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Until recently, interior design has been a self-certifying profession, similar to urban and regional planning (with its professional appellation, "certified planner”). In many states, individuals are still free to call themselves interior designers, regardless of their qualifications, and to offer interior design services.

Only a business license is required. This is beginning to change. Regional chapters of both the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) are pushing hard to secure for interior designers the same protections—of title and practice—that architects now enjoy in the United States.

Architects are licensed on a state-by-state-basis, and their activities are overseen by registration boards that administer licensing examinations, issue licenses, and discipline their licensees for malpractice and other practice-act infractions. To advocate change in the interest of the profession and their clients, design professionals should understand the nature of the arguments currently being made for and against such professional protections, and the factors that justify guarding interior design as a profession.

Arguments and Counter-arguments

Historically, both professions and trades have sought to limit entry to their ranks and to guard their traditional privileges by eliminating potential competitors.

When possible, they have used the law to support this gatekeeping.

California Governor Jerry Brown, in the late 1970s, proposed to "sunset” the practice and title acts of a wide range of trades and professions, including architecture and landscape architecture. The trades and professions resisted, arguing that public health, safety, and welfare would suffer if registration ended. That was their only possible argument: in America, anything else would be restraint of trade.

In seeking to license the title and practice of interior design, the ASID and IIDA are also making a public health, safety, and welfare argument. Opposing them, understandably, are architects and interior decorators, their main competitors among design professionals, who question whether such public health and safety considerations apply. Some architects question the need for state sanction of interior design practice, given its focus on non-load-bearing structures. Some interior decorators and residential interior designers argue that the requirements put forward by the proponents of interior designer licensing go beyond what is actually needed to protect public health, safety, and welfare. That would make those requirements exclusionary and therefore in restraint of trade.

The arguments for and against licensure have a political component as well.

A dispute in the early 1980s in California pitted licensed architects against registered building designers—a category created as a compromise to preserve the traditional rights of draftsmen, carpenters, and others to design houses and small buildings. Similarly, the AIA and its civil, professional, and structural engineering counterparts regularly bicker over what their respective practice acts allow them to design or engineer. Similar compromises can be expected for interior design in relation to architecture, interior decoration, and residential interior design.

The legal and political possibilities available to both sides in arguments for professional protections will continue to cloud rather than resolve the issue of what constitutes a profession, so let us consider other factors that justify

interior design as a profession.



Traditionally, professionals have pointed to credentials as evidence of their professionalism. This is what separates them from lay people, paraprofessionals, and "mere technicians. ”However, David Maister —a well-known consultant to professional service firms—argues that while these things may point to competence, true professionalism depends on attitude. A professional, in Maister’s view, is a "technician who cares”—and that entails caring about the client.

The real subject of interior design is enclosed space—that is, the settings within buildings that house human activity.

First and foremost, interior designers are concerned with how people experience

these settings . . .

In trying to define professionalism, Maister lists the following distinguishing traits:

• Taking pride in your work (and being committed to its quality)

• Taking responsibility and showing initiative

• Being eager to learn

• Listening to and anticipating the needs of others

• Being a team player

• Being trustworthy, honest, loyal

• Welcoming constructive criticism2

His point is that professionalism is not just education, training, a certificate or license, and other credentials. In saying that these things are not the sine qua non of professionalism, Maister is really arguing for a client-responsive professionalism—as opposed to one that uses its credentials and presumed expertise as an excuse for ignoring or even bullying the client.

Arrogance is an issue in the design professions. Too many designers regard their clients as patrons, not partners.

Design commissions become opportunities to further personal ambition rather than meet the client’s goals and needs. The implication is that design is self-expression, that the creative process is largely if not exclusively the province of the designer alone.

Although there is inevitably an aspect of self-expression in the design process, its creative power is enhanced, not diminished, by collaboration. In collaboration, we become partners in a larger enterprise, and that gives our work its energy and spark. In arguing for "professionals who care,”

Maister is drawing attention to the collaborative nature of their relationships with their clients. It is a partnership to which both parties contribute their expertise. Formally, professionals act as the agents of their clients.

