Editorial: Advancing Design Legally

April 1, 2008
In November of 2007, I received a letter from the Institute for Justice (IJ) asking if we would publish a rebuttal to an article that appeared in our September 2007 issue ("Another Party Heard From") written by Suzan Globus, ASID's president at the time. In her article, Globus advocated for legal registration requirements for interior design professionals in response to an article written by nationally syndicated columnist George Will, who supported IJ's anti-regulatory position.

In their letter, Dick M. Carpenter II, Ph.D., and John K. Ross argued that "there is no evidence to justify the claim" that the interior design profession protects public health, safety and welfare. Further, the authors suggest that ASID "seeks to establish an industry-wide cartel that will limit consumers' choices. By imposing burdensome and unnecessary regulation on would-be competitors," the authors write, "ASID proposes to restrict entry into the occupation to a select few. As with all cartels, the public would lose, as consumers would be forced to pay higher prices or forgo interior design services altogether."

Sensing its obviously controversial nature, I decided to leave the issue alone until I could gather more information and report accurately on my findings. Since then, I have received press releases detailing the efforts to fight interior design legislation in New Mexico and Texas, citing an unconstitutional restriction of free speech under the First Amendment, and most recently, an announcement by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) indicating that its board of directors approved the allocation of $750,000 to oppose interior design title and practice act legislation during fiscal year 2008. According to the release, general counsel and director of legislative affairs Edward S. Nagorsky says, "There is a concerted effort on the part of a select few designers who insist that everyone seeking to practice interior design attend their approved schools and pass their selected exam, all without any demonstration that the continued practice of interior design by those who can not or choose not to take the their test and go to their schools is in any way harmful to the public."

To the consumer, the issue must seem ludicrous-we're talking about interior design after all ... or are we? At the core of this hot-button issue is the definition of the interior design profession, and the opposition places a great deal of emphasis on the fact that anyone who practices design should be able to call themselves a designer without regard to "the three Es" (education, experience and examination) that are common to regulated professions. But when examining the arguments against interior design legislation, it is obvious that the opponents make no distinction between interior decorators and interior designers. Interior decoration is not a regulated profession, nor should it be. Interior design, however, is another story altogether.

In her rebuttal of the report by the Institute for Justice, Designing Cartels: How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition, Caren S. Martin, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota clearly explains the differences between interior decoration and interior design, and systematically analyzes the IJ report, identifying "flaws of logic, overreaching statements, omissions of fact, inaccuracies, and dramatic language on which they have based their actions to abate and/or roll back interior design regulation."

If you are unfamiliar with the issue of interior design legislation, I strongly urge you to read Martin's report which is available online. The information in support of regulating the profession of interior design is overwhelming.

Next, get involved. As Deanna Waldron, ASID's director of government and public affairs, suggests, "It is imperative that interior designers advocate on behalf of their profession. All interior designers and related professionals should take the time to understand and participate in interior design legislative initiatives that are so important to the profession, and, more importantly, the public."

As an industry magazine that is dedicated to the advancement of the interior design profession, we stand in support of legislation that recognizes the impact that interior designers have on the safety, health and welfare of the public.

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