ASID Responds

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

The American Association of Interior Designers sent the following letter in response to my Fox column:

Radley Balko’s description of the American Society of Interior Designers (in the March 24th issue of Reason magazine) as “bullying and cartel-like” is nothing short of outrageous.

Balko may think interior designers are no more than “pillow tossers”; but in fact they are professionals who are trained and evaluated, like all professionals.

Balko’s argument that the gap between amateur and professional is closing; that with a few weeks of study on the internet anyone can become an interior designer, is ill-informed. Would he suggest that lawyers, doctors and engineers get their training on-line?

Interior design is not, as Balko insists, a ‘fake profession’, anymore than architecture or engineering are fake professions. Building and designing space requires education, knowledge and expertise. This isn’t about flower arrangements or rug placement.

Interior design is more than aesthetic enhancement of space. Interior designers create spaces that are functional, efficient and safe, and enhance the quality of life.

When developing a design solution, an interior designer must consider ergonomics, dimensions, health and safety concerns, special needs, acoustics, environmental issues and the overall welfare of the occupants.

State qualified interior design professionals are educated, experienced, and have been evaluated to make sure they meet all the requirements to provide for the health, safety and welfare of individuals in both home and in commercial spaces.

Interior designers, for example, are trained to evaluate how spaces can best accommodate four-generation workplaces from strollers to wheelchairs. In their training they have learned how lighting and noise impacts productivity, how air quality can affect asthma and other health issues; and how fabric and flooring materials can provide the best protection against toxic fumes in the event of fire.

To call these professionals, who have been trained to protect the health and safety of their clients, “pillow tossers” is beyond insulting; it’s ignorant.

The members of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) work every day to provide spaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally friendly, safe and healthy.

They can hardly be called bullies because they insist that professionals be licensed, anymore than the AMA would be for insisting that all physicians be properly trained and licensed.

The bully here is Mr. Balko and those he represents.


The ASID Board of Directors

Rita Carson Guest, FASID
Suzan Globus, FASID
Bruce Goff, ASID
Dough Hartsell
Lisa Henry, ASID, LEEP AP
Mary G. Knopf, ASID, LEED AP
Barbara S. Marini, FASID
Patrick J. Schmidt, ASID
Teresa Sowell, ASID
Linda Sorrento, ASID, LEED AP

If ASID is really comparing interior design to medicine, I think they’ve proven my point about taking themselves far too seriously. If ASID were merely a professional organization interested in better educating consumers and designers, and were merely offering their good name and accreditation to designers who met some minimum standards, I’d have no problem with them.

But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re asking lawmakers to codify their notion of what interior design ought to be into law, to the point of excluding anyone who doesn’t meet their requirements from using the term “interior designer” under penalty of fines and jail time. That’s textbook protectionism. And they deserve to be ridiculed for it.

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60 Responses to “ASID Responds”

  1. #1 |  Lior | 

    I think you should make the point more forcefully: the reason architects and engineers are licensed is because badly constructed buildings are, well, dangerous. No licensing is required for anyone to design microchips, computers, or bicycles. Designing chemicals by computer simulation requires no license — though actual production might require a license if you are dealing with dangerous chemicals. A badly laid out interior may be inconvenient or inefficient, but it’s not dangerous. Computer technicians can be “trained professionals”; there are many courses, tests and certifications available — and yet no one argues that you should not be allowed to open a computer case without them.

    If “ASID certified” meant the interior designer might do a better job — then ASID would be fulfilling an important signaling function. But arguing that since some interior designers do a better job than others, the state must give one particular guild a monopoly on interior design is outrageous.

  2. #2 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    When did Harvard open their School of Interior Design? I must have missed that one.

  3. #3 |  Garrett J | 

    Jeeez Radley, you’re such a bully.

    You of all people should recognize the dangers of not having licensing requirements. Can you imagine if we allowed unlicensed journalists to like, report on news to the public?

    In all seriousness, I’m a “licensed” attorney, and we need fewer people in this world taking themselves so seriously, not more. Licensing is for suckers.

  4. #4 |  Chris | 

    I read the line
    ‘Balko may think interior designers are no more than “pillow’ …..and my stomach sank, but I was glad to see it finished with ‘”tossers”’. :)

    I guess I should have read the article.

  5. #5 |  Scott | 

    My mother owned and ran a successful furniture store for several years. She also took outside interior designing gigs when she had the time. She didn’t learn how to make a room look beautiful from accreditation classes, certification training and evaluation, or anything of the sort. She learned by using her innate talent, working in other successful furniture stores, learning from other great interior designers (none of whom are “accredited”), getting customer feedback, and using simple trial and error. I doubt any of her customers even thought to ask if she was a “licensed” interior designer, or even cared. Her store and her customer’s satisfaction spoke for themselves.

    I haven’t had the chance to ask her what she thinks of all this, but I’m sure she’d say that licensing for interior design is pure BS. How can you license something so subjective? From what I understand, the ASID would have loved to throw my mother in jail just because she wouldn’t buy into their licensing scam and pay their dues. It’s also apparent the ASID would consider her less of a “professional interior designer” because of it. Being a member of a professional organization is one thing. Forcing others in the business to join that organization or suffer the consequences is entirely something else.

  6. #6 |  Marty | 

    ‘LEED AP’ requires no education- just pay $350 and take the test. However, it’s ‘going to become more valuable’ because the tests are becoming more difficult.

    Thanks for the article- I almost made a grave mistake and moved my couch without consulting a true professional…

    Semi-interesting article on LEED AP certification at:

  7. #7 |  Timon | 

    You wouldn’t trust your daughter’s eyeball to an unlicensed surgeon – why would you trust your throw pillows to an unlicensed tosser?

  8. #8 |  » Latest Fight in the Nationwide Cartelization War Liberty is for me… | 

    […] And yesterday, Radley Balko wrote a stirring, must-read column for FOX. He does not hold back on attacking the cartel. And the cartel is pissed! They’ve responded, here. […]

  9. #9 |  Highway | 

    Wow, I don’t think they could have done more to prove your point from the article, Radley.