As professionals, they have other obligations that affect this relationship—obligations that are intended, among other things, to protect clients from themselves. However, designers who assume they "know better” than their

clients miss the opportunity to get into their clients’ heads and understand their world. They need that knowledge to connect their work to their clients’ larger goals and strategies, the real starting points of innovation in the design process.


What Makes Interior Design a Profession?

Interior design is a profession in part because of designers’ special skills and education, but also because of designers’ special relationships with their clients. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, a profession is "a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.”4 An art is a "skill acquired by experience, study, or observation, an occupation requiring knowledge and skill, and the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.”5 Acraft is "an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.”6 These definitions stress a difference in training, suggesting that only professions require university study. That difference does not precisely hold anymore, since both arts and crafts are taught at the university level. Recalling David Maister’s definition of a professional as a "technician who cares,” we might ask, "Who benefits from the care that interior designers exercise in the course of their practice?” Clearly, the beneficiaries are those who use the settings that they design.

In defining the professional practice of interior design, the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research (FIDER) provides the following outline of its scope:

• Analyzing client needs, goals, and life safety requirements

• Integrating findings with a knowledge of interior design

• Formulating preliminary design concepts that are aesthetic, appropriate, and functional, and in accordance with codes and standards

• Developing and presenting final design recommendations through appropriate presentation media

• Preparing working drawings and specifications for non-loadbearing interior construction, reflected ceiling plans, lighting, interior detailing, materials, finishes, space planning, furnishings, fixtures, and equipment in compliance with universal accessibility guidelines and all applicable codes

• Collaborating with professional services of other licensed practitioners in the technical areas of mechanical, electrical, and loadbearing design as required for regulatory approval

• Preparing and administering bids and contract documents as the client’s agent

• Reviewing and evaluating design solutions during implementation and upon completion7

While it is accurate as far as it goes, this definition misses the heart of the matter. The real subject of interior design is enclosed space—that is, the settings within buildings that house human activity. First and foremost, interior designers are concerned with how people experience these settings and how their design supports their different activities. These concerns form the core of the interior design profession’s specialized knowledge.



work and coursework—the former a remnant of the old apprenticeship system that once characterized both architecture and the arts and crafts. In addition to studio training in design and visualization, professional interior design programs typically provide a foundation in:

• Human factors

• Materials and systems

• Codes and regulations

• Contracts and business practices

Unlike architecture, most interior design programs do not address the engineering side of building construction—e.g., coursework in the static and dynamic analysis of structure. Interior design also differs from architecture (and interior decoration) in its concern for every aspect of the interior environments that people use every day.

The human experience in these settings is a broad topic that includes history and culture, psychology and physiology, organization theory, and benchmark data drawn from practice—together with lighting, color theory, acoustics, and ergonomics. These subjects need to be part of the professional interior designer’s education and training.

How do interior designers gain an understanding of client and user needs?

"By asking them” is a reasonable answer for smaller projects, but larger ones make use of social science research methods such as participant observation, network analysis, and surveys. Exposure to these methods through coursework in anthropology and sociology is helpful, especially as strategic consulting emerges as a specialty within the profession. (Strategic consulting seeks to align a client’s real estate and facilities strategies with its business plan. Typically, it helps the client define its real estate and facilities program and establish the quantitative and qualitative measures of its performance.)

Business clients expect their design teams to understand the strategic context of their projects. Coursework in business and economics can begin that process; immersion in the industry, by reading its journals and participating in its organizations, is the next step. Once designers reach a certain level of responsibility, management becomes part of their job description. Coursework in business and management can make this transition easier.


A Knowledge of Sustainable Design Principles

"Building ecology,” as the Europeans call it, needs to be part of interior designers’ knowledge. They should know how to design to conserve nonrenewable resources, minimize waste, reduce CO2 and SO2 levels, and support human health and performance.8,9



In tackling the problem of indoor air pollution in the 1980s, the interior design profession led the way in raising public awareness of the value of sustainable design.

