IIDA Southwest: Building a Grassroots Advocacy Campaign

This post was contributed by Nicki Jensen, Assoc. IIDA, vice president of advocacy for the IIDA Southwest Chapter.

In the spring of 2018, HB 2532 was introduced to the Arizona state legislature. This bill would have stopped any municipality from imposing any licensing requirements or occupational fees on a variety of occupations that didn’t require much education or training, including interior design. Arizona’s current legislative temperature is anti-occupational licensure/registration, even for those professions already holding licenses. This can make it incredibly challenging when newer professions are wanting to achieve registration.

When the IIDA advocacy team made us aware of the bill, our local IIDA and ASID chapters had just begun a partnership. The bill had already passed state House and was on its way to the Senate. With the help of a lobbyist and dedicated members from IIDA and ASID, we were able to change the course it was set to take and educate our legislators. The bill effectively jump started our grassroots campaign.

In collaboration with our local ASID chapter, we immediately began planning for a joint fall event called STRIDES 2018 Advocacy Fall Breakfast. Abigail Rathbun, advocacy and public policy manager at IIDA Headquarters, updated our members on the recent events with the bill and spoke about being an advocate. Jason Schupbach, director of the design school at Arizona State University and former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, served as keynote speaker. He gave a rousing presentation about the design industry and where it’s headed. After four months in the making, the event was a hit.

And our sights didn’t stop there. This year, we’ve been awarded financial support from the IIDA Catalyst Grant to host another speaker event — this time even bigger and better! In the long-term, we want to achieve legislation to become Registered Interior Designers, which will require us to keep a close relationship with ASID, NKBA, and other aligned organizations. With the Catalyst and Advocacy grants, we’re able to continue hosting events while making strides in educating the public about what we do and how to become the best advocates for the profession.


Get access to tools and resources to help you become an advocate for interior design. Visit advocacy.iida.org.

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.

Why Should You Attend the IIDA Advocacy Symposium?

This post was contributed by Aileen Montelongo, IIDA, RID, NCIDQ, vice president of advocacy at the IIDA Southwest Chapter.

I practice in Arizona where there is currently no legislation for interior design. Even after my appointment as vice president of advocacy, I only had a very vague picture of what my responsibilities would be.

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Last year, Nicki Ahlshwede, IIDA Southwest’s director of advocacy, and I represented our chapter at the third annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium in Chicago. It was astounding to see advocates from all over the country gathered in one room sharing stories, triumphs, and strategies. It was inspiring to har from all the speakers – to hear a singular message from different points of view, for different applications, for different scenarios. It was encouraging to hear the successes – both monumental and small. However, as far as advocacy goes, I think all wins are of the same size.

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The best part of having attended the symposium was being exposed to the resources available and recognizing the many faces advocacy can take on. This particularly became valuable early this spring when a bill made its way to our Senate that would’ve negatively impacted our profession’s future in the state. With IIDA HQ’s help, the bill has been amended but most importantly, it has awakened the “sleeping” advocate in us – we now have a newly formed partnership with the local ASID chapters. With energized spirits, we are working hard together hand in hand to safeguard the profession of interior design in the state of Arizona.

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It was humbling and empowering to sit with seasoned advocates at last year’s symposium and marvel at the amount of work they’ve put in to get to where they are now. And then realizing the long road ahead of us in Arizona? Scary, but inspiring. I was reassured, though, knowing that these advocates were in our shoes not too long ago. With the same passion and commitment, we too, can get to where we want to go.


To learn about the IIDA Advocacy Symposium, visit 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.

IIDA Illinois Chapter: How Can Designers Make a Lasting Impression on Legislators?

Sitting down with a legislator to talk interior design for 10 minutes can be effective, but showing them firsthand what we do often leaves a lasting impression. Site visits—such as bringing a state representative to a design firm, to tour a recent interiors project, or as a guest at an industry event—allow designers to demonstrate the impact of their work in real-life situations. That’s exactly what the IIDA Illinois Chapter did when members engaged a lobbyist to bring state representatives to both NeoCon, the largest commercial interiors show in North America, and the Red Awards, the Illinois Chapter’s annual event recognizing outstanding local design projects. Here, Tom Spanier, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP, talks about the value of site visits, how the Illinois Chapter planned these opportunities, and what was learned from the experience.

What was the goal of bringing legislators to NeoCon and the Red Awards?

We wanted to show the legislators that there is more to the interior design field than what is portrayed on television. Interior designers play a crucial role in designing commercial spaces and high profile public spaces. A project relies on team leaders to coordinate the entire design team, including architects, engineers, furniture dealers, and other consultants to successfully complete any given project.

Can you give us a rundown of what you did at the Red Awards and NeoCon to engage with the legislators?

At the Red Awards, the legislators sat in the front row of the auditorium and were acknowledged individually. They like being recognized, so we capitalized on that. Our lobbyist and advocacy committee attended and made sure the legislators were engaged and introduced to various people within the design community. We found the attendees would approach the legislators and have candid conversations about our industry. By the end of the event, there was a line of people looking for a chance to chat with them.

At NeoCon, our lobbyist managed the legislators and ensured they stayed engaged. For this event, it was very busy, so the spectacle and organized chaos kept the legislators interested and intrigued. We set up two tours with furniture showrooms prior to the event. The tour guides for each showroom were high-level executives who offered insights on the Interior Design industry and explained how interior designers work with manufacturers on a daily basis.

What do you think had the biggest impact on the government officials that you brought to NeoCon?

NeoCon is the premiere interior design showcase in the country; it was important to show the legislators the enormity of interior design from a global perspective as well as the economic impact it has on Chicago and the state of Illinois. The Merchandise Mart is also an impressive venue—people from all over the world participate in the show.

What did you learn from these two events?

Legislators truly had fun attending these events! They got a better sense of what we do as a profession and the types of projects we work on. We found it was much easier to talk to the legislators during the events versus going into their offices. We also learned that the legislators may have a limited amount of time to dedicate to any given event, so we needed to be as thoughtful and impactful as possible with what we presented to them. At Neocon, two hours was the maximum amount of time they committed to us as they had other engagements.


Learn how to be an advocate at advocacy.iida.org.