  10. #10 |  Jaisn | 


    I think part of the issue here is that you’re attacking the ASID by comparing them to interior decorators. There’s a difference. My architecture firm doesn’t hire decorators, it hires designers. It’s a very fuzzy line between the two. We want designers with training, who understand buildings and spaces, life and safety codes, etc. This is different than hiring the lady down the street to give you ideas about what color wallpaper to hang and to help you find matching pillows at Pier 1. (That’s not to say we don’t write contracts that include doing these things if the client is so inclined) Our people are involved on issues related to the structure of the building and how it goes together, a far cry from pillow tossing.

    I hear where you’re coming from on this, but the design professions continually blur together, enough for me to advise you to consider a more nuanced approach. Where is the line between a decorator choosing pillows but also advising a client to knock down a wall (is it a bearing wall?), take out that back hall no one uses (is it an egress corridor?), etc? Going from decorator to architect isn’t always as big a leap as you might think. Assuming a decorator sticks to pillows, it’s absurd to require licensing, but at the other end of the spectrum, you want to know that person has had some education regarding how a building stands up before they get out the sledge hammer.

    I don’t have an answer but I do feel this isn’t as cut and dry as you’ve presented it.

  11. #11 |  JSB | 

    Much like Highway states, a classic case of digging their own grave…Radley for the win

  12. #12 |  Jaisn | 

    I should add that after all I said, I’m still not convinced a license is necessary.

  13. #13 |  Robert | 

    I can only shake my head and laugh at this one. Next thing you know, the convenience store cashiers association is going to want to require accredidation in order to work the cash register in a convenience store.

    No worries though, as soon as the term “Interior Decorator” requires a license, unlicensed interior decorators will begin to call themselves Interior Decorator Artists, or Interior Artists, or Interior Specialists, or Decoration Specialists.

    So, if this passes, will a SWAT team come bust down my door if I move my couch?

  14. #14 |  Christopher Monnier | 

    There is definite legitimacy behind the argument that good interior design can reduce things like workplace accidents, cumulative trauma disorders (such as carpal tunnel), and general happiness while occupying a space. It’s also true that not anyone with an eye for combining colors is necessarily qualified to design a space to optimize the needs of the occupants.

    Anyone can design a website, and many people can design an aesthetically-pleasing website. But it takes special training/education to understand how to make that website usable. Not functional, but usable. Hate Flash-only sites? Probably the work of someone who’s good at creating aesthetically-pleasing visuals but not at creating a usable interface that allows users to get what they need from that interface quickly.

    So there’s definitely a difference between someone who goes to Rhode Island School of Design for a graduate degree in Interior Architecture and someone who gets a certificate in Interior Decorating from an adult education program.

    I guess the argument is that people are too stupid to make this distinction on their own and that they need the government to do it for them by banning non-degreed people from calling themselves “designers.” This argument is, of course, absurd. First of all, it’s unlikely that the public will make a distinction between an “interior designer” and an “interior decorator.” Secondly, market pricing is a far more effective discriminator of a person’s training/education and quality than a government license. Does ASID really think that the person with a Master’s degree from one of the most prestigious design schools in the country will charge the same rate as someone who went to a couple of classes at the local technical college?

  15. #15 |  Chris | 

    Who is this “Dough Hartsell” that he feels as if he should be a signee this letter with all of these distinguished ASIDs?

  16. #16 |  Terri L. Maurer, FASID | 

    As the majority of those who responded and had their chuckles about what an interior designer is vs. an interior decorator, took Radley’s article to be gospel, it’s small wonder the term ‘pillow fluffer’ continues to be the base line for those who are uninformed about the difference between those who complete a four-or five-year college degree in interior design, and those who use their ‘talent’ and ‘trial and error’ to pull together pleasant color schemes to coordinate furniture upholstery, drapery fabrics, carpet, and yes, even a pillow or two.

    The two are not the same. You are talking about two different professions that have been using the same name (decorators feel that ‘designer’ sounds more important, I guess) for entirely different professions. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with someone wanting to be an interior decorator/designer. They provide a valuable service to many home owners who need help in those area.

    But, all of those decorating professionals are not educated to the point of including ergonomics into their designs, even in home office areas. They are not educated about the need for specialized fabrics, furnishings or space layouts for homes for the physically challenged, autistic children, family members with severe allergies, the elderly and very young.

    Many interior designers are not practicing in the field of residential design, but are working alongside architects, engineers, acoustic and lighting designers in public buildings, creating environments where everyone who uses those spaces will be safe…not just from the building falling down on them, but also situations where toxic gases can be generated during fires from materials used to furnish and finish those spaces. Furniture plans are created to adhere to fire and safety codes, leaving clear ways for occupants to exit a building in an emergency. Specification of furnishings in public buildings that will reduce work injuries like repetitive strain injury, back and neck pain and eye strain. It is far more than ‘fluffing pillows’ and picking out a nice color of wall paper or pretty draperies. Interior design is about life safety.

    If those who find humor in Radley’s unsubstantiated comments about design and some of the legislation in the US and Canada regulating interior design would look into the reality, they would find a very different situation. Of the 25+ jurisdictions with legislation on their books, only a hand full are ‘licensed’. The others have what is known as a ‘title’ act in place which restricts the use of the ‘title’ Interior Designers to those with education from an accredited university, work experience and passage of the NCIDQ qualifying examination which tests on health, safety and welfare issues.

    Many of the ‘title acts’ in place do not in any way keep decorator/designers from continuing to call themselves ‘interior designers’. These acts are simply to let the public know, when choosing a professional to meet their specific needs, which of those in the field have education and testing behind them for the more involved and difficult projects.

  17. #17 |  Radley Balko | 

    Jaisn —

    I appreciate the distinction. But ASID has certainly done its part to blur the line. Note the Nevada law. It doesn’t say you need certification to make structural changes to a building. It says you need it merely move a piece of furniture under the title of interior designer.

