One Stop Career Shop
Individuals seeking guidance regarding interior design as a career will soon have one stop on the Internet to access comprehensive information on the profession.
By Janet Wiens
Interior designers shape our built environment through color and texture, form and function. The career of interior design encompasses a range of skills and approaches focused on creating spaces appropriate to the needs of the user. Good design takes time, and matures through experience and mentoring.
That's the reality of the interior design profession. But, as with many things, the public's understanding of the profession has become formed in recent years by the proliferation of "design" shows on television.
Perception Versus Reality
Flip through the channels on your television and you'll run across a myriad of shows that are interior design oriented. HGTV and others have opened new doors, in many ways, to what designers do and that is good. Yet, there is a downside to all this attention.
"The public's perception, especially in the last few years, of what interior designers do has been influenced by the entertainment field, particularly television," says Beth Harmon-Vaughan, FIIDA, chair of the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER). "What is portrayed in many cases, however, is style versus design. Interior design professionals know that the vast majority of what we do is hardly touched upon in the media. The exposure is good, but it has also created challenges for our profession."
A major hurdle is that students entering interior design programs have a misconception about what interior design is based on what is shown on TV. Finding out what interior design really is once they get to school is often a shock.
"The Internet is a great research tool," says Harmon-Vaughan. "Unfortunately, if you use your browser and key in 'interior design careers' you get lots of places to go, but no consistent perspective. Professional association sites and others provide information, but no one site comprehensively addresses our profession and what it requires."
That will change in October. At the Issues Forum in November 2003 leaders from FIDER, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), and the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications (NCIDQ) banded together to develop a Web site devoted to fully addressing interior design as a career. Since then, the executive directors of each association and their volunteer leaders have spent countless hours creating a site that will be the first comprehensive source of interior design career information for people to access.
The site, www.careersininteriordesign.com, has two main audiences—teens and possibly their parents, who are beginning a career search, and those exploring interior design as a second profession. After featuring general information the site has seven sections:
* Education * Practice
* Experience * Networking
* Examination * Frequently Asked Questions * Licensing and Regulation
Each section provides detailed information that shows the commitment, talents and experiences required to become an interior designer.
"Visitors to the site will quickly grasp that interior design is vastly different from what is seen on a home improvement show," says Sara Dunton, IDC, IDC president. "The associations sponsoring the site partnered in a wonderful collaboration that addresses a critical need. We have joined forces to accurately convey what it takes to become an interior designer."
The sections contain information specific to that component, and a brief overview of each only touches the surface.
"This area gives prospective students a place to begin grasping interior design as a career," says Anna Marshall-Baker, IDEC, IDEC president. "Our members report that they have first-year students who are surprised, and sometimes disappointed, by what becoming an interior designer entails."
Marshall-Baker states that this component explains the education process including choosing a school. Material on accreditation, curriculum, student involvement and links to individual association Web sites is also provided.
"My experience is that the attrition rate for first-year students can be as high as one-third," Marshall-Baker says. "Individuals accessing the site will go in knowing what faces them—more technology, social science, history and business management than they might have imagined. They'll be able to make an informed decision regarding whether or not this is the career for them."
Becoming an interior designer doesn't end when one graduates, and that's the message of the Experience section. Visitors learn that education is only the first step to be followed by a qualifying exam administered by the NCIDQ.
The importance of an internship or structured mentoring program is stressed. Real-life exposure to design-firm work is required. Links to the Interior Design Education Program (www.ncidq.org.idep.htm) and the NCIDQ site regarding exams (www.ncidq.
org/examreg.htm) are provided.
Most people probably don't realize that interior designers have a qualifying exam similar to the process that lawyers or accountants undergo. Now they'll know.
The examination section addresses eligibility requirements to sit for the NCIDQ exam as well as stating that successful completion of the exam is required for professional registration in U.S. states and Canadian provinces with licensing or certification statues.
Licensing and Registration
"We must minimize misconceptions and address the reality of the interior design profession," says Derrell Parker, NCIDQ president. "This site is a major step in that direction."
Parker notes that selecting a college or university can have strong implications down the road. "Many states and provinces require a degree from an accredited program in order to be licensed or registered. Individuals must know that as early as possible in their career path in order to select the program that best fits with their overall plans." As one example, Parker says that persons entering the profession must evaluate both licensing or registration requirements where they live now as well as where they may live in the future as this may impact their selection regarding which college or university to attend depending on its accreditation or lack thereof.
The section covers types of interior design legislation—Title Act, Practice Act, Permitting Statue, Certified Interior Designer, Registered Interior Designer, and Licensed Interior Designer. Links to state and province Web sites enables the user to access even more information.
The practice section is the most detailed and gives an accurate picture of what an individual does once they become an interior designer. "Those of us who have been in the profession for some time know that a room or a facility doesn't get designed or installed in 60 minutes," says Linda Smith, FASID, president of ASID. "We impact lives on multiple layers through our designs. Most interior designers have to be able to multi-task, communicate well and synthesize multiple layers of data in order to develop the most appropriate design solution. This section gets into the meat of what we do."
Research is critical as is accurately documenting projects, following the latest design trends and keeping abreast of products that are offered by hundreds of manufacturers. "Ours is a passionate career that requires the ability to go from a macro to a micro view," Smith says. "This section enables people considering the profession to begin understanding what is required to make successful decisions and the impact that those decisions can have on the lives of others."
Where do I go for more information? It's all here. The section provides information on the services and opportunities of the association members that developed the site.
The FAQ section is almost as detailed as the Practice section and that is fitting since only the tip of the iceberg has been touched within the site. "The site may raise as many questions as it answers," notes John Lijewski, FIIDA, IIDA president. "Educators, practitioners and certifying bodies have partnered to create this site, which sends a strong message regarding the reality of what we do.
"Our mission," Lijewski concludes, "is to generate better awareness of the impact that we have and the tools and commitment that are required to maximize that impact. We answered questions with a unified voice. This commitment will help prospective students make educated decisions as well as hopefully seizing their imaginations regarding interior design as a career."