Among the creative industries, the interior design profession is one that has a significant impact on society at large. Not only does this business add to the economy, it also makes a positive contribution toward the health and well-being of individuals, their productivity in the workplace and expenditure in retail, restaurant, hospitality and leisure outlets, thereby having a ripple economic effect. Like any industry, running an interior design business has its set of unique challenges. Compounding this, it is often not recognised for the vital contribution it makes to public and private spaces. Coming together gives professionals the best means to address such issues and gain more satisfaction within their chosen career.
The role of any professional body is to shape the changes required in its industry and assist its members to adapt as their profession and the business environment evolves. Strength in numbers allows us for sharing best practice, addressing common concerns and providing a respected voice that can represent the best interests of the professionals.
Another key purpose of a professional society is to create a network for business opportunities and mutual learning. Providing sought-after services to the members is another function that must be performed for any association to remain relevant and in terms of its role toward society, a professional association serves to attest to the qualifications of its members and raise the bar on quality.
Assurances and benchmarks
In the absence of regulation specific to the business of interior design, which is the case in many countries, a professional body provides an excellent opportunity for those practising in the field to exercise self-regulation. By joining an association such as the Association of Professional Interior Designers (APID), individuals are agreeing to submit their credentials for review. In this way, those working in the profession can state that they are practicing a skill learned through years of experience and have gained a recognised degree as deemed necessary by their peers. Their clients gain assurance that the interior designer they are hiring holds the requisite credentials to complete the job. A professional society can provide its members with tools and information to improve their practice and enhance their position in the market. In this respect, APID has initiated the first job satisfaction and salary survey for interior design in this region to provide a benchmark for further improvement.
Preparing future talent
It is clearly important for any profession to provide a gateway for students entering the market and ensure a strong connection with those universities preparing them. There is a war for talent in many industries and the answer to this concern is cooperation with universities to ensure that each batch of fresh graduates is properly prepared to respond to the needs of the market.
In particular, in the UAE market, there is a clear need to work together with locally based universities to support their efforts to educate future interior designers given the percentage of staff sourced from outside the UAE. Practical experience is a hard thing to come by in the UAE for interior design graduates. The professional community needs to come together to address this common challenge in its own self-interest. Greater interaction with academia is one main goal for APID. For this, we have started Student Chapters at three universities and we are looking to inaugurate many more in the next 12 months.
For APID, it has particularly been difficult to enrol and retain members given the transient nature of the workforce in the GCC region. The business issues for professionals, such as recruitment and retention, unrealistic client expectations, trade licences and legal status, intellectual property claims or unfair business practices, are concerns we find also in other regions.
As part of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers, APID can leverage the experience of other associations to address these concerns. As the only professional society for interior design in the GCC, APID provides a space to co-create solutions to these and other challenges for interior designers working here. I can only encourage each and every one to step forward and be part of making change happen.
Linda Merieau, Executive Director of the Association of Professional Interior Designers (APID)