No Design Legislation

Opposing interior design legislation everywhere

IIDA Nixes Merger With ASID

For the third time this decade, IIDA has rejected a request from ASID to merge the two design organizations into one. Here is the position statement released last week, followed by my thoughts on the matter, and how it relates to legislation.

In recent months, considerable speculation has circulated surrounding the question of whether a merger between the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) should take place. In early October, the boards of directors of both associations met to discuss a merger initiative. After much discussion and deliberation, the IIDA board of directors has established the following official position:

At this time, IIDA believes that a merger would not be in the overall best interests of our membership. The board of directors asserts that our association offers a unique experience unlike any other design organization and that the existence of more than one professional design association enables designers to choose the best alliance for advancing their career. To that end, the association will continue to focus on the principles and parameters on which the organization was founded.

As we have throughout our existence, IIDA will continue to promote and pursue initiatives for ongoing and meaningful collaborations with ASID in mutually beneficial pursuits of education, advocacy and areas of marketplace value.

The IIDA is steadfastly committed to its members, embracing the legacy of the profession, and advancing the future of design.


May 12, 2009 - Posted by | ASID, IIDA | , ,


  1. ……and your thoughts are?

    Comment by Michael Dudek | May 14, 2009 | Reply

    • I can well understand why IIDA rejected the merger.

      First, one really has to wonder why ASID keeps pursuing this. This is the third time this decade that ASID has courted IIDA and been rejected.

      The two organizations serve fundamentally different constituencies- IIDA being primarily commercial, and ASID being primarily residential. IIDA is international in scope and focus, while ASID focuses strictly on the US. IIDA, in my experience as a former (now lapsed) member of both organizations, simply offers their members much more than ASID does as well. Their continuing education programs are meatier, and their customer service is better – all for dues that are lower.

      The two organizations also do not appear to even see eye to eye at all on what constitutes good education; while I was serving on the board of the Student Career Forum some years ago, IIDA withdrew from co-sponsorship because, basically, they didn’t approve of the content.

      And finally, while IIDA unfortunately shares the same reprehensible legislative goals as ASID has, they at least don’t appear to be devoting the same massive resources or extorting funding from members for it as ASID is doing. I don’t know how they are obtaining whatever funding they are throwing at legislation, but at least it doesn’t appear to be through membership dues and mandatory legislative assessments. They appear to be still primarily engaged in the activities that one would expect of a professional association – actually serving the needs of their members.

      ASID, on the other hand, as we all know, is spending millions of dollars on their legislative push, and funds it through a mandatory legislative assessment tacked on to the dues bill, and an additional 6% of actual dues.

      ASID is also losing members right and left. Their membership director earlier this year told one of my contacts that they were already down by more than 30%, and at this point, we estimate that membership may be off by as much as 50%. They are alienating so many people because of their legislative push, censorship on Connex, and lack of service to the members (reasons given by the membership director herself to my contact) that people are fleeing in droves. They simply no longer feel that they are getting anything for their dues, and are especially no longer interested in funding a legislative push that will put most of them out of business.

      In short, I can well see that ASID would love to have IIDA’s 13,000 members added to their own rapidly shrinking membership rolls, but I can’t for the life of me see what would be in it for IIDA.

      Finally, I think our profession is far better served by having multiple organizations that do cater to different interests and segments of the profession, and I would imagine that that has factored into IIDA’s decision. It offers people options, and enriches the offerings. Just as there is no “one size fits all” designer for all clients, or path of entry into the profession, there is not one single means of representing designers or serving our needs, and the diversity represented by multiple organizations is an asset that would be lost if they were all to merge into one monolithic organization.

      Comment by Hoechstetter Interiors | May 15, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks. I agree with you on several points. ASID seems to have the most to lose and appears to have all eggs in one basket. Unfortunately ASID was slow and timid in addressing the disparate levels of professionalism within their own organization. Now it has come to haunt them. I do however disagree with your point of multiple professional organizations;

    …”there is not one single means of representing designers or serving our needs, and the diversity represented by multiple organizations is an asset that would be lost if they were all to merge into one monolithic organization”.

    What I see as a problematic dichotomy you see as an asset. Gosh I bet the AIA,the AMA,the ANA, the IAFF just to name a few professional and occupational societies would welcome competing organizations….NOT! If disparate organizations representing professional societies are such a good idea how come the numerous code officials in the United States finally concluded that innumerable building codes was not a good idea, hence the formation of the International Code Council. I could cite others but it really would not matter would it?

