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

The interior design industry benefits from the support of several trade associations, all of which offer invaluable educational and networking opportunities, not to mention access to discounts, business support, and the stamp of professional recognition that comes along with membership. However, you likely do not have the time, budget, or need to join every last trade association, so the Design Manager team is here to help you understand what each of the major interior design industry associations brings to the table. Read on to learn about the trade association landscape and determine which memberships are best suited to you and your interior design business.

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) 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. It was the first national interior design association, founded in 1931 as the American Institute of Interior Decorators (AIID), and officially established as the American Institute of Interior Designers in 1961. Today, the organization has over 40,000 members across the US and Canada, to which it offers benefits such as frequent networking opportunities, access to contract templates, operational and marketing support, and eligibility to receive internationally recognized awards in excellence. ASID also offers a vast well of resources to the design community by offering the most prestigious student portfolio competitions in the industry and awarding a wide range of scholarships and grants to deserving students and designers seeking to make advances in areas that benefit the broader community. 


The organization has five levels of membership. The highest level, Professional Membership, is reserved for certified interior designers who have passed the NCIDQ examination (more on that below). 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 (continuing education do not count towards the requirements). The other membership levels are tailored towards educators, students, and vendors such as industry manufacturers, related trade associations, and market centers.


International Interior Design Association (IIDA) 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. 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. 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.


Memberships are tailored to nine groups, similar to the membership structure of ASID. The Professional Interior Designer and Professional Architect memberships are only eligible for licensed professionals. The Associate membership is available to interior designers who are not NCIDQ-certified, but have a minimum of two years of formal interior design education. Student, educator, and manufacturer memberships are also available. Similar to ASID, IIDA offers student resources such as mentorship and scholarships, although the scope and dollar amount of available scholarships and grants is smaller. 


International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA)IFDA

The International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) is the leading global organization representing all components of the furnishings and design industry. It was founded by six women in 1947, who had been meeting regularly to discuss the limitations they were experiencing in their design careers. Led by Claire (Kohn) Coleman, a trade publication reporter, this informal meeting group soon became a haven for women in the design community, where they could meet to exchange ideas and information within the field of home decorating. The organization was formalized in 1948, and it continued as a women’s organization with an expansion into education and philanthropy. In 1986, the association expanded to allow men to join as full members and in 1988, it officially became the International Furnishings and Design Association. Today, IFDA has 11 chapters across the world. 


One of the greatest benefits of being an IFDA member is the access it gives you to the semi-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. 

American Institute of Architecture (AIA)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. It was founded in New York City in 1857 by a group of 13 architects and has over 90,000 members today, making it the largest association for architects. Now, the organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C., where it can most easily work with the government on its goals of professional advocacy and community redevelopment. The AIA also offers its members education, preparation for licensing, business administration support, and discounts on tools like MasterSpec. It also hosts a number of events throughout the year, offering networking opportunities for members. 


There are five 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. International associate members hold an architecture license or the equivalent from a licensing authority outside the United States. Emeritus members have been AIA members for 15 successive years and are at least 70 years of age or are incapacitated and unable to work in the architecture profession. Allied members are professionals working in a capacity related to the building and design community, such as engineers, landscape architects, or planners; or senior executive staff from building and design-related companies, including publishers, product manufacturers, and research firms. Allied membership is a partnership with the AIA and the American Architectural Foundation. 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. Not only does it offer scholarships, grants, and student competitions, but it allows opportunities for international travel, inclusion of work in widely distributed journals, a broad range of high-quality internships, and a packed calendar of student oriented events for networking and education. 


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, NC, the international furniture capital, and home to the previously mentioned High Point Market. The association was founded in 1973 by the National Home Furnishings Association (NHFA) to support interior designers working within furniture stores, but over time expanded to represent the entire residential design community. Today, it has 2,000 members that enjoy the mark of professionalism clients look for in a residential interior designer. Members are also included in a directory, making it easy to connect with fellow members, and enjoy networking events and an annual conference. 


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. 


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 some states mandatory) credentials. The council is comprised of state and provincial credentialing bureaus that administer the series of exams which together make up the NCIDQ license. The purpose of the NCIDQ Examination is to protect the safety of the public by establishing standards and enforcing design and building standards within the field of interior design. As mentioned above, 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. The USGBC was founded by three architects, Mike Italiano, David Gottfried, and Rick Fedrizzi in 1993 to address the need for environmentally sustainable building practices and accountability of the role the building industry plays in global environmental degradation. Today, the organization is comprised of not only interior designers, but 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.


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


Be Part of A Community

As a professional interior designer, becoming a member of one of the prominent trade associations lends a seal of professional recognition to your business. However, the benefits go far beyond just your image. Having the opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues, remain educated on the latest innovations in your field, and receive high quality business support from professionals who understand the interior design business model is worth the price of membership.  All of the associations covered in our breakdown of the most prominent professional associations for interior designers offer access to the highest quality industry resources, and most importantly, the opportunity to be part of a community that values excellence in interior design.

Interior Design Business Guide

Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay Paoli
Lindsay is in charge of the Sales and Marketing team at Design Manager and has enjoyed growing the DM company for the past 10 years. In her spare time though, you can find her taking care of her two adorably demanding little rugrats, traveling, enjoying new restaurants or cheering on her beloved Philadelphia sports teams with her friends and family.

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