IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter: Why We Advocate

In July, the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter hosted “Why We Advocate,” a roundtable series where attendees engaged in a moderated panel discussion about what it means to be an interior design advocate, what issues the profession faces, and where members could learn more about IIDA’s advocacy efforts. The roundtable featured five panelists with a wide range of expertise in the architecture, interior design, and legislative professions. We chatted with Jessie Santini, IIDA, vice president of advocacy of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter to learn about what sparked the idea to start this series.

IIDA: What motivated the chapter to plan advocacy panels throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey?

Jessie Santini: Pennsylvania has active legislation in need of support and New Jersey has title regulation that is vulnerable to deregulation efforts. In seeking support for this legislation, the chapter board realized a lot of our members have a limited knowledge of interior design regulation and what it means to be an advocate. We determined that grassroots advocacy is critical for making headway with future legislative effort, and so we planned a three-city advocacy roundtable with the intent of educating and activating members throughout our chapter.

IIDA: How and why did you choose the panelists and questions you did?

JS: The goal for the “Why We Advocate” roundtable series was to have a diverse group of professionals that represent all aspects of commercial interior design. Panelists included NCIDQ-certified interior designers, including those who are business owners, firm leaders, educators, and coalition leaders, as well as individuals with government relations and lobbying backgrounds.

Emily Kluczynski, director of advocacy, legislative affairs, and public policy at IIDA Headquarters, was present for all roundtables and was able to provide insight into the bigger picture of what’s happening legislatively around the country, while Carrie Hillman of Milliron Goodman was able to speak to the legislative climate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We were even fortunate enough to be joined by an accomplished Philadelphia-based architect whose thoughts and perspectives were a welcome addition to the panel’s robust discourse.

As we developed the list of panel questions, we looked at this as being an “Advocacy 101” course for many attendees. The first several questions touched on the basic concepts of advocacy and interior design regulation, and as the list progresses, the questions delved into more complex issues that specific panelists could speak to. We had the same list of questions for all three events to serve as a foundation for the dialogue, yet each event had its own unique and vibrant conversations.

IIDA: Do you feel as though attendees walked away having learned something about advocacy?

JS: Most definitely! Whether new to advocacy or long-time supporters, we feel that attendees walked away feeling energized, enlightened, and ready to advocate for commercial interior design! Stay tuned for videos in which attendees share their takeaways. We hope these videos, once complete, will help to keep the advocacy energy high throughout the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter!


To learn more about the outstanding advocacy campaigns the IIDA Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter is doing, visit iida-panjde.org/advocacy.

2018 IIDA Advocacy Symposium Speakers Challenge Interior Design Licensing Opponents from Another Angle

Professional and occupational regulation has been a hot topic of conversation in Washington, D.C., and across state houses, but are we looking at the full picture? Opponents of occupational regulation argue that it hurts workers when in fact, research has shown that the opposite is true.

This year, we’re proud to bring inspiring and motivating speakers who can talk more on that perspective, and arm interior designers across the nation with updated knowledge and tools to advocate for themselves and the profession at the fourth annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium.

Representative Ray Dehn of the Minnesota State Legislature graduated with a master’s degree in architecture at age 39. Rarely, do we get an opportunity to hear from a legislator with a strong professional understanding of the built environment. So, it comes as no surprise that we’re excited to welcome Rep. Dehn as this year’s keynote. Rep. Dehn will offer insight on organizing, advocating, and staying engaged.

In her series of papers entitled New Closed Shop: Inequality, Diversity, and the Rise of Occupational Licensure, Dr. Beth Redbird, assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern University, looks at the impact of regulation and formal procedures, particularly for women and racial minorities. Dr. Redbird brings a fresh outlook to occupational regulation that will help advocates understand that there are always multiple sides of the same issue. Dr. Redbird’s research focuses on occupations, social class, and inequality, particularly within Native American communities.

Since late 2017, the #MeToo movement has become a very visible, impactful movement that has made waves in some of the most powerful institutions today – and the state house is no different. Multiple states have had elected officials resign or removed from office for sexual harassment, sexual assault, and retaliation. Four IIDA lobbyists from three states — Haley Blood of A&A Advocates, Melanie Layton and Zoey Wolfe of Colorado Legislative Services, and Christina Marcellus of Capital Advisors — will share the advantages and challenges of being a female lobbyist in the #MeToo era. Additionally, they will discuss how to approach interior design as a gender issue, new ideas and tactics on how to advocate, and what they’ve learned from lobbying.


Registration to the 2018 IIDA Advocacy Symposium is open until Sept. 7. Learn more about this year’s program and reserve your spot at iida.org.

IIDA Northern California Chapter: Be A Better Advocate, Know Your State’s Laws

This post was contributed by Bill Weeman, IIDA, CID, president of the Interior Design Coalition of California and former vice president of advocacy of the Northern California Chapter.

