Design Legalese

Dec. 1, 2015

Distinguishing fact from fiction with help from IIDA

Back in September, we were in attendance for the International Interior Design Association’s (IIDA) first advocacy symposium in Austin, Texas. From lobbyists to state representatives, all presenters showed attendees how to fight for the rights their profession deserves, especially legal recognition.

Designers left armed with a ton of vital literature, including the IIDA Be an Advocate brochure (view it in its entirety at Within it, the organization dispelled some common myths about the legal recognition of interior design. So we took the liberty of placing fable and fact directly across from each other, in none other than black and white.

Did they prove you wrong? Had the wool been pulled over your eyes? Tell us what you never knew on social media using #recognizeinteriordesign.


  • I work at a large commercial design firm where I do not need to stamp and sign any drawings, so the legal recognition of interior design does not directly affect me.
  • The legal recognition of interior design will put non-registered interior designers out of business.
  • The legal recognition of interior design creates more unnecessary regulations.
  • The registration process would make it more difficult for early career professionals and places additional burdens on those already practicing.
  • As long as the architects and engineers are licensed, the project is adequately protected.


  • If you were to get laid off from your job, move to another state, or wanted to take your career in another direction, you currently may or may not have the option of establishing your own commercial practice. In some states, your work must be done under the supervision of a registered architect or engineer.
  • Registration will be optional for those who wish to work on code-regulated projects. For those who want to continue practicing interior design within its current legal definition, there will be no change.
  • The registration of interior designers may not create any new regulations; it allows qualified professionals to increase their scope of practice and work within an already-regulated environment.
  • There will be multiple paths to achieving recognition, including a range of education and experience options as well as a grandfathering option and an architect’s options.
  • Interior designers are trained to focus on the built environment that directly affects inhabitants’ health, safety, and welfare. Services such as space planning, anthropomorphic design, material selection, and lighting design require detailed knowledge of specific safety and universal access code requirements. Interior design is currently the only profession pertaining to the built environment that is not tested and regulated in some states.
About the Author

AnnMarie Martin | Editor-in-Chief

AnnMarie has been covering the commercial design space since 2005 and has been on the editorial staff at i+s since 2011. Her style and vision has helped the brand evolve into a thought leader in purpose-driven design and cultural movements shaping the way we live and work. She returned to the role of editor in chief at the start of 2023 and her journalism and fiction writing background have helped to craft bi-monthly issues that don’t just report the latest industry news, but tell a cohesive tale of some of the biggest topics facing designers today.

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