A few months ago the “liability” of titles became apparent when I was called by a law firm to discuss “interior design” services. They brought me in and invited me to comment on a plan that an architect had developed for them. I spent one minute looking at the plans and proceeded
to tell the managing partner, rather bluntly, that I thought they’d be
making a huge mistake if they moved from their current, maze-like offices into a space that reflects how they worked 30 years ago, rather than how they work today.
Several weeks later, at a management meeting with the firm, an
attorney said, “I thought we were calling Lisa to discuss furniture and colors, but she proposed different ideas regarding the configuration of the space.” This is frustrating to me and other NCIDQ-qualified individuals. Our expertise is in assessing space needs at the beginning of a project—clarifying the vision, conducting research and focus groups, determining square footage and programming, and developing schematic plans. Yet, the perception is that I am a CPO—a color-picker-outer—who provides
the “finishing touches” on a space.
At a more recent meeting, the managing partner stumbled when making
introductions. “This is Jim, our architect, and this is Lisa, she’s uh … a troublemaker?” (I like to think he said it in an endearing tone.) He did not refer to me as an interior designer. I believe this is because I do not fit the traditional mold of his expectations for my profession.
Maybe that’s an assumption, but I say it because the public knows exactly what they believe an interior designer does and is—they see it on HGTV and read beautiful, glossy magazines that show them the work of interior designers. I am not going to change the ingrained perception of what I used to call my profession. However, I can educate the public regarding something they have no clue about: the letters NCIDQ and what they mean.
The public needs to know that virtually anyone in the United States can call him or herself an interior designer. The title “interior designer” cannot be used in Washington, D.C. or Louisiana unless an individual is registered by that jurisdiction. That leaves approximately 293,398,840 people in the U.S. who can claim they are interior designers. Yet, only 29,000—.0001 percent of all people who could call themselves interior designers—have earned the NCIDQ designation. (According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71,700 people claim they are interior designers, which means that approximately 40 percent of those people have earned their NCIDQ credential.)
NCIDQ’s recent Louis Tregre Award honoree, Caren Martin, eloquently shared her perception of the credential at the organization’s annual Council of Delegates meeting in Chicago back in November. Reflecting on her passage of the exam, she said, “With the exam under my belt, I felt that I could confidently present myself as a qualified interior design professional. In a world where interior design is often belittled, that confidence boost was tremendously important.”
NCIDQ might be an unfortunate set of letters to most, but thanks to designers like Martin and Linster, they can have a real impact on the daily lives of people. I hope you’ll consider helping us to spread the word.
Lisa Whited, NCIDQ, owns a consulting firm in Portland, Maine. She can be reached at email@example.com.