As advocates for the user, interior designers have a special responsibility to understand sustainable design principles and evaluate their appropriateness for their projects. Sustainability also offers many opportunities to deliver added value for clients. As case studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute9 have shown, the resulting gains in building and human performance provide a reasonable (and even rapid) payback on the client’s investment,

especiallywhen these measures are used in combination. Here are some examples.

Lockheed Building 157, Sunnyvale, California. Lockheed spent $2.0 million to add sustainable design features to this 600,000-ft2 office building that reduced its energy consumption and provided a higher-quality work environment. Control of ambient noise was also achieved. Lower energy costs alone would have repaid Lockheed’s investment in four years. Because the improved quality of the workplace reduced absenteeism by 15 percent, the investment was actually repaid in less than a year.

West Bend Mutual Insur ance Headquarters, West Bend, Wisconsin. West Bend used a number of sustainable design features, including energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, roof, wall, and window insulation, and thermal storage. Utility rebates kept its cost within a "conventional” budget. The building is 40 percent more efficient than the one it replaced. It provides an "energy-responsive workplace” that gives users direct control of thermal comfort at their workstations. A stud y showed that the building achieved a 16 percent productivity gain over the old one. Apr oductivity gain of 5 percent (worth $650,000 in 1992 dollars) is attributable to the energy responsive workplace feature alone.

NMB Headquarters, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This 538,000-ft2 project exemplifies what Europeans call "integral planning”: designing the building and its systems holistically to reduce operating costs and increase quality and performance. About $700,000 in extra costs were incurred to optimize the building and its systems, but this provided $2.6 million a year in energy savings—and a payback of only three months. Employee absenteeism is down by 15 percent, too. Gensler’s experience reinforces the Rocky Mountain Institute’s findings. On office campus projects, they found that providing under-floor air supply and ambient lighting can reduce the cost of workplace "churn” (the need to shift workstations to accommodate changes in occupancy) from as much as $5.00/ft2 to less than $1.00/ft2. For an office campus in Northern California, these same features allowed them to redesign the entire workplace to accommodate a different set of users just six weeks before its opening—with no delays. By avoiding the cost of delay, the client essentially paid for the 10 percent higher cost of these features before the campus had even opened.



Settings, the designed spaces within buildings, are "where the action is.”

When human or organizational change occurs, settings are where it takes place first. As my colleague Antony Harbour points out, the U.S. workplace has been dramatically transformed over the last 40 years, butU.S. commercial office buildings still have the same floor plans. The settings have changed much more than their containers. Although settings are more ephemeral than buildings, they have equal if not greater cultural impact.


Interior Designers and the Workplace Revolution

Because of the economic pressures of recession and globalization and technological developments such as bandwidth (the proliferation of electronic networks to convey voice and data communications on a global basis), the workplace has undergone profound change in the last decade. While technology is given credit for the productivity gains that have swept the U.S. economy in this period, interior designers who specialize in the workplace have had a major role in helping U.S. companies integrate new technologies and work processes. Alone among design professionals, they understood that these settings are the "connective tissue” that could make this happen. Interior design professionals understand that design fuels organizational change, regardless of the scale of its application. Think about where we work today. Behind the modern city, whether London, Tokyo, or New York, are nineteenth-century assumptions about work—that it occurs at specific times and in specific places, for example. Now people work "anywhere, anytime,” and there are compelling reasons, such as the problems of commuting, to distribute work geographically.

Not only the locus of work has changed in our culture; the mode of work has changed as well. In the last century the workforce moved from Frederick Taylor’s "scientific management” to ways of working that are increasingly open-ended, democratic, and individual/team-tailored. Along the way, the workplace changed, too. Taylorism was about efficiency (and uniformity).

