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The Top Professional Associations for Interior Designers and How They Add Value

Professional associations are an important part of the interior design industry. 

Whether you’re a student or seasoned professional, joining interior design associations is a great way to legitimize your business, build a deeper network of quality contacts, and to stay informed on how the interior design community is evolving with the times. 

Here, we outline the top professional interior design organizations in 2023, which professional niches they serve, and how to leverage their support to strengthen your interior design business.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) 

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is the most prominent association in the interior design industry and welcomes everyone, whether you’re an interior architect, materials specialist/decorator, student, or vendor. 

  • Why Join ASID: Joining ASID gives automatic credibility to your interior design business, and for many vendors, counts as a qualification to receive the all-important trade accounts and accompanying designer discounts. 
  • What ASID Does: Advocate for the interior design industry, provide education for designers and design students, connect designers with vendors, sell templates for critical legal documents, such as client agreements, and provide grants and scholarships.
  • Who Can Join: The organization has five levels of membership. 
    • The highest level, Professional Membership, is reserved for certified interior designers who have passed the NCIDQ examination. 
    • The next level is an Allied Membership, which is for practicing interior designers who have completed 40 semester hours or 60 quarter credit hours in interior design education from an accredited institution.
    • The other membership levels are tailored towards educators, students, and vendors, such as industry manufacturers, related trade associations, and market centers.
  • Get Your Industry Data Here: ASID has an impressive research department that publishes multiple annual reports with findings based on extensive surveys of industry participants, like the annual “State of Interior Design”, “Trends Outlook”, and “Economic Outlook” reports, plus a host of whitepapers answering other more specific inquiries. 
  • An Annual Conference with Star Guests: Among the plethora of educational and networking events ASID hosts throughout the year, its annual GATHER conference is the largest and not only provides a vast program of CEU courses recognized by the International Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC) and/or the American Institute of Architects (AIA), but also the chance to meet industry starts like this years keynote speakers, Simon T. Bailey, Genevieve Gorder, and Christian Dunbar. The 2023 GATHER conference will take place from August 13 - 15 in Los Angeles, CA.  
  • Find Industry Partners: ASID not only provides a resource to the public for finding ASID approved interior designers, it also provides a database for interior designers to find industry partners with specific areas of specialization, like millwork, plumbing, and AV/Electronics.  
  • Stand-Out Student Program: ASID offers its student members several benefits that for an $85 initiation fee and $0 annual dues, make it worth the price. One of its newer programs, launched in 2020, the Virtual Internship offers design students the opportunity to submit their portfolios for review/feedback and attend virtual learning sessions oriented towards professional development. Any student member can participate and many will use the experience to work towards their submissions for the ASID Student Portfolio Competition.

American Institute of Architecture (AIA)

The American Institute of Architecture (AIA) is an organization that represents the highest standard of professionalism within the industry for architects, including interior architects. The organization is headquartered in Washington D.C. and works with the government on its goals of professional advocacy and community redevelopment.

  • Why Join AIA: The AIA offers its members education, preparation for licensing, business administration support, and discounts. It also hosts a number of events throughout the year, offering networking opportunities for members. 
  • Who Can Join: There are seven levels of membership in the AIA:
    • Architect members (AIA) are licensed to practice architecture by a licensing authority in the United States. 
    • Associate members (Assoc. AIA) are not licensed to practice architecture but are working under the supervision of an architect, have earned professional degrees in architecture, are faculty members, or are interns earning credit toward licensure. 
    • Associate New Graduates is an entry point to the levels of membership for architecture students that are about to or have newly graduated. Membership is free for the first eighteen months.
    • The other levels are International, Emeritus and Allied members.  It also has a student branch, the American Institute of Architecture Students, which offers the widest range of support for interior architecture students seeking licensure. 
  • Research and Education: Much like ASID, AIA has a robust research institute that publishes a breadth of annual studies and reports, including the AIA Compensation Report and the Architectural Billings Index (ABI). 
  • Events: The AIA calendar is one of the busiest of all associations, hosting virtual panels almost daily mixed in with periodic awards events.

Interior Design Society (IDS)

The Interior Design Society (IDS) is the largest association dedicated to residential interior design. The IDS national headquarters is located in High Point, N.C., the international furniture capital, and home to the High Point Markets.

