What does it mean to be a certified interior designer?

This was a lobby that was designed by a firm I worked with in Houston- that bookmatched granite is stunning!!

This was a lobby that was designed by a firm I worked with in Houston- that bookmatched granite is stunning!!

As of yesterday at 5:30PM, I’m a certified interior designer.

In this huge social media world and online bananza, I feel likes it’s probably a helpful thing if I define what that means and why it’s important.

To quote the NCIDQ website:

"Interior design is the art and science of understanding people's behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design"

In high school, I told my teachers that I wanted to be an interior decorator. One of them told me “No you don’t. You want to be an interior designer. They get paid more”. HA! I don’t know if that’s always true, but I have learned a few things about the differences between them since then.

  1. As an interior designer, my #1 concern in health and safety of people as they engage in a space. The test that you take to be a licensed interior designer (the NCIDQ) tests you on accessibility requirements( like making sure a wheel chair has room to turn in a bathroom stall), installing electrical/lighting/equipment that comply with fire safety laws, and specifying ergonomic, sustainable designs/furnishings that protect people’s health. What that all means is that I think about all the boring safe stuff..not just the color of the walls.

  2. I’m like an architect- only for interiors. So architects design the shell of a building. They don’t decide where the walls are for anything inside. They don’t determine how wide the corridors are, what shape the food court will be in or how big the conference room should be. Interior designers do that.

  3. For large organizations and companies, I’m trained to be able to look at systems (“Does this make sense for the copy machine to be all the way over there, when the people who use it are right here?”) and to design to put the best ones in place. This looks different for commercial and residential design, but the concept of analyzing and designing is the same.

  4. I can actually say “I’m an interior designer” in all 50 states. There are some states- like TX and LA where I’m from and went to school- that say that unless you have taken this test and completed the requirements, you can’t call yourself an interior designer. You can say you offer interior design services or say you have an interior design degree, but the word “interior designer” cannot be on your business cards or what you advertise. That being said, there are many designers who just call them “designers” and don’t worry about having the term “interior designer” used as their description- and they are great at what they do. But, there is a difference between learning all the life safety, ADA, sustainable part about interior design and those that don’t.

  5. I get to have store discounts, without a resale certificate. SO, all the companies that offer “designer discounts” may have several options to get a discount, but there are two main camps 1. Those that resale what they buy 2. Those that are licensed/part of a professional organization and have a #. I don’t buy things to resale, but because I have a number, I get those same discounts extended to me….and it’s probably one of the perks that I’m most excited about!!!

If you want to read more, this page is helpful.

I hope I didn’t bore you to pieces with all the stuff “that’s not exciting” about interior design. But it’s not talked about a lot online, so I feel like I need to share the differences.

I’m so excited to be able to be a part of the larger design community that strives to elevate the professionalism of interior design and to be able to say that all my hard work training and learning paid off.


What do you think about certified interior designers? Did you know there was such a thing?