What followed shifted the focus to effectiveness (and diversity). What’s the difference? As Peter Drucker explains, "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

The Modern movement, aping Taylor, took "Form follows function” as its credo. Today, though, we might amend this to "Form follows strategy.” If design firms are now involved in strategic consulting, it is because interior designers paved the way. Their ability to give form to strategy gave them an advantage over competing consultants, because they knew how to make strategy actionable.

Yet this focus on strategy does not entirely explain the impact that interior designers have had on the workplace. More than any other profession involved in the design of these settings, they have been able to use their knowledge of workplace culture to design work settings that genuinely support the people who use them. Interior designers make it their business to know how people actually inhabit and experience the built environment.

Their work—certainly the best of it—consistently reflects this understanding. The licensing controversy notwithstanding, interior designers today are valued members of building design teams precisely because they bring this knowledge to the table. Some of the most valuable research on the workplace in recent years has beendone by interior designers who specialize in work settings for corporate, financial, and professional service clients. Gensler’s Margo Grant and Chris Murray, for example, have done pioneering work documenting the changing strategic goals of these companies and how they play out in spatial terms.

Their benchmarking studies give Gensler and its clients a wealth of comparative data about facilities trends across the developed world’s economy.

Needless to say, this is a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

As Peter Drucker points out, it used to be that the skills needed in business changed very slowly:

My ancestors were printers in Amsterdam from 1510 or so until 1750

and during that entire time they didn’t have to learn anything new.

All of the basic innovations in printing had been done . . . by the

early 16th century. Socrates was a stone mason. If he came back to

life and went to work in a stone yard, it would take him about six

hours to catch on. Neither the tools nor the products have changed.10

Today, however, we are in the midst of a period of remarkable technological innovation, equivalent in its impact to the cluster of spectacular breakthroughs that occurred in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Technological innovation is one reason that professions evolve. Social change, the evolution of "everyday life” and its values, is another. "Faster, cheaper, better!” is the catch phrase of the new economy. Every shaper of the built environment faces these related changes, as clients demand a new responsiveness.

Design professionals should rethink linear and segmented processes, reflecting nineteenth-century practices, and begin to envision how everyone engaged in designing and constructing the built environment should approach

their practice to achieve the speed, responsiveness, and innovation that clients require.




The bandwidth revolution has given interior designers an entirely new set of tools—not just for design, but also for collaboration. As is true for most innovations, their early applications were focused on existing practices.

Today, though, a new generation of designers is at work who grew up with these tools. As they move into the mainstream of practice, they will start to use them to reshape practice.

Bandwidth is transforming the production process: how furniture, furnishings, and equipment get from designer to manufacturer to end-user. It makes it possible both to speed the production process, by tying it more directly to purchasing, and to consolidate orders to secure larger production runs and better prices. And it creates a world market for these products that should increase their variety.

Bandwidth will also make it steadily easier for virtual teams to work collaboratively, to "construct” a virtual setting in three dimensions. This collaboration takes place not just between people, but between computers, too, so that in time fabrication will follow design without the need for detailed working drawings. As the process becomes more seamless (and more common), it will extend to other aspects of construction. At some point, "design/build” may really be a singleprocess. Currently, we are only halfway there. Alot of the infrastructure is in place, but the interface is still maddeningly primitive.

At the same time, we are trying to use the infrastructure to support traditional practice models. It may take a "push” from the outside, such as another oil shock that makes the price of airline tickets less affordable, to force designers to change their ways and embrace virtual collaboration wholeheartedly.

Thanks to bandwidth, manufacturing has gone from Henry Ford’s assembly line, with its uniform products, to Dell’s (and now Ford’s) "mass customization.”

Service industries have changed similarly. Across the economy, customers want the cost advantages of mass market mass production, along with the quality and performance of custom design.



emand an increased level of responsiveness, knowledge workers demand "consonance” in the workplace. They approach potential employers looking for a "fit” with their values and lifestyles. In a buoyant economy, they can afford to be selective—and intolerant of "dissonance.”

