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; andyes, stillwhite
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 designthe "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
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org, and on the Web at www.asid.org.