continued healthy development.

Practitioners and interior design educators have been successful through the years in establishing benchmarks for this profession; for example, the American Institute of Decorators (AID) and the National Society of Interior Designers (NSID) established the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) before they merged to form the American Society of Interior Designers in 1975. Educational accreditation and intern programs, as well as recognition and regulation of the profession among many states, have propelled the profession to where it is today.

Currently, the profession feels robust. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ranks of practicing interior designers in the United States has increased by about 20,000 since the year 2000, and the number of interior design firms has increased by more than 450. In May 2006, Oklahoma became the 26th state or jurisdiction to enact interior design legislation to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Enrollments in interior design
programs around the country are up, and the number of designers registering to take the NCIDQ exam has increased as well. The ASID membership has swelled to 38,000, including 6,500 commercial designers, 4,500 residential designers and 9,500 designers who practice both. They are joined by 12,000 student members and 6,000 industry representatives. And those numbers continue to grow each month.

Design is poker hot. Dozens of television shows are devoted to covering variations of design. It seems a month does not go by without the launch of a new design magazine, and coverage of design is now daily fare in the mass media. Design has become front page news in the business press, with Fortune, Forbes, Business Week and Fast Company all reporting on design on a regular basis. Universities such as Stanford and the University of Minnesota are bringing their various design programs under one umbrella to create schools of design—the "D" schools. Even advertising agencies and insurance companies today are offering design services. Everyone, it seems, wants in.

Interior design is growing up quickly. Perhaps in response, stakeholder organizations such as NCDIQ, IDEC, CIDA and the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC) are discussing increasing minimum standards of professional practice and design education. All signs point to interior design following the path to full professionalization already trod by medicine, law, architecture and others. However, to reach the end of that path, the
profession needs to be legally recognized in every U.S. state and jurisdiction.

With the sudden influx of people offering a variety of design and decorative services, it's easy to understand how confusing the market has become for consumers. Regulating the profession assists the public in identifying those practitioners who are qualified througheducation, examination and experience to
practice interior design and, thereby, to protect the health, safety and welfare of building occupants. Regulation also helps qualified practitioners to distinguish themselves in the marketplace and to substantiate the value they bring to any design project.

The good news is that we are now halfway there; the challenge is that we still have halfway to go. The current legislative climate favors deregulation. With the relatively few number of designers in some of the more sparsely populated states and organized opposition in other states seeking new or stricter legislation, the reality is that considerable effort and persistence will be needed to achieve victory. It is critical, therefore, that all practitioners get involved
in this effort now. We should not lose sight of the fact that in the Unites States it took the profession of architecture more than 100 years to reach this goal. As usual, interior designers are ahead of schedule, but we must stay on task if we're going to get the job done.

ASID President Suzan Globus, FASID, is an awardwinning interior designer, who consults on public, educational and museum libraries. She is a principal of Globus Design Associates in Red Bank, NJ. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or, and on the Web at