The built environment gives form to consonance and provides its framework. To keep pace with social and technological changes, design professionals must learn to see that framework as one that changes with time and therefore design in four dimensions.

The current rate of technological change suggests that designers will face considerable pressure to practice with time in mind. Both the container and the contained—"structure and stuff,” as Stewart Brand put it in

How Buildings Learn—change over time, but at different rates of speed.11 The trends of mass customization and congruence suggest that settings will change frequently, which puts pressure on the rest to facilitate the change. This brings us back to sustainability, which also demands of "stuff” that its residual value be salvaged through recycling and reuse.

Designing in four dimensions means rethinking our conceptions of buildings. "There isn’t such a thing as a building,” Frank Duffy asserts. Buildings are just "layers of longevity of built components”—they exist in time. What matters for their designers is their "use through time.” Duffy finds the whole notion of timelessness to be "sterile” because it ignores time as the building’s fourth dimension—they exist in time, so they have to evolve to meet its changing demands.12

Also working from a "time-layered” perspective, Brand proposes a holistic approach to time-sensitive design.13 He identifies six components of buildings:

site, structure, skin, services, and space plan. While interior designers are focused on the last two, they have good reason to want to influence the rest: they all affect the building’s use through time. To exercise this influence effectively, of course, interior designers have to understand the characteristics of these components, and the possibilities of the other elements of the built environment. Interior designers do not have to be engineers, or vice versa, but both need to know enough about the others’ business so they can approach the building in a holistic or time-layered way. As Brand says:

Thinking about buildings in this time-laden way is very practical.

As a designer you avoid such classic mistakes as solving a five minute

problem with a fifty-year solution. It legitimizes the existence

of different design skills, all with their different agendas

defined by this time scale.14

To be responsive to the user in the building design process, interior designers need to have this broader knowledge of the building and its components. In the end, their ability to sway others in the design and delivery process will rest primarily on issues of use over time—issues that are primarily functional and strategic, and that constantly require new skills. profession. In 1999, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) put together a task force to review the question of licensing interior designers.

As Architectural Record’s Robert Ivy reported:

They found that interior designers seek to distinguish themselves

from less-qualified decorators, protect the right to practice, establish gender equity in a field dominated by men, and earn them respect of their fellow professionals.15 "The designers ’viewpoint is consistent,” Ivy added, citing his magazine’s April 1998 roundtable discussion with interior designers. "Despite their gains in the industry, they feel slighted or disparaged by architects. ”Yet, he says, "there are unavoidable differences between architects and interior designers”:

Architectural education is more rigorously focused on life safety, as well as structure, building science, and codes. By contrast, the AIA task force reported that in the 125 interior design programs currently available, education can vary from two to four years, and current testing for certification focused more on aesthetics than safety. The differences do not stop with pedagogy. Architects tend to engage the entire design problem, considering not only the contents of the interior, but the interior’s relation to the exterior envelope, its construction and building systems, and the natural and human made surroundings. A healthy building—light-filled, safe, and promoting human habitation—should be architects’ professional norm.

When we are operating at a high level of accomplishment, our work is holistic, integrating complex technical systems and social requirements into structures that engage the landscape, sustain their inhabitants inside and out, and enrich the community.16

Should interior designers be licensed? Here is Ivy’s answer:

Our own professional status reflects a public trust we have earned at high cost, and it should not be diluted. . . . Practice legislation may not be the panacea that interior designers seek, if it is achieved without commensurate, fundamental changes in [their] education and experience.17

However, interior designers can make a strong case that they should be accorded the distinctions and protections that are part of other design professions such as architecture. No less than architects, interior designers are engaged in "the entire design problem.” As advocates of the user, and as designers who are "fourth-dimension sensitive,” they are often the first ones in the building design process to point out how one or another of the building’s components makes it harder for its settings to evolve easily to meet new needs.

