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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. 

“Belonging to industry organizations cultivates relationships, creates connections, offers opportunities and helps build your community, which can give you more support than you think when you need it,” says Robin Baron of  Robin Baron Design. “This has never been more true than during Covid, when they’ve become a professional life-line in many ways.” 

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. 

This article, updated for 2021, outlines the top professional interior design organizations, which professional niches they serve, and how to leverage their support as COVID-19 continues to limit in-person interaction.

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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. 

  • 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 (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 does 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.
  • Get Your Industry Data Here:

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, ASID has been proactive in surveying its vast membership, collecting research, and reporting on how COVID-19 is impacting the interior design industry. They are also providing links to COVID-19 related resources.
  • How ASID is Connecting Members During COVID:

    Terri Fiori of Fiori Interior Design, President of the New Jersey Chapter of ASID, says ASID is working to keep the community connected virtually: “We created roundtable sessions - online meetings where designers and industry partners can share their expertise [and are] designed to be interactive discussions rather than just webinars.”
  • Stand-Out Student Program:

    After a successful experience with its summer Virtual Internship, ASID is offering a winter version of its series for Student Members where design students can submit their portfolios for review 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, for which submissions are due by February 24, 2021.
  • Support for New Designers:

    Terri also says the New Jersey chapter is implementing an online mentorship program that pairs graduating designers or those just starting out with seasoned, professional designers. Plus, members interested in preparing for the NCIDQ exam (a nationally recognized interior design certification) are offered free group training.

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. 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 a new membership level that 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.
  • 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)

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. Jason Clifton of Bauer/Clifton Interiors, National President of IDS, says, “we are a close-knit community of diverse individuals that are committed to the business development of interior design entrepreneurs. The organization creates and delivers business tools while serving as a means to expand platforms at the chapter level and the national level.”
  • 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. 
  • 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. While the group’s annual gala was postponed this year, the Designer of the Year Awards took place on a virtual platform. By hosting the event on Vevo, attendees were able to comment in real time throughout the event, helping to bring everyone together. “We didn't want to add to the Zoom fatigue so we integrated a few different components,” Jason says. “Jenny Cano and I, hosts of the event, were able to pretape some segments using green screens to add some more fun, visually interesting components. The awards committees coordinated guest celeb presenters using Cameo, which added a really fun angle.” The next virtual conference is currently being planned and will be going live early this summer, and meanwhile you can watch last year’s event on the IDS YouTube channel. 
  • 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) 

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 for interior design that includes architecture.

  • 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)

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 towards 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
  • COVID Resources:

    As COVID-19 greatly impacts how we manage buildings, USGBC has offered comprehensive guidelines on how to minimize the spread of infectious diseases. 
  • Events:

    USGBC also hosts a number of events and regional student competitions. 

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. 

  • 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.
  • Events:

    The 2021 events calendar has a number of events; the national chapter is hosting its usual roster of awards and local chapters are offering an extensive amount of virtual educational sessions on topics such as “Evidence Based Design and Flooring” and “Sustainability Series - Closing the Transparency Loop”.

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. 

  • Why Join IFDA:

    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. 
  • 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 upcoming virtual interactive educational panels, including their 2021 “Ask the Expert” virtual series.

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. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you get the opportunity to join a community of like-minded people that can become critical contacts in your network.

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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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