Stamp and Seal Legislation: What You Need to Know

Josie is an interior designer in New York. She graduated from Cornell with a bachelor’s degree in interior design. Josie has also passed the NCIDQ exam and has over four years of commercial interior design experience at a firm in New York City. The state of New York recognizes her as a certified interior designer.

Josie is a project lead but she cannot pull the permits to start construction on a project. When she creates technical drawings of her work, she cannot submit them to local building jurisdictions for building permits. Despite her education, years of experience, passing of an examination that proves her competency in the health, safety, and well-being of the public, and state certification, Josie’s work has to be approved and submitted by an architect or an engineer – even if the work is for nonstructural interior spaces.

Why can’t Josie submit her own drawings? Because interior design is a new and still developing profession, the ability to submit drawings for permits has not yet been recognized in most states. But stamp and seal legislation allows interior designers who have met the education, experience, and examination qualifications to literally stamp and seal the construction documents for submission to local building officials for approval and permits. Is it any surprise that architects and engineers who have been regulated for decades are actively working to prevent interior designers from having the same privileges?

Stamp and seal legislation elevates the practice and profession of commercial interior design, by creating a new tier of professionals — like the hypothetical Josie — within the design industry. Look at landscape architects who work in exterior spaces like garden designers and landscapers, but must obtain more education, pass a stringent exam, and receive a state license since their work impacts the public. Likewise, attorneys receive more education and must be licensed as they are more liable than paralegals.

While there is a myth that stamp and seal legislation restricts decorators or residential designers from continuing to do what they have always done, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one of the benefits of stamp and seal legislation is that it expands an interior designer’s scope of practice and encourages growth, allowing interior designers to own a controlling interest in their firms.

Commercial interior designers have the necessary education, experience, and examination to protect the general public’s health, safety, and well-being in the interior code-impacted environment. There is no question that stamp and seal legislation will do more for the profession.

Feeling empowered? Visit the IIDA Advocacy site and send a letter to your legislator supporting interior design legislation.

2 thoughts on “Stamp and Seal Legislation: What You Need to Know

  1. Good article Abby. If Josie worked within a licensed Architectural design practice her lack of a stamp & seal license does not greatly, or directly impact her. In some states lack of a license may limit her ability to own stock in the firm but for the most part her work is the property of the firm and her licensed design counter parts take on the role of stamp and seal legal obligations for her work. For many ID’ers working within the A&E design profession the lack of stamp & seal privilege is par for the course. Proving professional status via the NCIDQ exam, professional membership in IIDA and other professional design credentials is often sufficient. I know many who would rather not take on the legal obligations stamping and sealing documents demands. I speak from experience.

    We also have many counterparts who work within A&E firms who may experience trepidation supporting in any way the effort to recognize qualified interior designers via practice licensure…not wanting to rock the owner’s boat. I do not have numbers but again I know these designers are out there.

    Now if you had stated that she recently opened her own independent interior design practice and described her inability to obtain a building permit for her first big Interior Design project because her education, experience and NCIDQ credential was not recognized in her jurisdiction…maybe those ID’ers who have that dream or misfortune to be laid off from a larger firm would really think about this.

    We need to frame this effort in a way that compels all designers that work within code regulated interior design environments that practice licensure is good for everyone. If you figure out how to do that let me know.

    Again thanks for keeping this issue out there.


    • Dana Lehmer says:

      This applies to both Commercial and Residential Interior Designers. I appreciate the article and comment! It is our good work as inter designers that continues to grow our industry!


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