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.

Sincerely,

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 |  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.

  2. #2 |  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

  3. #3 |  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.

    HOW CLEVER! CALL THEM WHAT YOU WILL BUT THEIR ROLE IN YOUR GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT IS TO DIRECT THE LOBBYING THAT IS DONE (AND HIRED BY) LOCAL CHAPTERS OF ASID IN EACH STATE.

    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.

    ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE!! I HAVE SEEN EMAILS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COALITION IN WHICH I PERSONALLY HAVE BEEN DEFAMED, AND OTHERS IN WHICH “CRUSHING” THE COMPETITION HAS BEEN GLEEFULLY ADVOCATED.

    MOREOVER, THE PUSH TO LEGALIZE AND EVEN COPYRIGHT THE TERM “INTERIOR DESIGNER” IS ABOUT AS ECONOMICALLY TRANSPARENT AS DONALD TRUMP’s ATTEMPT TO LEGALIZE THE TERM “YOU’RE FIRED.”

    ASID WANTS EVERYONE TO BELIEVE THAT IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. TRUST ME… IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY!!!

  4. #4 |  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 http://www.IDPCinfo.org

  5. #5 |  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!!!

  6. #6 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » More on the Interior Design Cartel | 

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

  7. #7 |  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.”

  8. #8 |  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.

  9. #9 |  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).

  10. #10 |  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 […]