One of the first steps in being an educated advocate is knowing your state’s current law and how it works. It’s an important first step in understanding why commercial interior design advocacy matters.

In California, interior design advocates in the state should know that California law provides for the certification of interior designers per the Business and Professions Code section 5800, et seq.(BPC 5800). This code section reserves the title of “Certified Interior Designer” (CID) and delegates the evaluation of interior designers and the ability to award the title to a nonprofit “interior design organization.” No specific organization is designated by law to administer this title – unless you’re the California Council for Interior Design Certification (CCIDC).

The Facts

CCIDC may provide the stamp to an individual who provides “evidence of passage of an interior design examination approved by that interior design organization” along with a combination of education and diversified interior design experience. California is the only certification administered by an independent, private organization; it’s also the only state with its own exam.

The Interior Design Exam (IDEX), created by CCIDC, is the only permissible qualifying examination for CIDs in California, but it’s not recognized by any other state or by the federal government. Since California uses its own exam for certification, there is no reciprocity with other states, which makes it more difficult for California interior designers to expand their portfolios outside of California.

Additionally, the acceptance of plans with a CID stamp for review by local building departments is inconsistent across the state. Existing law provides local building departments discretion to accept or reject plans by a CID. Subsequently, in many jurisdictions across the state, CIDs cannot independently obtain the necessary permits on their own work – work that is squarely within their scope of practice and qualifications.

So what does this have to do with why we advocate?

We advocate to raise the bar, to ensure that qualified interior designers can practice to their fullest capabilities by providing them with the tools needed to succeed in California both independently and as part of a corporate partnership. Strengthening the profession benefits California consumers by increasing competition and ensuring access for interior designers to work independently, as they are qualified to do, in non-structural, non-seismic code-based built environments.

We advocate for using a combination of education, experience, and passage of the nationally recognized NCIDQ exam as the qualification requirements. We advocate to be recognized as “registered design professionals” as defined in the International Building Code, which will enable Registered Interior Designers equal access to the permitting process across the state.

We advocate to eliminate the misunderstanding and misinformation of our profession, and to promote smart policies that move us forward together.

When we, as interior designers, know how state laws impact us, we can be a more educated, stronger advocacy base to make real change for the interior design profession.


For more information on the laws in your state, visit advocacy.iida.org.

Melissa Destree Takes Advocacy Efforts to the Next Level

Earlier this year, IIDA recognized Melissa Destree, IIDA, AIA, principal architect, interior designer, Destree Architecture and Design, as the 2017 Advocate of the Year for her dedication and commitment to interior design advocacy. Melissa serves as vice president of advocacy of the IIDA Wisconsin Chapter. After filling a multiyear-long vacancy, Melissa began the process of restructuring and reforming the chapter’s advocacy committee. Here she talks about how the perception of interior design has changed, why advocacy continues to evolve, and the importance of working with lobbyists.

IIDA: Why is advocacy important to you personally?

Melissa: During the 2008 recession, I was dismayed that so many interior designers were let go and architects were going to just ‘do their job.’  As an architect and interior designer, I had a unique perspective and appreciation for both specialties. A few years later, I heard confessions from architects that interior design is complex, fast paced, and demands organizational skills. They had no idea. Having gone through that experience, many architects now appreciate what the commercial interior designer brings to the team. This is what inspired me to get more involved. We all have the power to make change and advocacy is the tool to make our profession stronger.

Why should chapters invest time and money into advocacy?

Advocacy is the conduit to affect change and reinforce legislation to support our profession. We need the enthusiasm of our fellow interior designers to push us forward. Unfortunately, we cannot expect to do this effectively on our own. We need funds to engage lobbyists to assist with advocacy. This past year, our Wisconsin lobbyists have opened so many doors and provided so many opportunities for interior designers in Wisconsin to tell our stories. They helped us quench a threat from the anti-licensure policy wonks and are helping us build momentum to pursue opportunities for the practice of interior design.

Why do you think it’s important to build relationships with your local and state government officials?

This year, at our Capitol Day event, when we met with legislators at the State Capitol, they were overwhelmingly pleased. We introduced ourselves, discussed recent projects, and reinforced that we have a voluntary registration in Wisconsin. We shared how our profession impacts the state economy. We were not there demanding something from our legislators. We were there to build relationships and educate. From that relationship building, we have democrat and republican supporters of the interior design profession. This momentum has encouraged us to propose revised legislation with a seal provision for commercial interior designers.

How do you think being an advocate has changed over the last five or ten years?

Ten years ago, our chapter did not have a VP of Advocacy. I was recruited after my chapter presidency to fill this position, develop an advocacy strategy, and work with our interior design collation in Wisconsin. But even five years ago, it was not on our chapter’s radar to hire a lobbyist. In 2015, IIDA and ASID members determined that the best advocacy approach for our state was to dissolve our coalition and partner together with the support of IIDA HQ and National ASID advocacy experts. Then in 2016, conservative and libertarian policy groups, with their anti-licensure stance, were spreading false information about the Interior Design profession throughout Wisconsin. We needed to get on the field and defend our profession. We hired a lobbyist in January 2017. We were prepared!

