Many people use the terms “interior design” and “interior decorating” interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways.
Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a a home or building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers design and decorate, but decorators do not design.
Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability.
The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology-including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process-to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.
Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have passed laws requiring interior designers to be licensed or registered-documenting their formal education and training-and many of them specifically require that all practicing interior designers earn the NCIDQ Certificate (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) to demonstrate their experience and qualifications. By contrast, interior decorators require no formal training or licensure.
How Interior Designers Protect the Public
A qualified interior designer is a key asset to any building construction team, lending knowledge and taking responsibility for critical features that protect public health, safety and welfare. Interior designers provide expertise for:
- Meeting accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Installing doors, lighting and equipment for compliance with fire safety and other local, state and provincial building codes
- Specifying ergonomic, sustainable designs and furnishings to protect human health
NCIDQ created the Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW) Tour to illustrate just how the choices of NCIDQ Certificate holders shape interior design and furnishings-from fire-rated doors to wheelchair-accessible lavatory sinks-to comply with building codes and the ADA.