WSJ, Response to Clark Neily’s Op-Ed “Watch Out for that Pillow”

I posted last week an opinion-editorial piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal. This article portrayed interior designers as nothing more than people who pick out throw pillows for one’s home. As interior designers, you know that your education and careers prepare you for so much more than this. As shown in another post last week about Children’s Healthcare Atlanta, interior designers were able to, through research, reduce a child’s pain by 50% based on visual images of nature used in the interior design and construction of the children’s healthcare facility.

Below you will find responses to Clark Neily’s Op-Ed by ASID, NCIDQ and the Institute for Justice. IIDA also submitted a response, but it was not printed. I will post IIDA’s response later today. You can find the responses here or read below. This post is long, so don’t forget to check out the Student Sample Swap post and the Rural Studio post, as well.

Hospitals and Homes: What Qualifications Are

Right for Designers?
April 8, 2008; Page A18

Clark Neily’s op-ed “Watch Out for That Pillow” (April 1), disparaging the American Society of Interior Designers, trivializes the role of interior design professionals.

It’s insulting to imply that the very people who are designing the command centers for our national defense, the nursing homes that care for the frail elderly and the day-care facilities that protect our children, are only concerned with paint color.

Mr. Neily refers to interior designers as people who “offer advice about throw pillows and paint colors.” Clearly, if that is his idea of interior design, he doesn’t understand the profession. He is operating under an antiquated notion of decorators as designers. They are not the same.

Interior design professionals offer a broad range of services to hospitals, schools, government buildings, as well as homes and offices. They must take into consideration every aspect of how interiors affect the people in them, from ergonomics to environmental concerns, acoustics, special needs and safety.

Interior design professionals don’t pretend to be “brain surgeons” or “airline pilots,” as Mr. Neily implies. But they do play a pivotal role in providing safe, healthy spaces for both commercial and home environments, and as such the government has a vested interest in ensuring practitioners are competent.

Michael Alin, FASID
Executive Director
American Society of Interior Designers

This article is right on the mark, but one very important factor needs to be added: ASID does not have the support of the interior design community.

Of the conservative estimate of 112,000 designers in the U.S., fewer than 4,000 are thought to have actually passed the exam they presume to hold up as the standard for everyone else (3%). They do not have a mandate, nor have the other 97% of designers elected them to speak on their behalf.

A grassroots movement of interior designers to oppose legislation has begun to take hold. Last year, 24 bills to impose some type of interior design regulation were introduced; none of them were enacted. This year, all state legislature bills that have, or have attempted to be introduced, have been met with resistance and defeat.

There are already systems in place (codes, inspections, etc.) which adequately provide protection for the consumer, and whether a designer is licensed or not, the codes have to be followed.

And really, let’s give credit for a little common sense here, people. In commercial applications, hospitals for example, do you really think that the hospital’s administrator is not going to thoroughly review the qualifications of the interior designer it intends to hire?

The call to arms has been made, and interior designers are ready to battle to protect their livelihoods.

Patti Morrow
Executive Director
The Interior Design Protection Council
Concord, N.H.

Mr. Neily mischaracterizes the requirements for licensure for interior designers in the U.S. and Canada. He states that they are “…a four-year degree from an accredited interior design college, a two-year apprenticeship, and a two-day, thousand-dollar licensing exam so irrelevant to the actual practice of interior design.” My organization, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), produces that exam. It is not produced or influenced by the American Society of Interior Designers. NCIDQ exists to protect the public’s interest in the built environment — not to promote the wants of the interior design profession. Our only members are the U.S. state governments and Canadian regulatory bodies that regulate the profession.

A simple check of our Web site ( would have shown that applicants for our examination pay a one-time application review fee of $150 (and in some cases this is waived), and then they pay for whichever of the three test sections they wish to take at each six-month test administration. Currently the fee to take all three sections is $720, not $1,000. We also clearly state on our Web site what the requirements for eligibility are. They include, but are not limited to, a four-year accredited degree.

Jeffrey F. Kenney, AIA
Executive Director
National Council for Interior Design Qualification

Mr. Neily’s point was that ASID has aggressively pushed for licensing laws that are so sweeping they would require a license even for the most basic services a designer could provide, including the selection of throw pillows.

This is not speculation; this was in fact the effect of the licensing law ASID pushed for and successfully passed in Alabama. After the 2001 law, Alabama designers could go to jail if they did not have a license and offered advice for a fee on the color or placement of throw pillows.

This must underscore for you the unreal and ridiculous nature of the ASID crusade to regulate all competition out of business.

Interior designers throughout this country should be free to pursue the credentials they feel best prepare them for the job, and then be responsible for competing in the marketplace by demonstrating they are actually good at the job — not by simply making their competition illegal.

Jennifer M. Perkins
Staff Attorney
Institute for Justice, Arizona Chapter
Tempe, Ariz.


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