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Should interior designers be licensed?

Posted on Jun 30, 2010 by in design, furniture, interior design, society & aesthetics, state licenses

Right now the Pennsylvania state legislature is debating about whether or not licenses should be required for interior designers. This has generated a lot of negative reactions from the public, primarily because the news of the deliberations broke before the budget had been passed by for the fiscal year.  Twenty-six states require interior designers to be licensed and lobbies in several other  states are bringing the issue to their local legislators.

Truth be told, I’m ambivalent on the matter. My mother once suggested that I go back to school and study interior design. I dismissed the idea because the states that require licenses generally require two to four years of education plus an additional year of internship. I already have a Bachelor degree and a Masters.  I am not eager to spend the money on yet another degree, so I treat it as a hobby that benefits my career in the furniture industry.  I do have to suppress the impulse to rearrange all the furniture in the homes of my relatives when I go visit.

There are two major interior design organizations in the US: American Society for Interior Design (ASID) and Interior Design Society (IDS).  These are the organizations that write the tests for licensure.  IDS was initially started by the National Home Furnishings Association (NHFA) to develop a retailer-friendly certification that would provide training to their staff and give credibility to their advice; IDS has broken off from the parent organization and has taken a more restrictive approach to the title of Interior Designer.

As you ponder the debate, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • A significant majority of students who graduate with a degree in Interior Design do not work in the field for more than a couple of years.
  • Certification tests developed by national organizations may not adequately address local building codes.
  • Interior Designers may have access to sources that the general public does not.
  • Independent Designers work without many of the overhead costs that retailers do, and may pass the associated savings on to their clients.
  • Most manufacturers charge Interior Designers more for their products because they cannot sell the same volume of merchandise that a retailer can.
  • The study and practice of Interior Design has real benefits for the individuals who live and work in the spaces they create.

So, given all the information above, here are my conclusion:

  1. Interior Designers are talented and educated individuals that provide a service that is in demand.
  2. The services of a trained Interior Designer can be important to the functionality of  private spaces and vital in public spaces.
  3. Egos can inflate the importance of any individual, organization or career field in the grand scheme of things.

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