Champions of Advocacy

The IIDA Advocacy Symposium encourages designers to define the profession and shift public perception.

11.01.2016
By Genny Ramos and Abigail Rathbun

Champions of Advocacy Champions of Advocacy

What happens when you gather more than 100 interior designers, lobbyists, and a marijuana advocate for three days in Denver? You get an inspiring and successful second annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium. Interior design advocates from around the country descended upon Denver Sept. 23-26 for an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the legislative landscape and gain access to resources designed to bolster advocacy efforts.

“The IIDA Advocacy Symposium not only trains advocates on how to talk about the profession of interior design and the complexities of government, it also brings together design advocates from around the country to meet and learn from one another,” said Emily Kluczynski, MPPA, director of Advocacy, Public Policy and Legislative Affairs at IIDA.

An Advocate’s Agenda

Colorado Senator Pat Steadman and Representatives Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Jeni Arndt kicked off the symposium with insight into how legislators view advocates and what they hope to gain from meeting with them.

The key takeaway: Relationships matter. “We’re just your neighbors,” Representative Arndt said. “We come into this line of work as community service, so nothing gives us more pleasure than helping someone, understanding an issue, or knowing what’s going in our community.”

The panel, “How to Define Interior Design Advocacy Success,” featured lobbyist Amy Coombs, MSW, from IDEAL-Utah, and IIDA members Holly Baird, MBA, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, and Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, Assoc. AIA. The panelists made clear that beyond legislative action, civic involvement and community engagement are important successes that shift attitudes and educate constituents about what designers do—a critical step in the advocacy process.

The highlight of the day was keynote speaker Mason Tvert, communications director, Marijuana Policy Project, who spoke about how grassroots advocacy changed Colorado’s perception of marijuana. Tvert recounted his organization’s success, from educating the public on the true effects of marijuana to pushing people to talk openly about their usage. Whatever your opinion about marijuana may be, the campaign changed the way people talk about it, perceive it, and own it.  

The IIDA Advocacy Symposium not only trains advocates on how to talk about the profession of interior design and the complexities of government, it also brings together design advocates from around the country to meet and learn from one another.

—Emily Kluczynski, MPPA, director of Advocacy, Public Policy and Legislative Affairs, IIDA.

“We started pushing people to talk to each other about the issue, which sounds so trite and simple, but is amazingly not done a lot of times,” Tvert said.

Tvert’s message resonated with designers who must get comfortable with who they are and proactively educate the public on what they do, especially as they play an increasingly fundamental role in ensuring health and well-being in the built environment.

Honoring Interior Design Advocates

To recognize the efforts of dedicated interior design advocates, IIDA created two awards naming both an Advocate and a Legislator of the Year.
What this year’s award recipient accomplished as vice president of Advocacy of the IIDA Rocky Mountain Chapter is unparalleled. The goal for Advocate of the Year, Karen Hailey, IIDA, NCIDQ, EDAC, was to “make advocacy sexy.” And she did. Hailey collaborated with her state’s coalition to improve branding, hosted an opposition panel forum, planned a “coffee at the capitol” event engaging more than 35 legislators, and created a student advocacy committee, in addition to other initiatives designed to inspire and motivate her chapter.

IIDA awarded Utah State Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) with the Legislator of the Year award. As the sponsor of S.B. 117, the Commercial Interior Design Certification bill, Sen. Escamilla worked to ensure that her fellow lawmakers knew commercial interior design certification would expand business opportunities. Her tireless efforts were successful: S.B. 117 passed unanimously in the state Senate and House of Representatives before being signed into law.

What’s Next?

On the final day of the symposium, IIDA unveiled a study that examines the economic impact of the interior design profession in the United States. Research conducted by Chmura Economics & Analytics on behalf of IIDA found:

  •  The total annual economic impact of the interior design sector is estimated to be more than $96 billion, which can support 522,400 jobs annually.
  • The sector generates significant economic impact in state economies, and contributes sizable tax revenue to the state governments.
  • The average wage in the interior design sector is 16 percent higher than the average wage for all sectors.

The bottom line: Interior design is serious business, and these results provide the hard facts advocates need when talking to legislators about what interior design is and how it affects their state’s economy. As IIDA executive vice president and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, said, “We need new ways of fighting old battles,” and the economic impact study is just one example of the advocacy resources IIDA offers its members to do just that.

“I am excited for our profession and what lies ahead with finally having the recognition that we deserve,” said Marlene Liriano, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, president of the IIDA International Board of Directors. With the passage of the Commercial Interior Design Certification bill in Utah and 100-plus interior designers educated and inspired to make big changes, it looks promising that our industry will get there.

The third annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium will be held in Chicago in September 2017. Visit iida.org for information and details about registration.