Design of the Times The American Society of Interior Designers

In an age where regulation, accreditation and membership matters, being affiliated with a recognized professional association is almost a business necessity. More than just a meeting place for like-minded individuals to discuss the topics of the day, professional organizations offer their members and participants benefits beyond networking parties and letters behind their names. Professional organizations maintain up-to-date information on the latest technological advancements in the particular trade they serve, draw up rules and regulations to govern their industry, and set standards by which their members are required to measure themselves, thus insuring the quality of members' work.

One professional society striving to and succeeding in supporting its members and enriching its industry is the American Society of Interior Designers, or ASID.

The American Society of Interior Designers is a nonprofit, membership-based group representing the interests of interior designers and the interior design industry. Governed by a volunteer board of directors, the organization is also guided by the society's president, president-elect, and immediate past president. According to ASID spokesperson and public relations manager Michelle Snyder, this leadership structure allows the ASID to extend its scope beyond interior designers and into the design community as a whole, keeping the various industry elements in touch with each other, and establishing and maintaining strong professional and personal ties.

ASID works in much the same way most other professional societies do. With five levels of membership, the organization is able to support the various levels of involvement and expertise within the interior design field. Each membership level has its own set of professional and/or educational criteria, and each imparts a different set of benefits and involvement to that group of members.

Professional Members gain membership by meeting or exceeding rigorous acceptance standards; they must have a combination of accredited design education and/or full-time work experience, and pass the two-day National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) examination.

Allied Members practice interior design but have not yet completed the requirements for professional membership. Applicants must fulfill any one of the following requirements: A four- or five-year bachelor's degree with a major in interior design or architecture, a two- or three-year degree or certificate in interior design, or a minimum of six years of full-time work in interior design or architecture. Successful completion of the NCIDQ exam entitles practitioner members to advance to professional membership.

Affiliate Membership is a category for individuals engaged in related design activities - such as construction contracting - and for members of the press. Applicants for affiliate membership cannot participate in the actual practice of interior design or decorating.

Industry Partners include interior design industry manufacturers and their representatives, related trade associations, and market centers. Industry partners provide opportunities for interaction between interior designers and the interior furnishings industry that supplies services and manufactured products.

Student Membership is available to students enrolled in an interior design program where an ASID student chapter exists.

Independent Student Membership is available to students in interior design programs in an area not served by an ASID student chapter.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is one of the most important aspects of furthering a career in any field, so ASID ensures that its members have access to several different educational tracks. Most states accept the educational programs ASID offers for their particular requirements with regard to licensing.

Offering the most up-to-date materials to its designers through the ASID bookstore is another important way to keep designers in the top percentile of the business. Many of the authors featured in these publications are members of the society as well. A newsroom, licensing page, job bank and many other helpful resources are readily available through the ASID Web page at www.asid.org. Besides the resources set up for the design community, consumers are also able to access the Web site and find out information about individual designers, companies and resources available in their area. The site offers a worldwide referral service, the ability to search for a designer by name, as well as valuable information about interior design and the professional credentialing process. To get a closer look,

The Cooperator asked Snyder about the organization's role, its vision, and the particular challenges facing ASID today. How are ASID's agenda or goals set each year?

"It's developed at an event called the Chapter Leadership Conference, which has a "˜town hall' meeting attached to it. This is only for the leaders to attend; the group consists of the volunteer board and the chapter leaders from the 48 chapters of ASID. Basically, this meeting is where they discuss what was done in the current year, and what they hope to accomplish as an organization in the coming year."

How is your board elected?

"They're actually nominated. These individuals have served the society in variety of ways for an extended period of time. Whether it has been on chapter level committees, or they have moved up the ranks through chapter leadership and then on to our society level committees. They are an extremely active board and very hands-on."

What is the current state of membership and how does ASID compare size-wise to similar organizations?

"Well, we are by far the largest. We have over 34,500 members - 20,000 of which are interior designers - and the breakdown from there consists of students, industry partners, and allied members. We are extremely proud of our student members. We have about 9,000 of them, and build special programs specifically for them. We view our student members as the future - not only of the society, but also of the profession."

Does the ASID have an annual membership meeting or an exhibition?

"We do have an annual educational conference, however, we do not have an expo attached to it. The reason for that is there are many other conferences and very large expos. We don't want to inundate [our membership] with expos, so we decided to really concentrate on education."

For members only?

"No, it really is an inclusive event. We feel that it's in important to have architects, facility managers, and others involved in the design-and-build environment attend. The discussions that take place at the event itself and in the smaller educational sessions are so much better with a variety of skill-sets represented."

Are there any interesting or exciting new directions the ASID is moving in, in terms of education, outreach, and member services?

"We're trying to explore areas that are currently relevant and becoming more so to the design field. One of those areas is sustainable design - which is often called "˜green' design. Green design is really important to the future of interior design, because it's good for the environment as well as for people. Another area of interest is "˜universal' design or "˜office-smart' design. This is the practice of designing spaces that are accessible for everyone, regardless of physical ability level or age. We are also involved in security issues. Obviously, post 9/11 that issue is very relevant to interior designers when designing any type of environment."

A strong, well established professional society is an invaluable resource in any field, whether it be a long-standing trade like plumbing or stone masonry, or a melding of art and craft like interior design. For the thousands of established designers, future designers, and related-industry professionals, the ASID provides support, education, credentials, and opportunities to meet and enrich each other's business. To become a member of ASID, or just to get more information about the society, call (202) 546-3480, or visit the group's Web site at

www.asid.org. David Garry is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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