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    So Ms. Mauer, is it your contention then, that ASID does not support legislation requiring a state license (under guidelines set by ASID) for someone to advertise their services as an “interior designer?”

    Or are you merely saying that most states haven’t yet passed such a law?

    Few states may have actually passed such a law. But that’s different from saying that ASID doesn’t support the idea.

  19. #19 |  Robert | 

    I hate to break it to everyone, but probably a good 50 to 75 percent of occupations that people get an undergraduate degree for can be learned in few months by someone with the desire and aptitude (and a cable modem). At least to the same skill level that someone coming right out of college would have.

    Anyone can design a website, and many people can design an aesthetically-pleasing website. But it takes special training/education to understand how to make that website usable.

    No it doesn’t, it just takes a little practice and some natural skill.

  20. #20 |  Milton | 

    Get it right ASID.

    Licsense: Inferior Decoraters, Interior Desecrators, Pillow Decorators, Pillow Desecrators, Pillow Designers, etc.

    Case closed.

  21. #21 |  Danno49 | 

    “Would he suggest that lawyers, doctors and engineers get their training on-line?”

    In the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel:

    “Is this a joke?”

  22. #22 |  Dave Krueger | 

    If interior design is so demanding that only the highly trained can deliver a quality product, then that fact should be obvious to the consumer without need of licensing. That is unless one has such an insultingly low opinion of the public that they don’t trust them to know good from bad.

    If there’s anything the world has too many of, it’s people who just can’t stand anyone making their own decisions about things that affect their own lives.

    When I pick a contractor, I go on recommendations from people I trust. I sure as hell don’t rely on licensing. And if I pick poorly, it’s no consolation to know I was screwed by someone with a license.

  23. #23 |  Kevin | 

    Wow, talk about inflating one’s importance, I guess such talk makes the FASID people feel good about themselves, but their response and comments here really do prove Radley’s point.

    For example, they keep harping on the whole ‘toxic fumes’ idea, but furniture coverings are regulated to minimize them. (Interestingly, the American Home Furnishing Alliance has online training (:) A fire is an unpredictable, dynamic event, and I am skeptical that toxic fumes can be mitigated by a choice of where to place a couch (unless you choose to place it outside). But, tell enough people that only those approved by your group can save them from toxic fumes, and some of them will start to believe it.

    The following quotes best illustrate these points:

    “Of the 25+ jurisdictions with legislation on their books, only a “hand full are ‘licensed’.The others have what is known as a ‘title’ act in place which restricts the use of the ‘title’ Interior Designers to those with education from an accredited university, work experience and passage of the NCIDQ qualifying examination”

    25+ ? Does that mean 26? 30? And exactly how many are a ‘handful’? Generally, government does not relax it’s regulatory power over the people. These ‘title’ acts will give the groups which anoint their brethren with many capital letters such as ASID more power, and these groups will use that power to generate more regulation, giving them more power, etc… That’s what it’s all about. Titles today, Licenses tomorrow. BTW, in those ‘handful’ that require licenses, did ASID lobby for the licensing process? Who determines who gets a license, and what the criteria are? I bet I can guess……

    Whether they are called titles, licenses, certifications, it does not matter. These are all exclusionary tactics used to limit competition, and increase the titling/licensing/certifying group’s power. The response to Radley’s article makes that obvious. How dare Radley question the power and importance of all of those important people with lots of capital letters following their name?

    “Interior design is about life safety.”

    Are you kidding me? Was that typed with a straight face? “Life Safety?”

    Try to guess which of the following items are actually about life safety, and which are not:

    1. Paramedic Training and Certification
    2. Brain Surgeon Education and Certification
    3. Building design and construction certification
    4. Air bags and seat belts
    5. Speed limits and road and highway design
    6. Knowing the best place to put a couch, what colors make people happy, and what the best chair is for someone with a bad back.

    BTW, if it really is about safety, why allow those who call themselves interior decorators as opposed to ‘designers’ to practice? That would be like allowing someone to do brain surgery without a license as long as they call themselves brain fixer-uppers.

  24. #24 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    Why do I keep getting the image of some Liberace/Elton John type frothing at the mouth and having a petulant frenzy over Radley’s column? I know that’s politically incorrect…but it REALLY is the image I get…heh heh.

  25. #25 |  designer | 

    NCIDQ, the organization which administers the exam to be licensed or certified was founded in 1974 by, guess who? ASID. ASID also helped found CIDA in 1970, the organization that accredits the schools that you have to graduate from in order to qualify to take the NCIDQ exam. Can you say “CARTEL?”

    All three of these organizations stand to gain financially from this licensing scheme. Follow the money and you’ll find the truth.

  26. #26 |  de libertate » Pillow Tossers | 

    […] he posted his latest column about professional licensing. To add to the mix the cartel responded and hilarity […]

  27. #27 |  The Johnny Appleseed Of Crack | 

    There is an important difference between degrees/certifications, and licensing. Degrees and certifications are an endorsement by some group (ex. university, professional association) that the holder has received training in that field, and/or that they have passed exams ostensibly proving their knowledge. There is nothing exclusionary about a degree. For example, you can call yourself an engineer, and get a job as such, even if you have a degree in physics, mathematics, or no degree at all. You just wouldn’t be able to say that you have such and such degree in engineering. This is not merely a hypothetical scenario, people with degrees in other fields are often hired as engineers, and expected to learn on the job.
    Licenses, by definition, are tools of exclusion, in which licenseholders are given permission to perform a certain function, which everyone else is prohibited from doing. Sometimes, a degree is a prerequisite to obtain a license, but that does not change the fact that they are two distinct concepts.

  28. #28 |  Lee | 

    “But it takes special training/education to understand how to make that website usable.”

    As a web programmer (I do the back end programming) I can tell you that all it takes is one (maybe two) angry client(s) reaming you a new oriface about their website to learn the basics of form versus function.

  29. #29 |  B | 

    Based on the response, I’d definitely say you got the “tossers” part right…

  30. #30 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The Johnny Appleseed Of Crack wrote:

    Licenses, by definition, are tools of exclusion, in which licenseholders are given permission to perform a certain function, which everyone else is prohibited from doing.