  • Why Join IDS: It has 2,000 members that enjoy the mark of professionalism clients look for in a residential interior designer. 
  • Who Can Join: The IDS has different membership levels, but the Interior Designer Level does not exclude non-licensed designers, while instead offering multiple streams of eligibility. The other membership levels are tailored to vendors and students. The IDS also offers a modest scholarship program. 
  • Connect Easily: Members are included in a directory, making it easy to connect with fellow members on a local and national level, and enjoy networking events and an annual conference. In fact, IDS created a virtual chapter even before COVID to bring together people who were not affiliated with a local chapter, seeing the need to provide resources to a broader set of people who were previously unable to connect locally due to distance. 
  • Education and Events: IDS has a robust online offering for education with a full calendar of virtual events, for which play-backs of past events are easy to find. Additionally, IDS hosts an annual conference with plenty of education and networking opportunities. Last but not least, because IDS is based in High Point, it is one of the premier hosts of events throughout the bi-annual High Point Markets. 
  • Focused on Providing Support: IDS also gives out scholarships for interior interior design students, and its website includes a helpful Job Listings Board

National Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) 

The Council for Interior Design Qualification (CDIQ, or commonly referred to as NCIDQ) administers the industry’s gold standard, legally recognized (and in many states mandatory) credentials for interior design that includes architecture. Having the NCIDQ certification is a mark of your training as an interior architect to design to the highest standard of safety. 

  • How to Get the NCIDQ: The council administers a series of three exams, the IDFX, IDPX, and the Practicum Exam, which make up the NCIDQ license. Each exam requires a certain level of education and years of work experience that step up in criteria with each exam. 
  • Why It’s Important: The purpose of the NCIDQ is to establish and enforce design and building standards within the field of interior design to protect the public. The highest levels of membership in the industry’s most prominent associations, ASID, IIDA, and AIA, all require an NCIDQ license to participate. For more information on the process of becoming NCIDQ licensed, visit their website

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the leading association for green building practices. and the organization that established and oversees the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems. 

  • Everyone Working Toward Green: The organization includes interior designers, real estate professionals, governments, developers, contractors, architects, engineers, educators, and companies. Membership with the USGBC offers education and training towards LEED professional credentialing, discounts on LEED and Greenbuild events, and the most direct access to professionals dedicated to sustainable building. 
  • Who Can Join: Membership is offered at four levels, three of which are oriented towards corporations, and one that is offered at an individual membership. Each level has different eligibility requirements and member benefits, which are described here
  • Events: USGBC also hosts a number of events and regional student competitions. Its upcoming 2023 Greenbuild International Conference + Expo will take place from September 26-29 in Washington D.C., where attendees will enjoy the usual education and networking opportunities alongside special events to celebrate USGBC’s 30-year anniversary.

International Interior Design Association (IIDA) 

The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) is another widely recognized organization within the interior design community that is focused on serving the commercial interior design sector. 

    • Why Join IIDA: IIDA has 12,000 members practicing across more than 30 chapters around the world, making it a leading networking resource for designers seeking to build relationships outside of the United States. 
    • What They Offer: Membership benefits include subscriptions to trade magazines, tuition reimbursement programs, and the ability to reach professionals around the world, as well as invitations to attend IIDA conferences at reduced rates.
  • Keep Current: IIDA regularly publishes internally sourced articles on its website that cover topics like the future of design, upcoming competitions, and recent project spotlights. 

International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA)

The International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) is the leading global organization representing all components of the furnishings and design industry. 

  • Why Join IFDA: One of the greatest benefits of being an IFDA member is the access it gives you to the all important bi-annual High Point Markets. IFDA members receive an industry pass to the High Point Markets, some of the best industry networking events of the year, plus a buyers’ pass with proof of an EIN or Tax ID number and your business card. 
  • Other membership benefits: include business-related discounts, supplemental insurance (both personal life and business), and membership in IFDA Educational Foundation, the philanthropic arm of IFDA, which offers scholarships and grants, and hosts student competitions. 
  • Show your work: IFDA also publishes a quarterly magazine with work from selected members who are chosen based on their portfolio application.  
  • Events: They have a consistent calendar of events hosted by the national and local chapters, making it a good resource for growing your network on the vendor side. 

Be Part of a Community

Joining interior design associations, and displaying their prestigious acronyms, distinguishes you as a professional in the industry. At the same time, you reap the benefits of the vast resources any of the above associations can provide, remaining educated on the latest innovations and receiving high-quality business support while you get the opportunity to join a community of like-minded people that can become critical contacts in your network.

Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Margot is a writer and interior designer based in the NYC area. She is passionate about keeping up with the latest architecture and design news to not only stay informed, but inspired.

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