    Comment by Michael Dudek | May 18, 2009 | Reply

    • What’s good for professional societies is clearly not always in the best interests of their constituencies. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion, as many have before me, that generally speaking, these kinds of professional societies are actually often antithetical to their own members’ best interests and preferences. I can’t think of a single one, including in the medical field, in which every practitioner is a member or even wants to be a member, precisely because the organizations really often simply don’t do much in their best interests or to further the profession.

      What happens is that these organizations end up as political action committees, catering to special interests instead of the profession at large and the interests of the majority of their members. It’s not just us; it’s rampant in many other occupations as well.

      Building codes are a different matter. It makes no sense to have the spaghetti of multiple codes we have had, especially in this day and age where communications between jurisdictions is so easy. It makes much more sense to have established baseline standards for things of this nature that clearly do usually impact public health, for a whole lot of reasons.

      But professional organizations? Most of them are really nothing but special interest clubs, and as such, it seems entirely reasonable for there to be options for people across the broad range of interests and specialties in any occupation, especially a fundamentally creative one like ours.

      Comment by Hoechstetter Interiors | May 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. Fundamentally creative? Are you kidding me? Does that mean staying inside the lines when you are coloring? I bet the poor souls who perished in the MGM Grand fire felt that the person that specified the interior finishes and furnishings was fundamentally creative as they choked on the toxic fumes emitted by those very finishes and furniture.

    Comment by Michael Dudek | May 24, 2009 | Reply

    • So you deny that interior design is a creative occupation?

      BTW, those interior finishes in the MGM Grand? They were specified by the architect. There is no evidence whatsoever that any interior designer was involved in that project at all.

      So much for the idea that any kind of licensure or formal education automatically protects the public, eh?

      Everything emits toxic fumes when it burns, anyways, no matter what material it’s made of, including untreated natural fibers. The more crap you put on things to make them burn more slowly, the more toxic the fumes are, too.

      Comment by Hoechstetter Interiors | May 25, 2009 | Reply

  4. I never said that the MGM Grand finishes were specified by an interior designer…but please provide proof that they were physically selected and specified by Martin Stern….that is pure speculation on your part and a typical IJ red herring. If he had anything to do with the finishes it was to sign and seal the finish schedule (and thus was liable)…but he did not personally specify them. Unfortunately there were far more egregious design and engineering errors that combined with numerous poor and illegal interior finishes and furnishings caused the loss of life. So if we know that everything that burns emits toxic fumes why do we have building and life safety codes??? Those damn bureucratic regulations just get in the way of our creative urges.

    Comment by Michael Dudek | May 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Nothing in any of the transcripts relating to the ensuing lawsuits or in any of the press about the incident mentioned any interior designer involved in the construction of that hotel. Thus, it has to have been the architect who specified all of the contents in question.

      Even if he did employ interior designers on his staff, he would still have the ultimate responsibility to oversee the project and approve all elements, so it all still comes back to the architect.

      But the fact remains, that there was zero mention of any interior designers involved, despite years of litigation. Had there been one, I am sure that information would have surfaced, and probably early on.

      Comment by Hoechstetter Interiors | May 28, 2009 | Reply

  5. If you provide proof that Martin Stern Jr. himself selected, specified and personally coordinated the application of the non-rated ceiling tiles and flammable plastic picture frames and mirrors and was personally responsible for specifying all of the foam cushioning in the seating for the MGM Grand then I will go away.

    You can’t prove that he did and I can not prove that he did not have an interior desiger/decorator doing it for him although my money is on the latter.

    As to your point that everything that burns emits toxic fumes. Then why do we have codes that apply to finishes and furnishings? If it is so obvious why are so many people involved in protecting us from those that do not have your omniscient sense of material properties and life safety regualtions. Or do you see this as just more uneccessay governmental regulation that gets in the way of your talent and flair for color?

    Comment by Mike Dudek | May 28, 2009 | Reply

    • We have such codes because they are the “best guess” way of trying to protect people. At small scale, fire-retardant treatments and naturally fire-resistant materials may indeed slow the spread of fire, and may, in certain circumstances, prevent a fire from happening, but once a fire is started, everything will burn (or at least melt) once it hits the right temperature – and emit toxic smoke.

      No one who actually understands building codes and what they are meant to do has ever claimed that any of them solve all problems, prevent all deaths, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of designers and architects both seem to be in the mindset that just because something is code, that means it will provide perfect protection. Things just don’t work that way.

      Comment by Hoechstetter Interiors | May 28, 2009 | Reply

  6. “Unfortunately, a lot of designers and architects both seem to be in the mindset that just because something is code, that means it will provide perfect protection.”

    Which bag of IJ red herrings did you pull that bit of decorator wisdom from?

    Comment by Michael Dudek | May 28, 2009 | Reply

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