    Well said. Concise and to the point. The claim that licensing is intended to benefit the customer is transparent bullshit.

  31. #31 |  JSB | 

    Dave Krueger and Johnny Appleseed of Crack are right on the money…

  32. #32 |  R.A. Fisher's Goiter | 

    “The Institute for Justice found no statistically significant difference in the number of complaints to the Better Business Bureau in states that have adopted ASID recommendations versus states that hadn’t. In fact, there were actually more complaints filed in the regulated states.”

    Sentence 1 tells us the difference between the two types of states may be zero (i.e., any observed difference in the sample may be due to chance). Sentence 2 tells us it is a “fact” the difference is not zero. Do we still need the test then?

  33. #33 |  Timon | 

    Ms Mauer:

    There is no question that someone with specific knowledge in the area of child autistism is a good candidate to design or configure a home where an afflicted child lives. That is a separate question from whether you should have a state monopoly on the words “interior designer”, and you should be ashamed of yourself that you hitch your professional prerogatives to the misfortune of others. I suggest “psychiatrist” or “psychologist” for someone who actually know something about the subject.

  34. #34 |  Designers United | 

    I want to say something on behalf of American designers. The overwhelming majority of us do not belong or support ASID. They do not have a mandate nor have we elected them to speak for us. We do not WANT or Need to be regulated.

    I agree with Radley’s assessment of ASID. However, I do wish he had stopped there. To characterize designers as “hobbyists” “irrelevant” “fake profession” “pillow tossers” was offensive even to those of us who are opposed to regulation. Sure, we’re not physicians and should not be compared to them – they impact the safety of the public, designers do not. But we are honest, hard working small business entrepreneurs who provide a valid service to the public. Good design requires both creativity and critical thinking skills; the consumer is quite capable of assessing the qualifications of designers to fit their needs.

    ASID wants to raise the level of our profession. That’s a legitimate goal. But it’s not the function of the government to provide a state-sanctioned advantage for a small handful of designers while creating an unfair competitive disadvantage for the rest. If ASID had spent the alleged $5 million on educating the public on the value of hiring a designer instead of on lobbying for legislation to eliminate the competition, we would not be having this conversation.

  35. #35 |  Megs | 

    Heck, I’ve also known professional, knowledgeable carpenters and contractors who are extremely good at designing and constructing home and office design for ergonomics and special needs. Watching someone design living spaces for people in wheel chairs and the like, I realize that this takes some study and understanding. I think if I were purchasing such expertise, I’d probably go with someone who has actually studied interior design and makes a living at it, because they’d probably be up to the latest technology (some of which I had no idea about and is really cool how extremely safe things like stove tops can be). I can even see how much it would suck to hire someone who doesn’t make doorways big enough for a wheelchair to get through and a good way to avoid that is to go for some sort of accreditation.

    That said, passing darn laws that are overrestrictive and lapse into fields marginally concerned with this sort of design – that seems almost as much of a scam as someone passing themselves off as a specialized designer and screwing things up. Preventing people who may have just as much knowledge and experience and can do as good a job from doing the job, just because they aren’t part of a club, is complete BS. I don’t think these folks at ASID realize that a law is not a “guideline”. Making something illegal means you’r e putting force, putting threat behind something you should merely be recommending.

  36. #36 |  Christopher Monnier | 
    Anyone can design a website, and many people can design an aesthetically-pleasing website. But it takes special training/education to understand how to make that website usable.

    No it doesn’t, it just takes a little practice and some natural skill.

    Yeah, I mean, I’m sure that’s all Google or Microsoft require when hiring user interface designers…I see here on your resume you have…looks like a little practice and some natural skill…perfect!

  37. #37 |  Michael | 

    Reminds me of the licensing of doctors. They have a way to get rid of those doctors who they don’t agree with. With all of the uncertainty and arguing about the professions, the licenses have become the way to drive the stake through the heart of many good chronic pain management doctors! Some have called for de-liscensing of many professions and allow people to make the choice, of whom would treat them. I am sure I will get many arguments about it. But a well trained physician, with certificates of residency completion would be hard to beat!

  38. #38 |  Jim Collins | 

    I think that the State governments would be better off if they just came up with a definition of what constitutes an Interior Designer and an Interior Decorator. Is an Interior Designer going to be able to certify floor loadings, stairways, ventilation and other things that usually require an Architect or Structural Engineer? Covering that old fireplace with bricks might look ok, but how will it affect the structural loading? How much air flow is needed for that new fireplace? Can my kitchen floor support the granite countertop and new appliances that I want to add? These are all questions that concern the safety of a house and its occupants. If an Interior Designer is permitted to determine the answers for questions like these then I support schooling and licensing. If they have to consult an Architect or Structural Engineer for these answers and have them certify their safety then I do not support licensing.

  39. #39 |  Monica | 

    I understand that interior design is a serious business and requires more education and study than what most people realize. What I don’t understand is why one organization, ASID, thinks that they are the chosen ones (there are a number of credible design organizations out there) to design,create, and regulate legislation for the interior design profession of this country. It’s like they want to be a union for interiors designers, protect our jobs and charge us dues. I can’t say that ASID isn’t genuine in their concern for the publics safety but I am certain the gazillions in dollars that they will reap if they become the singular controller of legislation in this field has them working hard toward that end.

  40. #40 |  JUNE | 

    Contrary to Radley’s assertion that anyone ASID opposes is a pillow tossing hobbyist, there are many talented individuals that perform those very same functions but are not members of the “club”. But he is making a point, that ASID looks at non-professional members as fakers, hobbyists and unworthy of the ASID moniker.
    I am against legislation for the following reasons:
    I do not think anyone should be able to control how you make a living without a VERY good reason. ASID’s assertion that they are protecting the public is rediculous. Interior Designers may propose structural changes necessary to achieve an aesthetic goal but they do not authorize it. Generally, an architect, a professional engineer and/or the jurisdiction will sign off on a structural change.
    Any good business person knows that market forces dictate who stays in business and who does not. People that don’t do a good job don’t stay around for long.
    Any good business person has professional insurance to protect them and their clients should something go awry that could have a harmful outcome.
    Legislation is not necessary because it does not protect the public, it ensures that a small group of people will be able to carve out a protected chunk of work which will cause the average consumer to pay increased rates for the priviledge.
    Unfortunately ASID’s media machine and army of attorneys have convinced the public that their way is the ONLY way.
    I say it is not.

