a little while back, my best friend asked…
“Okay, I know this is going to sound stupid…but WHAT IS the difference between a ‘Designer’ and a ‘Decorator’?….and which one are you?”
What is in a NAME.
Brian Patrick Flynn, IN THE HGTV BLOG DESIGN HAPPENS, asked this exact question a few years back. His post, also entitled... “WHATS IN A NAME”…took the question to the field when he interviewed a number of highly respected Professional Interior Designers and Decorators.
Most of those interviewed did not care what they were called…in fact Barry Dixon, an interior designer from Virginia, clarified when he said : “I don’t care what clients call me, as long as they call me.”
One of my FAVORITE Decorators, PHOEBE HOWARD, explains WHY SHE WILL CORRECT YOU IF YOU CALL HER A DESIGNER, By stating,
“Florida, where my company is based, closely regulates the profession of interior design and requires licensing to use the title of interior designer, but interior decoration requires no testing or license. The real intent of the law is to focus on commercial design, which I am not interested in.”
The consensus seemed to be that the terms are often used interchangeably…and yes, often inappropriately, but that those who are working and doing well…do not seem to mind the confusion of terms.
My best friend Trish and I met in Nursing School, when we were both second Nursing Degree students at Massachusetts General Hospital…so I thought it appropriate to use a Nursing analogy to answer her question…
“Remember how when we started working as Nurses..a person could be an RN, with or without a Bachelors degree, an LPN, a Nurse Practitioner or a Clinical Nurse Specialist with a Master’s Degree ……and they could ALL work on the same floor doing the exact SAME work…?” ….
“Well, it is kind of like that in Design.”
“However,” I went on to explain.
“If you need medication prescribed…you would be best served by a Nurse Practitioner…or in the case of design…if you require a wall to be moved or to understand the latest Code requirements…You would hire an Interior designer .Does that mean a Nurse Practitioner is a “better” Nurse…No. Nor does it mean that an Interior designer is a better “Designer”…it simply means that they have the Education and Degrees that enable them to function in an expanded capacity. Prescribe Medicine…and move walls.
Most of the Designers interviewed said in one way shape or form, a fact I already know, which is that creatively…”you either have it or you don’t” the title does not decide that skill.
Barry Dixon said,
…”there are many talented people who can decorate circles around some educated designers. This may be because they possess an innate gift that can’t be learned. They simply have “it” — that magic mojo that allows them to see and create in a special, intuitive way.”
And then COMES the blogging issue. To further add to the confusion…there are Bloggers who ARE Interior Designers and bloggers who are just very good at Designing spaces, that call themselves Designers and bloggers who know a heck of a lot about design and decorating but are neither… There are plenty of people calling themselves something simply to communicate what they DO…not necessarily to claim ownership of a Degree…and it all can get very confusing.
Even the TV shows confuse us…shows with names “Design on a Dime” and “Design Star” on HGTV, where the contestants are not necessarily Interior Designers but Stylists, like winner Emily Henderson and Decorators and even Artists like David Bromstad who started out as a Disney Illustrator.
I overheard conversations at the Design Blogger conference, very passionate conversations along the lines of… “Everyone thinks they can just hang a shingle out and say they are a Designer and it is not right.” I agree that one should never claim a skill they are not qualified to do, but I do think that the name “Designer” can and does mean many things. It is the public perception and MIS-understanding that can perpetuate the misuse of the title and I think it is important for Designers to educate their public…because often times people really don’t know the difference or that they are making a mistake.
In the end, I have to agree with Barry, I don’t care what they call me…just so long as they call me!!!
I keep it simple. I call myself an Artist.