What have you learned as an advocate and VP of Advocacy that other advocates should know?

The toughest part of advocacy is to take the first step to get involved. Once you meet your first legislator or do your first volunteer activity, you you see the benefit to both yourself and the profession.


Get involved with interior design advocacy at advocacy.iida.org.

IIDA Members Testify in Ohio to Defeat Proposed Sales Tax on Interior Design Services

A proposed sales tax in Ohio, introduced in the state budget bill in January 2017, sought to tax interior design and decoration services. The tax provision would have put Ohio’s interior designers at a disadvantage in relation to interior designers in neighboring states, as well as other design professionals whose services are not taxed. IIDA, together with the American Society for Interior Designers (ASID), mobilized a grassroots advocacy campaign and successfully defeated the proposed tax.

Here, Tamra Fuscaldo, IIDA, NCIDQ, an interior designer for healthcare, higher education, and corporate facilities, and the past president of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter, shares her experience testifying before the Ohio Legislature about the negative effects the proposed sales tax would have had on the Interior Design industry in Ohio.

IIDA: Why was it important for you to get involved and testify in front of the Ohio Legislature?

Tamra Fuscaldo: I have been in the Interior Design industry for over 25 years. I feel that it is my responsibility to stand up for our profession. We are continually misunderstood and mislabeled, and I will do whatever I can to change that narrative.

IIDA: What key points were used in Ohio that made a big impact?

TF: For the legislation involving taxing of luxury services in Ohio, the bill was written with too broad of a definition. The intent was to tax the consumers, those who might have discretionary funds, when hiring a residential interior designer or decorator, referred to as business to consumer (B2C). I wanted to make it clear that the definition included commercial interior designers, those who worked in the business to business (B2B) sector. Commercial interior designers typically have at least a four-year degree, pass the NCIDQ, and have years of specialized experience in interiors. Moreover, with this tax, project costs would rise, impacting budgets and causing small firms to lower their fees in order to compete. Essentially, this was a tax on professional services not luxury services.

IIDA: What were the keys to success in Ohio?

TF: The profession of interior design has a long way to go in terms of advocacy. The public, including our legislative representatives, do not have a clear understanding of the complexity of our industry. During our hearings, we represented the Interior Design industry well, and I hope we were able to change the perspectives of legislators who were present. Ultimately, we have to show value in our profession in a way that puts us on par with architects and engineers. The key to success in Ohio was being able to define interior design to legislators as a professional and technical industry that benefits the public.


Want to learn more about advocating for the Interior Design profession? Join us at the next IIDA Advocacy Symposium.

IIDA New England: Committed to Interior Design Advocacy Through Action

Over the last 18 months, the IIDA New England Chapter – with help from IIDA HQ – has hired a lobbying firm, actively engaged with ASID legislative leaders, reached out to the Massachusetts design community, met with lawmakers and officials, and introduced an interior design registration bill into the Massachusetts State Legislature. Undertaking an initiative of this size and scope is no small task and requires a team effort as well as strong leadership. Aimee M. Schefano, Vice President of Advocacy for the New England Chapter, has led the charge, working diligently to convey the importance of this initiative both to the Chapter board and local design leaders.

The lesson learned by IIDA New England? IIDA Chapters have power when it comes to advocacy. Board members are leaders in the design community, and as such, have an amplified voice. When those voices are conveying the same message, real change can happen. If an issue is important to the profession, it is too important to sit on the sidelines.

In addition to the amplified voice of board members, IIDA Chapters can reallocate funding to support advocacy initiatives. While there are many priorities in a Chapter’s budget— from professional development initiatives to events—boards can help rearrange how funding is used, create new revenue streams, or prioritize advocacy and legislation above other initiatives. IIDA New England demonstrated this by using their chapter funds to engage with one of the preeminent lobbying firms in New England.

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It has also proven important for the Chapter to work together with other associations in order to build a strong network of professionals working to advance a common goal. Schefano and Past-President Corinne Barthelemy have worked with ASID New England to create the Massachusetts Advocacy Council of ASID and IIDA, operating under the two chapters and facilitating the shared mission to advance the profession of interior design.

“Educating our profession is crucial to progress. Part of that education requires IIDA members to work collaboratively with other industry leaders. We are never stronger than when we all stand together against adversity,” said Schefano. “In Massachusetts, the design community is represented by a multitude of associations. What has helped us evolve our advocacy strategy is acknowledging that ultimately we are all interior designers, and that is what is most important. “

Through unified voices, effective funding, and organizational collaborations, IIDA New England has set a foundation that will surely lead to advocacy successes in Massachusetts.


For more on interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org