I like belonging to professional organizations mainly because of the networking and educational opportunities. While I am highly opposed to any sort of mandatory licensing of interior designers, I do still very much believe in increasing our knowledge base so that we can do the very best job we can for our clients. If nothing else, there are so many new products and product categories coming out every day that we’ve got to have *some* way of staying abreast of new developments just so we can always offer the cutting edge to our clients.
I do think that having some kind of initials after one’s name does lend a certain air of “legitimacy” that *some* clients seek, but the longer I am in this business, the more I realize how little that really matters to most prospective and existing clients.
More importantly, I’ve also realized how little those initials actually mean in terms of “proof” of competency of any sort.
Many of the very best designers I know and know of would never qualify for membership in these organizations – and at the same time, I hate to say it, but some of the absolute *worst* design work I’ve seen has been done by ASID professional members. It seems as if there is almost an inverse relationship in many cases between the presence of letters after a designer’s name and the quality of his or her work.
I’ve also noticed that many of the people who tend to be most actively involved in the leadership of these organizations in particular are generally not the best designers around. The *really* best ones are clearly far too busy doing what they do to be bothered with meetings and all of the petty politics and so on that the organizations also bring with them.
Being a good designer requires a mix of technical knowledge and creativity. Anyone with a brain can learn the technical material just by reading books and various industry publications, or on the job (lord knows that almost nothing of what I know was taught to me in school), but the creativity that really gives one an edge and defines what an interior designer is at core cannot be taught and is innate. Education can foster it and bring it out further, but it cannot instill it where there is no fundamental underlying facility.
In a well-run professional organization that is truly responsive to the actual needs and preferences of the majority of its membership base, these groups can also be very powerful proponents of a profession, and do a lot of good.
However, when a small percentage of the leadership and membership decides that they speak for a majority and stand for a position that will actually *harm* the majority of their own membership base, as ASID is doing, then that organization has outlived its usefulness and should be shot and put out of its misery. It most assuredly should not be allowed to create legislation or internal policies that will adversely affect the lives – and livelihoods – of thousands of people the way it is trying to do nationwide without giving them all a direct say, especially if it is going to use their dues money to fund these initiatives.
Once an organization has gone out of control and is running amok wreaking havoc on the very constituency it ought to (and claims to) be serving, it completely loses all legitimacy and credibility.
So why do I continue to belong to one of these groups that is out of control when I obviously have so little respect for it? Mainly because my boss basically made it a requirement of my employment, but also because I’m somewhat of a Pollyanna at heart, and am still (almost undoubtedly naively) hopeful that I can help the organization “see the light” and correct course to be what it used to be and *ought* to be – a real resource for its membership.
Addendum: This is why I let my membership in ASID lapse, because I can no longer support an organization that has been so bent on passing legislation that will put so many people out of business, and so restrict entry into the profession by new people. They’ve been at this for 30 years, with little success, because there’s no merit in the position. Such laws have been struck down as unconstitutional in several states, and yet they persist in spending millions of dollars of members’ dues that could be much better put to other purposes such as educating the public about the value that professional designers bring to the table. I’m eligible to qualify for membership at the professional level, but it’s just wrong to do this.
I do continue to attend continuing education event sponsored by my local chapter, as that ongoing education is very important in this field, and they provide many excellent classes. But it’s obtainable without belonging to such organizations, and responsible, professional designers take advantage of it wherever they can, even when they have no obligation to for sustaining a credential or designation.