  41. #41 |  Freedom for Designers | 

    Answer to Monica’s question:

    In the ASID book From Practice to Profession, they claim that “representation through multiple professional member organizations [as] reducing the perceived clout of the practice.” They proceed to give the example of the American Bar Association as the one professional association for lawyers. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to assume that ASID’s agenda is to establish themselves as the ONE interior design association, and in conjunction with NCIDQ and CIDA, they would create a monopoly of the interior design profession. As someone else already said, follow the money — who stands to gain financially from interior design regulation?

  42. #42 |  Scott | 

    Ms. Maurer said “Many of the ‘title acts’ in place do not in any way keep decorator/designers from continuing to call themselves ‘interior designers’.”

    However, other title acts have more bite to them. From George Will’s article on the subject:

    “In New Mexico, anyone can work as an interior designer. But it is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison, to list yourself on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages as, or to otherwise call yourself, an “interior designer” without being certified as such.”

    Outrageous. Jail time. In my home state, for truth in advertising. I’m glad there aren’t any similar laws for calling yourself a “financial analyst” or a “chess coach.” Just wait, I guess. Let’s hope the United States Chess Federation doesn’t get wind of this and start requiring some sort of certification for coaching chess.

    Wouldn’t it be more effective (and fair!) for the ASID simply to try to establish itself as a professional organization that maintains some sort of higher standard, and promote itself on those merits, rather than demand that interior designers everywhere either unwillingly take all these classes and get their certification, or risk going to jail for calling themselves “interior designers?”

  43. #43 |  Scott | 

    But wait, score one for free speech!

    New Mexico’s law was amended to regulate the term “licensed interior designer” rather than “interior designer.”

  44. #44 |  John Harrold | 

    As a chemical engineer I really take exception to this ascertation:

    Interior design is not, as Balko insists, a ‘fake profession’, anymore than architecture or engineering are fake professions. Building and designing space requires education, knowledge and expertise. This isn’t about flower arrangements or rug placement.

    I mean seriously, if someone in my field fucks up, an entire chemical plant can explode, a poisonous product can end up shipped to thousands of folks all over the country, car tires can fail at the most inopportune times. I’m not trying to sound all superior, but the comparison this person is making is ridiculous.

  45. #45 |  AntiLegislate | 

    The ASID comparison of interior design to professions that actuAs a member of ASID, whose work in more than a dozen states and three foreign countries has been published in six books and numerous periodicals such as Architectural Digest, I can confirm that for the past two decades ASID has spent millions of dollars to hire lobbyists and bribe legislators into supporting interior design legislation that ASID actually writes, and it has done so under the specious guise of “protecting the public health, safety and welfare.”

    It has been the strategic plan of ASID to create and pass legislation in every state and jurisdiction in the US in order to create a cartel, despite whatever public protest they make to the contrary.

    ASID’s claim that interior designers actually impact public health, safety and welfare (e.g., doctors, nurses, lawyers, architects, engineers) is not only an irrational reach that exceeds its grasp but an insult to the minds of intelligent and reasonable people everywhere. No one since Oscar Wilde has ever died over the wallpaper! And where anything structural is concerned, every state, city, borough, township and municipality in the US already has building codes and inspectors that NO interior designer, decorator or home fashions guru can elude.

    The free market is the very regulator known to human action, which is, of course, the study of economics. Those whose training, work experience and references are above reproach will prosper in a free market; those whose incompetence precedes them will not survive. Government licensing does not guarantee, and never has guaranteed, that anyone’s work will be sufficient unto the effort. The ONLY thing a state license guarantees is protection to the license holder from non-licensed competitors.

    This is precisely why ASID wants it’s relatively small number of “professional” members to be licensed.

    The number of “professional” members in ASID who actually qualify for any state’s proposed (or passed) license to practice interior design represents less than three-percent (3%) of all interior design practitioners in the US. Yet the money ASID has raised (by force from its members) and spent thus far has been enough to influence legislators in four states to pass legislation that regulates the practice of interior design.

    However, thanks to the Institute for Justice last year, Alabama’s Supreme Court struck down its legislation as “unconstitutional” leaving only three states that regulate the practice of interior design.

    Unless the overwhelming number of interior design practitioners in the US rise up and make their voices heard in every state legislature, ASID will continue to seek the protectionist legislation it earnestly desires and that will create a cartel that completely corners the market, driving consumer prices UP while driving consumer choice DOWN.

    As a member of ASID, I vehemently OPPOSE any interior design legislation on economic liberty grounds, and I will work to ensure that the market for interior design services remains open and free.

    For information on how YOU can oppose the ASID cartelization of Interior Design, log on to the Interior Design Protection Council at:


  46. #46 |  Top Interior Designer | 

    It is really sad to see ASID become this militant lobbying organization. Their only focus seems to be passing Interior Design Legislation. The only people that seem to join ASID anymore are brainwashed interior design students who are being forced into lockstep by their professors. It almost seems like to get a good grade in interior design school you have to pledge to the ASID flag!

    Their portrayal of the ASID Interior Designer as professionally superior to “trailer trash” interior decorators is getting out of control.

    They seem obsessed with the portrayal of interior designers on HGTV.

    ASID: Get a life!!! HGTV is only entertainment.

    Buyer Beware and let the client do their own due diligence. We do not need to waste taxpayer dollars on “Nanny State” legislation.

  47. #47 |  Vincent G. Carter | 

    NCIDQ and CIDA are completely independent of ASID.

    NCIDQ determines the requirements to sit for their exam, which includes some education, not necessarily a four year degree, and practical design experience.

