The art of authentic advocacy is not something taught in school. In my experience as a lobbyist and advocate for the interior design profession I am asked a lot of questions, the most common of late always being a variation of, “How did you get the architects to testify on your behalf?” followed by, “Why is legislation important and why should I care?”
Many of the great and talented interior designers on the Utah State Design Coalition working on legislation and professional advocacy expressed doubts in their ability to create change, but not without a desire to learn. Answering the question, “Why?” and discovering the “why” is an individual process where personal meaning develops from inquiry, investigation (data collection), action, and reflection (evaluation). The experience of working to pass Utah’s Commercial Interior Design Certification law earlier this year is an illustration of why interior designers should care about legislation and professional advocacy.
Background: Utah’s Interior Design Law
UT SB117 allows interior designers, who were prohibited from independently practicing above 3,000 square feet in commercial spaces, to do so. It formally recognizes commercial interior design as a profession. The expanded scope of practice enables qualified interior designers to practice in Occupancies B & M, removes prohibitions from bidding on state and government design work in these spaces, allows designers to claim credit and full liability for their work, maintain ownership of their designs, provides for a signature and number for permitting purposes, and designates a minimum standard for qualification as well as establishes continuing education.
Why does interior design legislation matter?
Advocating for the interior design profession means standing up for the right to practice independently. There are numerous ways to contribute that don’t require protesting or meeting with legislators. Practice rights in the case of interior design legislation means removing the burdensome requirements which define a “licensed design professional” as only an architect or engineer, and eliminating the requirement of their signatures to stamp and sign off on your work. That is the job of the building inspector.
Advocacy also means declaring that interior designers are qualified to bid on state and federal interior design projects, meet minimum competency standards, and contribute significantly to the economic well-being of the state through professional design work. Furthermore, advocates are asserting that interior designers should be permitted the opportunity to own a controlling interest in firms and are qualified to be the primary “designer in charge” of interior design projects, to hire sub-contractors, and to assume liability. Additional areas of concern worth investigating in relation to each state’s statistics are:
- Issues with access to capital
- Ownership and intellectual property
- Bidding and contracting
- Lack of diversity in governance and leadership
- Higher education institutions, achievement, and value
- Stakeholder monopolies