April 1, 2005
Sandra Friend

Does NCIDQ meet the hospitality industry's needs?

SERVE It UpDoes NCIDQ meet the hospitality industry's needs?by Sandra FriendAs hotel and restaurant owners scramble to findinnovative ways to satiate an ever-experience-hungry public, we behold underwater restaurants, hotel guestrooms that place their occupants face-to-face with coral reefs, and bathrooms featuring freestanding power showers and hammocks. An article featuring the top ten global issues on the minds of hospitality consultants, coupled with a scan of the latest trends in hotel and restaurant design, prompted me to test the notion that NCIDQ's Interior Design Experience Program (IDEP) and Examination provide the breadth of work experience for graduates of interior design programs, and adequately test their competency to practice in the booming hospitality field. I also was curious to know if seasoned professionals seeking to enter the hospitality work arena could point to the NCIDQ credential as proof of competency to undertake a wide range of projects.The recently published "2005 Top Ten Global Issues and Challenges in the Hospitality Industry" by the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) could apply to most industries. Issues cited include global uncertainty, increased staffing requirements, a shrinking labor pool, and the challenges posed by new and changing technology (see sidebar). Three issues that directly affect interior design projects include branding (properties that hold an expectation of a certain level of service and design), changing customer demographics and expectations (the hot target group is baby boomers on the verge of retirement), and safety and security.IDEP REQUIREMENTSTo assure myself that IDEP prepares graduates to meet the demands of design-minded customers and hospitality industry professionals, I turned to a description of the six IDEP competency areas in which graduates must work to complete their diversified interior design experience. No surprise that these competency areas are the standard for all interior design professionals performing design services: programming, schematic design, design development, contract documents, contract administration and professional practice. By requiring competency in the six areas that are common to any design specialty, a graduate acquires skills, for example, to integrate senior-friendly design principles into a variety of public accommodations for baby boomers with the time and means to travel. Addressing another of the top ten issues, the IDEP participant will be exposed to the skills, knowledge and professional discipline to work with consumers who are more sophisticated and better-educated, and thus have higher expectations for a finished project.NCIDQ PRACTICE ANALYSISTaking this informal research process a step further, I reviewed NCIDQ's 2003 Practice Analysis, upon which the Examination is based, looking for evidence that the NCIDQ credential provides an assurance of minimum competency for hospitality projects as varied as hotels, convention centers and airport lounges. As before, I focused primarily on areas that seemed to coincide with branding, changing customer demographics and expectations, and safety and security. Again, no surprise; the Practice Analysis defines the same six areas of practice in which IDEP provides experience. NCIDQ's test consultant surveyed 2,000 North American interior design practitioners to validate that the six areas of practice, as well as the knowledge, tasks and skills within each one, are in alignment with the day-to-day practice of interior designers. Upon review of the 29 tasks that compose the six areas of practice, I concluded that every single one applies to a hospitality project. The Practice Analysis is more technical and specific in its definitions than the IDEP program, but this is to be expected because the Practice Analysis defines "the practice of the profession." A few highlights demonstrate how this document aligns specifically with the hospitality industry's concerns:
  • Programming consists of five separate tasks ranging from "gathering information using interviews, questionnaires and observations to identify client
    objectives …" to "analyzing client, site and external information using the data gathered" to "applying knowledge about function, aesthetics, health,
    safety and welfare to the creation of the program.

  • Design Development requires, among other things, "knowledge of codes, standards and regulations, as well as knowledge of the intended audience relevant to the design project."

  • Contract Documents requires one to "coordinate interior construction documents by reviewing relevant consultants' contract documents for integration of all systems into the project design." This task requires knowledge of building systems, information and communication systems, and security systems, among others.

In the end, it is clear that IDEP, and the NCIDQ Practice Analysis and Examination
all address issues that are hot buttons for
the hospitality industry, and provide evidence that experienced design professionals as
well as emerging professionals who have successfully completed the NCIDQ Examination are poised to serve hospitality clients. I'm confident that if I conducted
a similar analysis in other design specialties such as residential, healthcare or
commercial design, I would come to the same conclusion. IDEP and the Examination are intended to protect the public by providing appropriate and diversified experience for interior design graduates, and by identifying competent designers through minimum-competency testing. And, although public protection is not a sexy or trendy issue, consumers have a right to experience underwater dinners or view a sunrise from the top floor of a high-rise hotel without being distracted by safety issues. After all, protecting health, life safety and welfare is an NCIDQ Certificate holder's obligation to all industries—and that is a mission worthy of serving up again and again.

Sandra Friend currently serves on the NCIDQ Board of Directors. She is a recipient of the Louis S. Tregre Award, is an NCIDQ Certificate holder and has served as chairwoman of the Practicum Exam Committee. Friend is principal of Interior Planning + Design in Ashland, OR. For information about NCIDQ, visit

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