    CIDA is the accrediting body that accredits interior design educational programs.

    In addition to title acts there are practice acts, which are more restrictive. Mr. Balko only referenced title acts.

    The majority of interior designers are unaffiliated, meaning they do not belong to an organization – professional or otherwise. While ASID has the largest membership consisting of various categories of membership, other organizations exist such as IIDA, NKBA, IDS, and ARIDO.

    Legislators in each jurisdiction determine the requirements and restrictions included in their statue. Every law includes a definition of the term interior designer, they also state which job titles are not included or exempt from the legislation. Enforcement provisions and fines are also clearly stated in each law or their supporting regulations. Exam and education requirements are determined by the legislature not ASID in each jurisdiction.

    The placement of furniture can prevent or allow someone to exit a space in the event of an emergency. Panic often results during emergency situations, where most people attempt to exit using the same path they used to enter. Design professionals insure alternate routes are possible, which directly affects the health and safety of the public.

  48. #48 |  BriAnn | 

    Isn’t it funny that the attacked always work so hard to defend – and surprisingly those in defense and those understanding of the Interior Design profession – have written the longest, most educated replys to this posting… hmm… you don’t see any Interior Decorators replying?? Defending themselves?? Why is that? Those pillow tossers are standing quietly in the crowd afraid to say something because they like the fact that they can silently stand in the shadows of the educated and certified and licensed and accredited (should I continue?) PROFESSIONALS that are able to honestly call themselves Interior Designers. I have worked very hard to complete my rigorous degree. While I have had sleepless nights, ruthless criticism, and where do I begin to talk about the student loans, there is someone else out there who has spent their time studying up on the latest Design on a Dime episodes taking notes from the actors on television that can magically pull a few paint colors and fabrics to match and complete the ‘design’ of a room in one day!! Whoo-hoo!! Doesn’t my hard work and dedication account for something? Haven’t I at least earned the right to distinguish myself as a designer rather than a decorator??

    There is common knowledge in the Interior Design community that a residential designer and a commercial designer will ultimately have differing goals and aspirations. Not always – and please, don’t take this the wrong way, my residential counterparts, but many residential designers deal less with ‘life safety’ – and yes this is a real concept, contrary to what some of you may think, the person who is wheelchair bound and is safely able to wheel themselves up an interior ramp in a public space without rolling back or catching their fingers in the spokes of their wheelchair because the ramp is at the proper slope, appreciates the calculation methods and formulas that DESIGNERS understand and use. Interior designers within the commercial realm are held to strict standards, they’re called codes. And those codes are required by the Federal Government and local government, they are wide ranging and must be studied to truly understand and interpret. Without observing these codes many buildings would not be able to open to the public. Well, isn’t that the architect’s job, though, you say?? How many stuffy old nasty ornery architects do you know that would be willing to pillage through a contract fabric catalogue and choose a fabric that will not only be the liking of the client, but that is also fire-rated for the specific area in which the application of the fabric will remain in the structure? That, my curious friend, is a code requirement that is probably the reason why so many architect’s offices hire DESIGNERS that are educated. I would bet you – and if challenged, I promise to deliver – that if I called the top ten architectural firms in my state and asked if the principals/owners/directors would be willing to hire a DECORATOR I would get a big fat NO in response. Untrained, untrusted, and untrue to the standards with held in the professional architecture and design world is why.

    So. I’m slightly bitter – sorry if it peeks through in this little response, but I don’t tell you what you should be called, or that you’ve worked hard to remain unnoticed and unwanted.

  49. #49 |  L. Yako | 

    ASID’s licensing scheme is about marketing and exclusion. If it were really about safety, why do they think it’s OK for practitioners to continue to design interiors so long as they lie about what they do? That is what a Title law requires: Go ahead and design, but shhhh…don’t tell anyone what you do. Of course, when those titling laws proceed to practice, which is ASID’s stated intent, then certain designers are excluded by….shall we say, design! And BTW, it was ASID that turned the word ‘decorator’ into a four letter word! Just makes your heart wrench at the thought of all those early ‘decorators’ like Sister Parish who set the standards for interiors back in the 30’s and 40’s.
    The NCIDQ has a lower pass rate than the Bar Exam or the medical exam (costs more, too). With a pass rate of 60% or so, you can make the case that they are testing the skills of designers. But since their pass rate is well under 50%, it’s about excluding the majority from the industry. It’s not that the test is so hard, though it is difficult. It’s that it’s nearly impossible to complete the test in the time alloted. But you can pay to play…take the test over and over, at additional cost, until you pass. How many would rather drink gasoline, even at today’s price, than sit though that test one more time?
    But designers are wising up. Since the beginning of 2007, 56 attempts, perhaps more by the end of the day, to impose some type of licensing (any type will do since they know they just need to get something on the books; the long range plan is to amend and amend and amend until it’s a practice law) in states around the country have resulted in not one passage due in part to active grassroots opposition at the legislature (they are voters, after all) and savvy legislators. Let me think. No passage of any type of legislation, despite the outrageously over-paid lobbyists making nice with unsavory lawmakers (and even honorable lawmakers if necessary), has made it into law since 2005? That’s a lot of money for no legislative gain. But it has bought them lots of bad publicity and animosity. So in my opinion, it was worth the money they paid.

  50. #50 |  Kieffer | 


    I have worked very hard to complete my rigorous degree. While I have had sleepless nights, ruthless criticism, and where do I begin to talk about the student loans, there is someone else out there who has spent their time studying up on the latest Design on a Dime episodes taking notes from the actors on television that can magically pull a few paint colors and fabrics to match and complete the ‘design’ of a room in one day!! Whoo-hoo!! Doesn’t my hard work and dedication account for something? Haven’t I at least earned the right to distinguish myself as a designer rather than a decorator??

    Yes, you have the right to distinguish yourself in whatever way you choose. You have the right to say you have a degree. You have the right to demonstrate your skills with the quality of your product.