As designers’ interest in indoor air quality demonstrates, they are concerned with quality of life, too—with user performance, not just building performance.



Interior designers who anguish about the time it is taking to secure state sanction for their profession’s title and practice should bear in mind that it took architects a lot longer. Arguments over who is and is not qualified to design buildings punctuate the history of the profession.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, the master masons were the building architects.

During the Renaissance in Italy, artist architects supplanted them. They were considered to be qualified as architects owing to their training in design. Architects such as Brunelleschi and Michelangelo took a strong interest in engineering and technology, too, as they strove to realize their ambitious building projects. With Vitruvius, they believed that architecture was a liberal art that combined theory and practice. Master masons, who apprenticed in the building trades, were disparaged because their training was purely practical.

Yet the Italian Renaissance also saw the emergence of the professional in Europe’s first true architect, Antonio Sangallo the Younger. Apprenticed to the artist-architect Bramante, Sangallo helped implement many of Bramante’s later buildings. In time, he established a studio that is recognizably the prototype for today’s architecture and design firms. The architectural historian James Ackerman has described him as "one of the few architects of his time who never wanted to be anything else.”

Four diverging traditions emerge from the Renaissance: artist-architects, trained in design; humanist-architects, trained in theory; architect-architects, focused on buildings and striving for a balance between theory and practice; and builder architects, focused on construction but still interested in designing buildings.

Artist-architects looked for patrons; architect- architects looked for clients. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we see this distinction played out between "gentleman” architects and the emerging  profession. Thomas Jefferson counted architecture among his gentlemanly pursuits,

a trait he shared with others of his class. Lord Burlington, who did much to establish the architectural profession in England, was widely criticized by his peers for his "unwonted” interest in the pragmatics of building construction. When the Institute of British Architects was establishedin 1834, noblemen could become honorary members for a fee. (Significantly, all connection with the building trades was forbidden.) In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, English architects also faced competition from surveyors. In his Dictionary of 1755, Dr. Johnson gave essentially the same definition for the words "surveyor” and "architect.” In England, at least, the two professions remained closely aligned through much of the nineteenth century— with both designing buildings. Engineers designed buildings, too. In 1854, one of them even won the Institute of British Architects’ Gold Medal.



Like other professionals, interior designers must contend with ethical issues. Indeed, the issues can be quite similar to those of allied and other learned professions. Liken architects, lawyers, and doctors, interior designers can also do bodily harm and create financial damage if they practice incompetently or unethically. They can also put people at risk by failing to be effective advocates of their interests. Here are some examples of these issues as they arise in interior design practice.

• Life safety. Designers sometimes bemoan codes and regulations, but these rules exist to establish a minimum standard of health and safety. Failure to meet code can delay a project, which damages the owner, and can also cause bodily harm.

• Confidentiality. Interior designers often have access to confidential business information— a planned acquisition, for example, or a new business plan or strategy. This knowledge is shared with interior designers only because it has a direct bearing on their work, and it is shared with them in confidence. Ethically, and often by contract, that confidence must be respected.

• Conflict of interest. Interior designers are their clients’ agents, so they have an obligation to avoid or disclose to them any potential conflicts of interest. (Disclosure means that you are prepared to end the conflict if the client so requests.) The appearance of conflict can be as problematic as the reality. Just as voters worry when politicians become too cozywith special interests, clients start to wonder when interior designers accept gifts or junkets from contractors and vendors. The occasional lunch, party, box of candy, or bottle of wine is no problem, but all-expenses-paid vacation trips and other costly"perks” cross the line. They create the appearance if not the reality that design decisions—specifying a product, for example—are being made to repay favors rather than to serve the interests of the client.

• User advocacy. Interior designers have a responsibility to users. If, in their judgment, a project’s requirements, though legal, compromise user comfort and performance unacceptably, they have an obligation to try to change them, or to resign from the project if the client is unwilling to make changes. Design professionals have a broader obligation to educate their clients on the value of design features that improve user quality of life and performance.

