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How Interior Design Regulations Affect Entrepreneurs & Consumers

According to information from the American Society of Interior Designers, 26 states, along with D.C and Puerto Rico, require prospective interior designers to spend two or more years meeting the education and experience requirements necessary to receive a government-issued license to work.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post by Hilary Gowins entitled: Arbitrary Interior Design Regulations Hurt Entrepreneurs, Consumers. The article explored the negative effect design regulations have on interior designers that practice within these states. Gowins’ article asks the very important question:

“Why do prospective interior design practitioners have to jump through so many hoops?”

The article was well-informed and gave me tremendous food for thought. Gowins identified the following negative effects on the design industry:

  • State governments that regulate interior design make it difficult for people to enter the profession and more expensive for consumers to purchase design services.

  • The dwindling number of interior designers in regulated states demonstrates that regulation is limiting economic opportunity in interior design.

  • Regulation is a deterrent for many entrepreneurs. Going into business for yourself, or embarking on a new career, doesn’t just require setting up shop and acquiring the necessary skills for success. “It’s about paying fees and meeting arbitrary requirements.”

  • Since licenses are usually difficult and expensive to obtain, professionals already working within the field feel less pressure from new competition.

I can certainly see the advantages and disadvantages of government regulation. However, I believe that an interior designer’s ability to create a beautiful home environment that’s nurturing and harmonious isn’t assisted by the obtaining of a license. When it comes to hiring a designer, one should look to a designer’s portfolio, speak to past clients, make online investigations (websites, yelp reviews and social media) and of course meet with designers one on one. Any potential fees involved with meeting designers simply forms part of the budget, and in my opinion, is money well spent! Requiring a license to practice does not eliminate the need for consumers to go through these steps.

From my experience as a designer, obtaining a license was not nearly as beneficial to my clients as being trained in the art and science of Feng Shui. This is not currently acknowledged as a level of education that can be applied to licensing, but to my mind it’s certainly as important to the overall satisfaction that I offer my clients; in much the same way that we acknowledge more holistic forms of medical practice can offer relief from pain and suffering.

Perhaps the most frustrating part to these licensing requirements is that it’s not exactly clear who benefits. Gowins comments that: “[i]t’s unclear WHO is really protected by extensive licensing requirements for interior designers, because professionals and consumers both suffer when governments adopt hefty barriers to entry.” Perhaps it’s competing lines within the industry that are protected? Like architects or more established design firms that prefer to keep the pricing higher? It’s certainly not the end consumer or the young entrepreneur.

While I understand that ongoing education is important to stay current, and that major renovation plans should always be signed off by licensed industry professional for safety reasons, the idea of requiring a pre-set minimum of schooling to practice does little to ensure artistic vision or professional ethics to my mind.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

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