Decorator or designer? Education differentiates designations

DEAR DESIGNER: I am confused by the various letters after a designer’s name. What do they mean? And, is there a difference between a decorator and a designer? — Nancy

DEAR NANCY: Many people use decorator and designer interchangeably. However, technically there is a difference. While an interior decorator uses decorating principles to beautify a space, an interior designer’s training goes a step further and draws on the architectural aspects of the space. A designer uses a holistic approach as an extensive education has taught him or her how to address architectural issues while keeping your family safe. Interior decorating doesn’t require any knowledge of state codes, while interior designers are mandated by state to be tested on building and safety codes.

If you want to add furniture and accessories, a decorator is sufficient for the cause. If your project requires drawing plans to move a wall, add an electrical wall sconce or build an entertainment center, you will want the expertise of a designer. Interior designers also can decorate.

There are many appellations used behind designer names. Here are a few of the most common.

RID (registered interior designer) is used here in Nevada. Nevada is one of a growing number of states that require interior designers to be registered. When you see RID behind a designer’s name, he/she is registered by the state. Look for a design firm that has a designer on staff with this qualification if your project requires preparing documents for the alteration or construction of an area.

Nevada is one of the strictest states in handing out its RID status. The designer must have a certain amount of work experience, education from a school approved by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA, formerly FIDER), and pass a state-administered test on local safety codes.

RRD (registered residential designer) is another designation Nevada offers to designers who work only on residential projects.

NCIDQ certificate holder means a practitioner (designer) has taken a rigorous two-day national qualifying test. NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) conducts a competency examination that is highly regarded (and required) by professional organizations as well as state regulators.

Similar to an attorney who must pass the bar exam, or a certified public accountant who must pass the CPA exam, NCIDQ is the test designers must pass. Although it is encouraged, you may not see “NCIDQ Certificate Holder” on many designers’ business cards. Because this test must be passed before one can be a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, International Interior Design Association or be registered by the state, NCIDQ certificate holder is assumed when you see a professional appellation behind your designer’s name.

ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) has more than 40,000 members and has chapters in the United States as well as Canada. It is the oldest and largest professional organization for interior designers. There are strict membership requirements and different levels of membership.

A professional member of the society will have the letters ASID behind his or her name. If a designer has not passed the NCIDQ test or has not yet completed one of the educational requirements for professional standing, he or she can still be an allied member of the society and will have those words spelled out behind his or her name.

There is no test to determine which designer is more talented. I often see allied ASID members creating the most fascinating environments and winning design awards in magazines.

IIDA (International Interior Design Association) has more than 13,000 members around the world. It is “committed to enhancing the quality of life through excellence in interior design and advancing interior design through knowledge.” The association has different levels of membership and is similar to ASID in its strict requirements for professional membership and associate membership.

Professional members have IIDA behind their names and associate members will have Assoc. IIDA following their names. NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association) has more than 40,000 industry professionals in the U.S. and Canada. There are several levels of certification through the association. If your designer has AKBD behind his or her name, she is an associate kitchen and bath designer. CKD is a certified kitchen designer and CBD is a certified bath designer.

The association’s highest level is CMKBD, or certified master kitchen and bath designer. These designations are achieved by proving a combination of years in industry experience as well as hours spent on an association-accredited education.

There are appellations and certifications for almost every type of industry specialty. The ones I named are the ones I see most often on the cards of my colleagues.

All of these organizations offer continuing education classes for their members and supply them with valuable resources. By keeping abreast of the most current trends, members are ready to offer cutting-edge design while keeping public safety a priority. By hiring a designer who is affiliated with one of these respected groups, you have recourse if your designer acts irresponsibly or unethically. These organizations have high standards and will dismiss a designer who treats the public dishonorably.

That being said, affiliations alone do not make a better designer. I have met many talented designers and decorators who have no industry affiliations. Some of the most artistic and creative people come from backgrounds where they did not pursue an education in design or construction but are free spirits who have a gift.

If you want to change your room aesthetically, you may save money by calling a decorator. If you want to address an entire room or home and receive a plan that includes architectural changes, it will be worth the added cost to call a designer.

Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner@projectdesigninteriors com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesign interiors.com.

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