Iowa Interior Designers Defeat Deregulation: Here’s What Happened

Iowa’s Interior Design Title Act passed the Iowa legislature in 2005, after a five-year effort to create the title “registered interior designer” for individuals with the appropriate education, experience, and examination. Beginning in 2013, the importance of professional regulation in Iowa, including “registered interior designer,” was questioned in multiple editorials in the Des Moines Register. One editorial emphasized the importance of licensing boards relative to the profession of public health and safety as being unrelated to interiors—we strongly disagree.

Another editorial by the newspaper’s editorial staff in January 2017 called for comprehensive job licensing review. It specifically says the state “should not house an examining board for interior designers or keep tabs on manicurists.” Due to the specific nature of the article, Caitlin Sheeder, IIDA, IIDA Great Plains Chapter president, and Jennifer Voorhees, Great Plains Chapter vice president of advocacy, responded with a letter to the editor to explain why interior design registration should matter to Iowans. Meanwhile, a bill was introduced that would have limited how the state could regulate professions. The Great Plains Chapter, led by Voorhees, hired the lobbyist firm Carney & Appleby PLC to represent the interior designers in Iowa. The lobbyists worked behind the scenes to ensure that legislators knew the importance of interior design registration for Iowans.

The same day that the rebuttal editorial was published, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann introduced a House Study Bill that would have eliminated interior design registration as well as registration for barbers, hearing aid specialists, and massage therapists. In addition, it would’ve altered the registration and regulation of several other professions. The representative received over 3,600 emails, including from interior designers, and could not escape people wanting to talk to him about the bill. On February 28, Rep. Kaufmann, subcommittee chair of the subcommittee where the bill was being heard, ripped up the cover page for the bill to show his updated opinion on professional regulation reform.

The Great Plains Chapter has had the same epiphany many of us have had this year: We cannot let advocacy be a secondary concern. As such, the chapter participated in AIA Iowa’s Design Professionals Day on the Hill to ensure legislators were educated about the Interior Design profession and its economic impact on the state of Iowa. Furthermore, they’re working to include advocacy in chapter meetings and events. Diligence and education are necessary to ensure that interior design stays a recognized profession.


Learn more about interior design advocacy and how to be an advocate at advocacy.iida.org.

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