Is the interior designer “mafia” advancing northward?Share
Probably not, but not for lack of trying. In a commentary posted on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), Lee McGrath expresses caution about the fourth attempt being made by the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to make “interior design” a regulated profession. (Currently, interior design is regulated as a distinct practice in only Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Washington, DC.)
As the executive director of a libertarian law foundation, McGrath’s opinion is predictable and he occasionally overstates the cost and dangers of ASID’s proposed licensing scheme. Even so, I think he is more right than wrong (at least w/ respect to the particular proposal in the Minnesota legislature) and echoes a discussion I and a few others had a few months ago.
To be brief, regulatory obligations imposed on a particular field of work should be proportional to the public safety risks of having no regulatory barriers to entry. I suspect that on the whole, incompetent interior designers pose fewer dangers to public safety than incompetent structural engineers or architects, and consequently, the regulatory burden should be less onerous (as opposed to nonexistent, which would be McGrath’s ideal outcome).
One possible solution is to simplify the process of licensure; instead of requiring, among other things, passage of a state-administered exam, the state could simply require, as a prerequisite for licensure, an interior design-related degree. Such a scheme would eliminate the cost of administering a state-wide examination and still ensure that professionals know something about the field in which they work.
Alternatively, the state could impose a licensing scheme that recognizes the fact that interior design is not a monolithic profession. That is, residential interior design is generally less complex than commercial interior design, in which building code and fire safety issues take on greater significance. Instead of requiring all designers, regardless of specialty, to obtain a license to practice, the state could simply require a license for only those who work in the commercial context (of course, then the challenge is determining a reasonable definition for “commercial” work).
Assuming the ASID is right that public safety concerns are great enough to justify a new regulatory regime, I don’t believe political circumstances have changed so much that their current proposal is any more likely to pass than their three previous proposals. In any event, their chances are certainly not helped by the fact that the proposal apparently does not have a “grandfather” clause, allowing existing practitioners to continue working without having to run the entire gauntlet of new requirements.
If dangers posed by the existing paradigm were indisputably substantial (they are not), then the lack of a grandfather clause would make sense as a matter of public safety. But where, as here, dangers posed are not clearly evident, it makes sense to at least include such a clause. (It’s worth noting that self-taught architects who met certain requirements were allowed to continue practicing, even after most states created educational prerequisites for practice.)
I’d love to here from both sides in this debate - especially those aware of evidence underlying ASID’s claim that licensure is necessary to ensure public safety.
Related Post: (1) Florida’s interior design “mafia” and (2) One reason to review your interior designer’s receipts.
Image courtesy of leitza.