History. To most of us, that word evokes a litany of events in and beyond our own lives. We recall the days, people, and actions that after which, things were never quite the same.
The same is true in our professional lives. While it’s important to mark calendared milestones, it’s just as essential to remember the philosophical stepping stones that have transformed our industry. Over the years, our leaders and practitioners had a vision and the courage to act upon it.
A vision for progress . . .
Take a look back. Before 1931, our profession was regarded far differently than it is today. In fact, a national professional association representing the interests of interior design didn’t even exist.
Concluding that designers could help rebuild an industry that had been nearly destroyed by the Great Depression, the U.S. furniture manufacturers convened a group of these professionals. By the end of the meeting, the seed for a national association was planted and, in 1931, the American Institute of Interior Decorators was born.
A vision for unity . . .
While the American Institute of Interior Designers (AID) and the National Society of Interior Designers (NSID) both brought much deserved recognition to the field in the early days, it became increasingly clear that working together toward a common purpose would have greater impact.
The two groups combined in 1975 to become ASID, creating unity within and far greater impact beyond. Since then, our singular voice has continued to help ensure that interior designers are fully present, recognized, and participative partners that define where the profession is going. As well, we continue this commitment to collaboration through our many partnerships and alliances with other industry associations.
A vision for inclusion . . .
Despite significant progress, it wasn’t until 1970 that AID began using its accreditation exam as the threshold for professional membership. Four years later, they raised the bar by helping establish NCIDQ, an independent organization to administer the qualifying examination.
Next, the push for recognition of the profession zeroed in on policy change, with the first practice act in the U.S. becoming a legal reality in 1986.
Today, it is still important that we continue to underscore the value of our training as interior designers and find ways to keep our profession at the table.
A vision for the greater good . . .
Recognition that professional design can impact the human experience dates back many years. As C. James Hewlett, FNSID and NSID president, noted back in the 1960s, “We are on the precipice of a new era of design, which will require a new design philosophy in which the designer abandons the preoccupation with the artifacts of life and applies his talents to the organization of the experiences of living.”
The desire to further the quality of interior design in such fields as health and energy conservation took root early on when, in 1979, ASID announced the establishment of the Human Environment Award. This predecessor to what became the ASID Design for Humanity Award honored those who were making significant contributions to the field.
Our profession continues to go beyond enhancing aesthetics and functionality today. We focus upon health and well-being, our impact on the natural environment and its resources, accessibility, and so much more.
This past August, in partnership with the Interior Designers of Canada, ASID held its first annual Impact Summit that convened a community of leaders from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to forge innovative design solutions for North America’s most pressing health and wellness challenges in the built environment. This effort came on the heels of the forward-thinking commitment signed with the Clinton Global Initiative a year ago to develop ASID protocols for health and wellness in design.
A vision for knowledge . . .
During the 1980s, the interior design profession continued to mature as a push began for legal recognition of the profession. ASID became an outspoken advocate of such efforts, endorsing the new definition of an interior designer issued by NCIDQ that called the professional interior designer “a person qualified by education, experience, and examination.”
Bolstering this belief, the ASID Board of Directors adopted an organization-wide continuing education (CEU) program in 1981 to prepare interior designers for the eventuality of licensing. Through the education and research we are doing at ASID, we are investing in the resources interior designers need to meet today’s demands, and shape the next generation of change-makers.
We also understand that solving today’s challenges in the built environment requires both knowledge and leadership. Through events such as Design to Lead, GoPro, and the introduction of ASID’s new online learning portal (ASID Academy), we’re continuing to make the progress our predecessors could only dream of.
The vision continues . . .
While the industry has seen significant change over the years, perhaps at no time since the middle of the last century has interior design undergone such transformation as it is now. As Randy Fiser, CEO of ASID, observed in this year’s State of the Society address, “Designers today are not only creating interiors that delight, inspire, motivate, support, and awe us, they also are being called upon to provide solutions that modify behaviors and change lives for the better.”
Yes, interior design is no longer a skill in search of a profession. We are here, qualified—and valued—for the work we are doing in addressing the most fundamental societal issues. We have the ability to help create and prioritize healthy, innovative, and productive environments. Our history with evidence-based design has uniquely positioned us to show how design is transforming lives today.
As ASID nears the end of its 40th anniversary year, we honor how far we’ve come, as well as all those who influenced our journey. Their thinking and willingness to affect change are woven across the very fabric that unites and inspires us all.
Sandy Gordon is the chair of the board of directors for ASID and principal of Sandy Gordon Interiors in Madison, Wisc. Learn more about ASID at www.asid.org.