Architects vs. Interior Designers

Thesis Statement: Interior design should fall under the jurisdiction of the architect and not an interior designer, as they are more qualified in both education and professional experience.

Periodical: ArchDaily

There has always been a conflict between the interior design and architecture professions in how they intersect with one another. Architects continually believe that the interior design of a building falls under their jurisdiction, as they are more qualified in both education and professional experience.

A Bachelor of Architecture Degree from an accredited university takes more time and effort than an Interior Design BFA Degree. Although, “interior design has changed dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century, when it was merely interior decoration,” (Guerin) it doesn’t hold up to the same standards as if one was to pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Interior design is now considered to be, “a discipline of professionals qualified to identify, research and creatively solve problems of the interior environment . . . and protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” (Guerin, Thompson). However, architecture education has already been focused around research, creative design solutions, and the health and welfare of the public since the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) first introduced a national standard in architectural education in 1912 (NAAB History).

Recommended Academic Plan for the Bachelor of Architecture (BARC
FIT Academic Plan 2

If one were to take a look at an interior design education today, such as one at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and compare it to an accredited school of architecture education, such as the one at The Pennsylvania State University, they would believe the two different disciplines have a relatively similar education background. They both take studio courses, courses in hand drawing and computer skills, environmental system courses, art history courses, a professional practice course and both complete theses. The main difference someone would see is that an architecture student attends school for five years while an interior design student only     attends for four years. Just because the two degrees look fairly similar on paper, doesn’t mean in practicality they are. After an interview with a third year interior design student attending FIT and her friends, and comparing it to my own and fellow classmates’ experiences as third year architecture majors there were major differences. They get handed a pre-designed building already and are told to design the interior spaces of that building, architecture students are told to design whole building and the spatial qualities of the different programs; so here this shows that architecture students have more practice with design strategies than an interior designer does, and they understand how the building itself is suppose to feel as they are the ones from the beginning that have a certain feel/picture in mind for the spaces. However, in our architectural education there is not an emphasis on materials for interior spaces, there is definitely an emphasis on building facades and different treatments regarding that, but in reality architecture students really don’t have a basic concept of interior materials like fabrics, and tiles. In the end though, future architects have more design skills based off the amount of time through school they spend on studio, and how they are able to integrate structural engineering, HVAC, plumbing, and sustainable strategies into a design of a building, thus designing the interior spaces of projects should fall into their realms of the design process.

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After education is complete, and interior design students and architecture students move into the real world, there is still this separation between the two even though they tend to work side by side. Each profession requires its professionals to have a license. According to the National Council for Interior Design Qualification, interior designers need to obtain at least two years of fulltime or part-time work experience, receive a formal interior design education, and pass three parts in the time given to become licensed (NCIDQ Examination). In regards to becoming a licensed architect, one needs to attend a five year NAAB accredited degree program, pass seven exams, and acquire a total of 3,740 hours of interning before becoming fully licensed (“The Basics”). “All 54 U.S. jurisdictions require the completion of the Architect Registration Examination (ARE),” (“The Basics”), while not every state requires an interior designer to become licensed.


As one can see there are more credentials needed to become a licensed architect than there are to become a licensed interior designer. In fact, someone who went to school and obtained a B. Arch degree can apply and take the exam to become a licensed interior designer (NCIDQ Examination). In a professional licensing sense, an architect definitely seems more qualified to be a decision maker; the architect has gone through more schooling, more required internship hours and can even become a licensed interior designer if they wanted to. The fact that after schooling an architect can become a licensed interior designer but an interior designer can’t become a licensed architect shows that interior designers and architects are on two different levels, with the architect being above.

There are some people that believe the architect’s argument that the design of the interior spaces falls under their jurisdiction is invalid. That with today’s more, “increased complexity in the design of interior environments… demand[s] a more focused expertise and skill set,” (Weigand). It is argued that in architectural education with, “its inherent breadth, has failed to provide the focused experience at the interior scale needed to support an evolving high level interior design practice,” (White). Although it may be true, architects don’t learn a whole lot on the interior scale, but architectural education does support and encourage research on interior spaces and the different experiences someone can have while being brought through the building.

Architects are taught from the beginning that both the shell (exterior of the building) and the interior of the building operate as a whole. Architects tell stories through their buildings, and evoke emotions as people move about the interior spaces they create. Through the conceptual and technical training that a person with a B. Arch degree does both in and out of school to achieve a licensure in architecture, compared someone with an Interior Design BFA degree does to achieve their license, don’t compare on an even scale. Ultimately, the design of the interior spaces falls into the hands of the project architect.

Featured Image Info:

Designer: Spector Group Designs




“The Basics.” NCARB. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Guerin, Denise A., Ph.D., and Jo Ann Asher Thompson, Ph.D. “Interior Design                                                Education in the 21st Century: An Educational Transformation.” Journal of Interior Design 30.1 (2004): 1-12. Print.

Guerin, Denise A., Ph.D. “Issues Facing Interior Design Education in the Twenty – First Century.” Journal of Interior Design Education and Research 17.2 (1992): 9-16. Print.

“Interior Design BFA Degree Program.” Fashion Institute of Technology. Fashion Institute of Technology, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“NAAB History.” NAAB Website: About The NAAB – NAAB History. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“NCIDQ Examination | Application Information.” NCIDQ Examination. Pronto Legal Notices, 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Weigand, John. “Interior Design and Architecture.” Design Intelligence (2013): n. pag. Design and Architecture – DesignIntelligence. Greenway Communications, 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

White, Allison Carll, Ph.D. “What’s in a Name? Interior Design And/or Interior       Architecture: The Discussion Continues.” Journal of Interior Design 35.1 (2009): 10-17. Print.

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