Another voice has been added to the ongoing conversation regarding whether legally registering the interior design profession is a good idea. Who spoke up and what they said might surprise you.
To give a little background, the first U.S. jurisdiction to pass interior design legislation was Puerto Rico (1973) and the first state was Alabama (1982)-both initially enacting titling legislation. Over the years, 23 other states and the District of Columbia have passed interior design laws, and six of those jurisdictions that regulate interior design now have practice acts on the books. The goal of these bills is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public by defining the scope of interior design practice and setting standards of education, experience and examination for its practice.
Historically, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been viewed as the primary opponent of interior design legislation. AIA's legislative policy specifically opposes the licensure of the interior design profession. In fact, AIA opposes practice regulation of all disciplines other than architecture and engineering in the building design profession. Further, although their policy does not preclude the enactment of titling legislation for other professions (so long as architects are eligible to use the titles), in practice, AIA has opposed titling legislation for interior designers, as well. AIA contends that in the built environment, the design responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the public lies with licensed architects and engineers and AIA opposes any dilution of this responsibility. It is the exclusive territory of architects and engineers, so to speak.
As the movement to license the interior design profession has grown, AIA has been joined in their opposition by other groups who fear their employees or members will be harmed by legislation that sets professional qualifications for interior designers. These groups include furniture retailers and specialty segments, such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association. These groups contend that their employees or members will be put at a disadvantage in the marketplace because they will appear less qualified. They advocate that licensing of interior designers is about elitism and setting an advantage for a select few.
Recently, even nationally syndicated columnist George Will, supporting a position advocated by an anti-regulatory group called the Institute for Justice, weighed in on the issue. Understandably, politicians in some states view the brouhaha over interior design legislation as nothing more than a turf war.
It seemed all parties were present and opinionated in the discussion, except for one: the party with the most to gain or lose — the consumer. ASID thought it was time to ask consumers directly and submitted the question in June to a national omnibus survey of more than 1,000 adults comprised of an even mix of male and female respondents. Some of the highlights of the results follow:
- Three out of four want the design professional they hire to remodel a room in their home to be licensed.
- More than half feel that not being able to distinguish between licensed interior designers and unlicensed interior designers from their titles harms them with respect to hiring decisions.
- Nearly seven in 10 believe that being able to identify qualified interior designers by their title helps them with respect to safety issues.
Interior design legislation may be positioned as a battle over turf by its opponents, but to the consumers of interior design services, it is a matter of confidence and safety. Interior design registration acts are consumer protection acts. Consumers recognize that. More than half the states in the country have also acknowledged that. It's time the opposition does, too.
ASID president Suzan Globus, FASID, is an award-winning 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.