• Competency. Professional competence reflects ongoing mastery of the skills and knowledge demanded by professional practice. Professional certification or licensing formally requires a level of mastery that necessarily lags behind what design professionals actually need. For example, FIDER’s requirements do not yet specify that interior designers know the principles of sustainable design. That lag does not excuse professional interior designers from mastering these principles, or any new skills that may be necessary to maintain their professional competence. Interior design came into its own in the 1990s as settings came to be seen as strategic resources. The catch phrase "Place matters!”—so emblematic of the second half of the decade—turned out to be literally true. When people have real choice about when and where they spend their time, the quality of these settings—their ability to support people in their desired activities—becomes crucial, often the deciding point. A "place” can be part of the landscape or cityscape, a building or building complex, or an enclosed indoor or outdoor setting. The word implies a richness and wholeness that mocks the design professions’ efforts to carve it into parts.

The built environment today has immense range and diversity. Much development embraces multiple uses. The time dimension of buildings is changing, too, with more components expected (or needed) to be ephemeral rather than "permanent.” Already, many projects today feature hybrid teams that are organized around each project’s particular blend of uses and timeframes. These interdisciplinary teams are the future. They expose each profession to the others and give all of them a shared perspective about "place” that transcends each one’s necessarily narrower view. This shared viewpoint may eventually give rise to entirely new professions, which we may no longer be willing to categorize as "architecture” or "interior design.” In time, too, the division between design and construction may prove to be an artificial boundary, no longer justified by practice. Professions are conservative forces in society, constantly resisting pressures to change, yet constantly placed in situations where the need to change is obvious and imperative. New professions arise in part because old ones fail to adapt. Compared to architecture, interior design is still in its infancy—a profession that is just now marshalling its forces to secure the recognition to which it feels entitled. All this is taking place against the background of our entrepreneurial and bandwidth-driven era. How important is it, in this context, to secure the profession’s boundaries or win state sanction for its practice? If it helps strengthen the education and training of interior designers, and encourages them to meet their responsibilities as professionals, then it is probably well worthwhile.

Especially today, it is hard to predict the future of the interior design profession. One clear way to prepare for it, however, is to make the education of interior design professionals much more rigorous. This argues for a more comprehensive curriculum, as I have outlined previously, and for a four-year professional degree program at the undergraduate level. It also argues for learning, as Peter Senge calls it—not just maintaining skills, but actively learning from practice. Senge’s point, made admirably in his book, The Fifth Discipline,18 is that work itself is a learning experience of the first order. Our interactions with clients, colleagues, and other collaborators provide constant glimpses into an unfolding future. If we are attentive, we can understand some of what the future demands—and take steps to meet it appropriately. People who care about their careers, and who take their responsibilities as professionals seriously, need to make learning a constant priority.


1 This brief account is drawn from Spiro Kostof (ed.), The Architect, Oxford University Press, New

York, 1977, pp. 98–194.

2 Maister, David H., True Professionalism, The Free Press, New York, 1997, pp. 15–16.

3 Maister, True Professionalism, p. 16.

4 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Co., 1977, p. 919.

5 Webster’s, p. 63.

6 Webster’s, p. 265.

7 Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research (FIDER), "Definition of Interior

Design” (from FIDER’s website: http://www.fider.org/definition.htm).

8 Agood introduction to this topic is Diana Lopez Barnett and William D. Browning: A Primer

on Sustainable Building, Rocky Mountain Institute, Snowmass, CO, 1995.

9 Romm, Joseph J., and William D. Browning, Greening the Building and the Bottom Line, Rocky

Mountain Institute, Snowmass, CO, 1994.

10 Daly, James, "Sage Advice” (interview of Peter Drucker), Business 2.0, August 8, 2000.

11 Brand, Stewart, How Buildings Learn, Viking, New York, 1994, p. 13.



              Copyright ©    8-2- 2009   Dr. Abuhani. All rights reserved


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