    You do NOT — at least legitimately, if not legally — have the right to exclude others from using a common term to identify the service they provide, or competing with you for jobs simply on the basis that you consider the work that they do to be beneath the work that you do. Consumers have the right to make that choice for themselves.

    If you want to distinguish yourself, do so through a solid history of producing quality work, and an impressive portfolio. Not by expecting an entitlement because of the amount of effort you’ve put in.

  51. #51 |  Designers United | 

    Vincent, Vincent, Vincent —

    If you believe that ASID, NCIDQ and CIDA are not actively working together to impose anti-competitive regulation in every state, you are naive, my friend!

    NCIDQ does NOT just set the examination requirements, as you suggested; they LOBBY for legislation which would result in financial windfall for their own organization:

    In the January 2004 edition of their newsletter, NCIDQ Update, it stated that one of NCIDQ’s goals, amongst many, was “To assist non-regulated jurisdictions, we will continue to offer model legislation and testify for state legislatures and boards as needed”. In the same publication it further stated “A panel of legislative experts led Saturday’s discussion on ‘Strategizing for the Future of Interior Design Legislation’, and went on to say “They touched on such points as policing unlicensed practice; developing alternatives to a board’s education and experience requirements for licensure; and envisioning the day when all states and provinces in North America have interior design regulation”.

    In the January/February 2002 issue of ISdesignNET under “NCIDQ News” Shirley Hammond, the then NCIDQ President states that a part of the NCIDQ charter is “to study and present new plans, programs and guidelines for new legislation FOR THE CONTROL of the practice of interior design”.

    As for your last paragraph on safety — is that the best you can do? There is no evidence that furniture placed by an unregulated interior designer has lead to any public deaths. Ridiculous statements like that are what is causing others to mock our profession. You pro-regulation types say you are trying to raise the level of our profession, when in reality, you are doing just the opposite.

    Here’s a novel idea: STOP wasting your time and money trying to pass legislation that the design community does not need or want and START helping us to educate the public on the value of interior design.

  52. #52 |  Terri L. Maurer, FASID | 

    Having read through all of this ‘conversation’, I hardly know where to begin trying to answer all the questions and accusations that range from legitimate, rational questions to totally bizarre and unfounded accusations. For that reason, let me address a couple of things to clarify fact:
    1) Yes, ASID has been active in getting legislation passed to help the public know which designer/decorator can best meet their needs.
    2) ASID is ONE of the groups who have been supporting these efforts. Also involved have been IIDA, IDC (Canadians), IDEC (Educators). As mentioned before, NCIDQ has not been connected to ASID for at least fifteen years. ASID has no authority over NCIDQ or the exam or it’s cost. CIDA (accrediting body for design school programs and formerly known as FIDER) is also an independent group.
    3) ASID is not trying to become the ONE interior design organization, but they are the oldest and largest at this time, just as AIA is not the ONE architectural group, but the oldest and largest.
    4) ASID as a national organization does not hire lobbyists to push legisltation to legislators, but does have several full time staff working in our Government and Public Affairs department where legislative issues are addressed.
    5) Much of what goes into interior design legislation is controlled by the local legislators as bills work their way through the state process. If the Nevada bill has some unique language, it is hard to tell why it is in that bill. I have heard of no other state or jurisdication with the specific limitation that has been mentioned here. During the process, interior design coaltions at the state levels (which is where legislation occurs), meet with architects, engineers and other groups to assure that interior design bills cover only interior design areas of practice that affect public health and safety.
    6) “Autism” was mentioned as only one particular health issue that interior designers might work with. My comments never said in any way that we are specialists in treating autism. Designers often team up with psychologists, gerontology experts, sociologists and other professionals as part of their team in dealing with those speicialized situations. Many interior designers work with these special needs clients to create environments that heal, provide safety and support those life styles.
    7) ASID does…in it’s other capacities as a professional design organization…promote the practice of interior design to the public, helping them decide which practitioner can best meet their needs.
    8) I’ve been a member of ASID for nearly 30 years, active at both local and national levels, served on the national board and as national president, and can tell you that the discussions, plotting and scheming to defame decorators and crush competition have absolutely not occurred. This is total garbage, expounded on in the broadest of generalities and supported by inuendo and personal anecdotes, but nothing solid.
    9) For the person interested in how much is 25+, when I get a few minutes, I’ll look up the exact data for you and post it here. Didn’t realize that anyone was interested in specific facts in this discussion as most comments have not contained very much based on fact…lots of opinions, but few facts

  53. #53 |  AntiLegislate | 

    With apologies to Terri L. Maurer, permit me to correct the following:

    4) ASID as a national organization does not hire lobbyists to push legisltation to legislators, but does have several full time staff working in our Government and Public Affairs department where legislative issues are addressed.


    5) Much of what goes into interior design legislation is controlled by the local legislators as bills work their way through the state process. ACTUALLY VERY LITTLE IS CONTROLLED BY LOCAL LEGISLATORS. IN PENNSYLVANIA, FOR EXAMPLE, HOUSE BILL 807 WAS ALMOST ENTIRELY WRITTEN BY THE LOBBYIST FOR ASID.

    During the process, interior design coaltions at the state levels (which is where legislation occurs), meet with architects, engineers and other groups to assure that interior design bills cover only interior design areas of practice that affect public health and safety. THERE ARE NO AREAS OF PRACTICE THAT AFFECT PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY, AND THERE NEVER HAS BEEN A SINGLE DOCUMENTED INCIDENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY BEING THREATENED BY ANY “UNLICENCED” OR “UNREGULATED” INTERIOR DESIGNER. THAT IS UNDENIABLE FACT!

    8) I’ve been a member of ASID for nearly 30 years…and can tell you that the discussions, plotting and scheming to defame decorators and crush competition have absolutely not occurred.




  54. #54 |  Designers United | 

    Ms. Mauer’s message was much of the what we’ve heard over and over again, rhetorical nonsense, totally lacking any factual basis. Here’s a point-by-point correction:

    1) Give the consumer some credit – if they want to know which designer to use, they can and do conduct in-depth interviews, view portfolios, visit websites, call references, etc. If ASID wants to publicize that their “professional” members are more qualified, it’s a free country, go for it. It’s not a legitimate use of government to enhance the businesses of some designers to the detriment of others. It’s up to designers to market their own businesses and credentials.

