Apr 29, 2024 By Marci Merola
Collaborative Advocacy
Marci Merola, IIDA, shares insights on how the Consortium for Interior Design is driving industry recognition and regulation
By Marci Merola Apr 29, 2024
Published in Articles

(Above Image: IIDA 2024 Winter Chapter Leadership Council. Photo credit: Elliot Mandel)

Last summer I made the following statement, “The collective work being done for advocacy for the interior design profession is becoming a well-oiled machine.” Fast-forward seven months and I’m standing by my words. There is momentum sweeping across the design community, as well as an appetite for collaboration and legislative progress. That momentum is important to the strength of the interior design profession—but it’s also a key component of a strong design ecosystem for the entire industry.

Marci Merola
Director of Advocacy
Marci Merola
Director of Advocacy

IIDA has long supported “The registration, and/or certification of practicing interior designers who work in a code-impacted environment.” It’s part of our mission. But with recent shifts to the national landscape, including a growing recognition among the allied professions about the unique and indispensable role of interior designers, IIDA stepped into a formal collaboration with the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to strengthen efforts and exemplify a unified advocacy front for the profession. The Consortium for Interior Design pools resources, funding, and the collective knowledge of three national organizations to pursue increased legislation for the interior design profession.

The three organizations share the belief that the current state of interior design regulation should reflect the true impact of registered (also known as certified or licensed, depending on jurisdiction) interior designers in protecting public health, safety, and well-being.

Currently, many states do not recognize this impact or the extensive education, testing, and specialized knowledge of interior designers concerning safety solutions in the built environment. Today, interior design is regulated in 30 U.S. jurisdictions, with 16 of those states allowing qualified interior designers (those who are NCIDQ-certified and registered with their state) to practice independently. The lack of modernized regulation not only poses potential safety risks to the public but also creates unnecessary bureaucratic and consumer costs.

As IIDA’s Director of Advocacy, I’ve witnessed this powerful collective come together to strategize and streamline legislative progress, most recently during our 2024 Chapter Leaders Conference and Advocacy Workshop, held earlier this month in Chicago. Thirty-one advocacy leaders from IIDA’s thirty-seven chapters showed up to discuss the future of independent practice, share strategies and setbacks, and prepare for a stronger, brighter future.

Together, we took stock of all that has been accomplished over the last few years: Blueprint-worthy legislation passed in North Carolina in 2021, in Illinois and Wisconsin in 2022, and in Iowa last year. We nodded in agreement that 2022 was a banner year for legislative progress for interior designers, and that 2023 was crucial for organizing and strategizing. In the fall of 2023, for the first time, the Consortium for Interior Design was able to assist in funding states in their lobbying efforts. But there’s still work to do.

While creating solidarity within the profession is rewarding work, a more valuable task at hand is shifting that gaze from within the profession to eyeing new, external partners: allied professionals, architects, and industry partners, whose non-vested support and recognition of the interior design profession is worth its weight in gold.

Although I’ve seen this shift happen organically—in fits and starts—this past summer I participated in a methodical advocacy conversation around the topic through IIDA Ohio Kentucky chapter’s Thrive Leadership Roundtable, where practitioners posed the question “How is interior design legislation good for business?” to firm leaders, sales reps, architects, students, and educators in five of the chapter’s City Centers. While many innately understood legislation to be a good thing, the business benefits were less familiar. Firms which employ NCIDQ-certified and state-registered interior designers can easily tout a “full bench” of expert staff, ready and willing to take accountability for their work. For the built environment, interior design legislation helps to close the employment loop within a state, providing a robust environment for the industry—and its related professionals (furniture and materials dealers, installers, vendors, etc.)—to thrive. At the university level, states with legislation close the education loop, encouraging recent graduates to pursue careers in-state, in turn, feeding the business loop and boosting the economy.

It should be reiterated that there’s more to advocacy than legislation. As advocates in those states with recent legislative wins know, when you think it’s over, it’s just beginning. Building and sustaining relationships with decision-makers, colleagues, and allies is at the heart of advocacy, reinforcing the importance of interior design legislation and affirming the ways that experienced interior design work shapes the very nature and success of our lived-in spaces.

I believe that the heightened level of interest and excitement we are now experiencing will lead to more states recognizing interior designers’ role as professionals who protect building occupants’ health and overall well-being through their work. Better still, I hope it will further unite the disciplines of design toward a common goal and a stronger industry. After all, advocacy is a dialogue, not a monologue. And it’s amazing to see so many new faces joining the conversation.

Learn more about being an advocate for your profession with IIDA Advocacy here

This article originally appears in the February issue of Officeinsight.

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