The Case for Certified Designers

IDLNY discusses the importance of design certification in the interior design profession.

06/01/2016

For the past several years, IDLNY (Interior Designers for Legislation in New York) has been working with lawmakers in the New York State Senate and Assembly who are sponsoring bills S.1137 and A.3446 during this legislative session. If passed, the legislation would grant sign and seal privileges to interior designers working within the scope of practice defined by New York State law. We’ve supported the legislation through a grassroots letter-writing campaign to ensure that the voices of all design professionals could be heard loud and clear in the state capital. At the time of writing, no decision has been made, though it’s possible this legislation will go to a vote in both houses by the time it goes to print.

For those who aren’t familiar with IDLNY, you are undoubtedly aware of the member organizations that comprise our organization. An industry coalition including IIDA NY, ASID NY Metro and Upstate, and The Decorator’s Club, we serve to advance, promote, and monitor the right to practice interior design in the state of New York and act as a spokes-group for interior designers within New York State government.

The “sign and seal” legislation we’re fighting for addresses two issues. First, it provides that being a certified interior designer is more than just an appellation denoting achievement of certain credentials. A certified designer will also have professional privileges in line with their practice; in this case, the ability to sign and seal one’s own documents for projects within the scope of interior design practice. Second, it serves to strengthen and enhance the perception of our professional abilities in a wider community.

In states where sign and seal rights are already in place—Georgia is a superb example—certified interior designers are regularly engaged as project leaders, professionally equal to the other design disciplines hired for a project, such as architects and engineers. With sign and seal privileges in effect, we’re able to see a fundamental positive shift in the perception of value in what a certified interior designer brings to a project. At the most basic level, the designer is no longer seen as a professional needing another “more responsible” professional to approve their design work. Therefore, a significant impact of this legislation beyond the practical applications, is a new and improved appreciation of the interior design discipline.

It’s worth noting that some current practicing interior designers are used to working within the current business and legal environment, and don’t see the need for legislative change. They work around these inequities, perhaps not even recognizing them. At IDLNY, we are working with a long-term vision of the interior design profession in order to achieve meaningful benefits to new and future practitioners. Interior design is a distinct discipline, increasingly so as new technologies emerge and as our collective understanding about human interaction with the built-environment evolves. We hope to enlarge society’s understanding of the critical impact the interior environment has on human health, safety, and welfare.

If we are to achieve this relational shift in the State of New York, we believe it will have a significant effect on the future of the profession. We would then have a more strategic foundation from which to launch future campaigns, such as taking on a business law that currently prevents interior designers from being equal partners in a multi-discipline design firm. Imagine the business possibilities for a design go-getter who builds a large interior design firm with an architectural department, for example, or an architect and designer who work hand-in-hand being able to build a business together in equal partnership. We believe that the positive economic impact for the interior design professional of the future could be substantial.

Beyond the current campaign, IDLNY is dedicated year-round to education and outreach. We visit as many design schools as we can each year to keep students informed about what we are doing to advocate for an industry that will support them in their future careers. We also hold town hall meetings to engage and inform the larger design community, providing opportunities to ask questions and give feedback. For the last few years, these meetings have largely focused on the current push for the sign and seal legislation. We’ve also discussed NCIDQ and the value of certification in an increasingly specialized and sophisticated design industry. By attending industry and organization events and providing resources for interior designers to learn more about the legislation affecting the industry, and even guiding them on the path to certification, we strive to serve as both educator and activator across the design industry to encourage our fellow design professionals to advocate for the changes that would benefit their practices and their careers.

The letter writing campaign came together after months of steady and tenacious effort from IDLNY volunteers and coalition partners to prepare the legislative path, gain support from key officials and legislators, and ensure that the voices of the design community were heard in Albany. Whether or not the legislation is passed, hundreds of design professionals across the state, including 13 New York state interior design schools with four-year degree programs, sent in letters confirming their support and offering the bill sponsors ammunition to convince their fellow legislators that these bills are necessary and have strong support from their constituents. The letters from all of us serve as a barometer to our elected officials of the importance of the legislation and the strength of the design community. Whatever happens with the current legislative body, we will continue to focus on improving the profession and advocating for changes that will serve the interior design community.

For more information on how to become involved, please visit IDLNY.org, or attend their gala at the Intrepid in NYC on June 29th.

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