    2) ASID has been LEADING the push for legislation for 30 years. They have spent allegedly over $5,000,000 in lobbying for their regulation. They give more money to the state coalitions to carry out their legislative agenda than any other organization. As for the connection between ASID, NCIDQ and CIDA – that has already adequately addressed. It would be more than naïve to think they are not working toward the same goal.

    3) Already gave a direct quote from ASID’s book From Practice to Profession.

    4) HA! ASID has THREE full time paid lobbyists on staff! Webster’s dictionary defines lobbyist as “a person, acting on behalf of a group, who tries to get legislators to support certain measures.” So contrary to your statement, lobbyists do push legislation to legislators. What part of that do you not understand, or were you intentionally trying to mislead the public?

    5) Moot. Five states have produced official sunrise reports that concluded interior design has no impact on the health, safety, or welfare of the public.

    6) There is nothing wrong with specializing in any given area, e.g. designing for autism, however, the consumer has many avenues available to determine if a designer has knowledge in a specific area.

    7) The undisputable result of practice legislation would be to put many already practicing, successful, honest, hard working designers out of business. If ASID has not been able to see what legislators throughout our country have been seeing and thus rightly rejecting these bills, then they have their eyes close shut. So, it’s time to open your eyes ASID – monopoly and denial of free enterprise is the outcome of the regulation you are pushing. No public interest is served, and it is just mean-spirited.

    8) ?

    9) Here are the facts about “25+”: 3 states have a practice act (Alabama previously had a practice act, but their Supreme Court declared it UNCONSTITUTIONAL last year); 21 states have a title act; that equals 24, but my guess is that they included Puerto Rico, even though it is not a state.

    Want MORE facts?

    11) According to the Better Business Bureau and other sources, since 1907 only 52 lawsuits have been filed against interior designers in the ENTIRE country. And most of these were regarding contract, not safety, issues.

    12) States with practice acts have a higher number of complaints against interior designers than those with no regulation.

    13) Passage of the NCIDQ exam has historically averaged less than 40%, less than even the bar exam in many states, clearly does not meet most accepted criteria for good testing mechanisms.

    14) Of the 8,000 ASID “professional” members, allegedly less than half of them have even passed the NCIDQ exam that they are determined to make the minimum standard. 12,000 of their Allied Members have not passed NCIDQ. Doesn’t this mean that if legislation were to pass in every state, the majority of their own members would not legally be able to practice? And, to make matters worse, ASID forces these Allied members to pay a yearly mandatory assessment to push for legislation, regardless if that Allied member supports legislation or not. I think someone previously and correctly labeled this “militant.”

    15) The Federal Trade Commission concluded that interior design regulation would result in few choices and increased cost to the consumer.

    16) There is no consumer outcry for legislation, nor is it being proposed by legislative determination that regulation is necessary for the public good. Regulation has come about exclusively through the efforts of industry insiders who want to eliminate their competition and enhance their businesses.

    17) Consumer protection is currently and adequately addressed by systems, codes, and inspections already in place. To duplicate these efforts would be a waste of the states time and resources.
    18) The majority of universities and colleges that offer courses in interior design have accreditation other than CIDA. There has been no evidence presented that would indicate that students graduating from non-CIDA accredited schools are any less qualified or become less successful designers.

    Enough facts?

    Here’s the last one: regulation is NOT inevitable, contrary to ASID’s mantra. For more information on how to resist interior design regulation, please visit

  55. #55 |  L Yako | 

    Now, now, Designers United. You are only trying to confuse the issue with the facts. You are in jeopardy of confusing all 8000 of those professional ASID designers. Shameful.
    But you forgot to mention the states where ASID allegedly offered Allied ASID members alleged full professional status if they would allegedly agree to pass just one part of three parts of the NCIDQ (I allegedly guess they wanted to show legislators how popular their test is). You know, if I sat through that test who knows how many times and then found out someone else got a pass on two of the parts, I’d allegedly be downright annoyed!!!

  56. #56 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » More on the Interior Design Cartel | 

    […] piece on ASID and interior design here. Subsequent fallout discussion here. Digg it |  reddit | |  […]

  57. #57 |  Vickki | 

    First of all I need to make a point, that no one else has.
    There are “decorators” and then there are “designers.” All ASID is asking for (as many states have already) is that if you want to use the term “designer” on your card then you need to have an education to back that up. Any one can call themselves a “decorator.”
    Would you want en uneducated person selecting materials for your hospitals, hotels, and schools? A “decorator” very well may select the carpet they have in their home because it’s pretty. They will not understand that in the even of a fire that carpet will burn faster and create toxic smoke at such a high rate that you will die from that smoke.
    Thats the difference between a “decorator” and a “designer.”

  58. #58 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #57 Vickki
    Would you want en uneducated person selecting materials for your hospitals, hotels, and schools?

    The person selecting the materials for any building should be chosen by the people who actually own the building. I trust the building owner to do what’s in his own best interest and trade associations to do what’s in their best interest. I do NOT expect the trade associations to do what’s in the best interest of the building owners, because they have no vested interest.

    This is about as elementary as it gets. People who want to impose rules on others, commonly claim it’s for the others’ own good (as if the others are too stupid to decide for themselves). The implication is insulting and it’s even more insulting that they believe people are too stupid to see through it.

  59. #59 |  Matt | 

    To become an ASID member doesn’t require much more than a few hours of coursework in community college. Furthermore, there are some decorators out there that freely claim ASID membership and are not. That’s a sign there’s no enforcement either. ASID seems to be mostly about getting fees from membership. Other than that, it’s hard to see the value (to the consumer).

  60. #60 |  The evil cartel of... interior designers? | 

    […] to pass these laws) responded to the first article I linked to in the OP. The full response is here, but there's one quote from it that is so amazing that it deserves emphasis: [url=ASID]Would he […]