3 Reasons Interior Designer Credentialing Matters

various images of interior spacesInterior designer credentialing reflects a commitment to the highest professional standards.  Our firm focuses on senior living and educational facilities. Interior designers must put the health, safety and welfare of the people living, learning and working in those spaces at the forefront of design decisions. As we look forward to a post-COVID future, physical space impacts on health and well-being take on increased significance.

Starting with the Basics:  Interior Design Professionals

Although sometimes used interchangeably with interior decorating, the interior design profession requires specialized education and training.  Interior design professionals typically earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in interior design and/or architecture, have worked in the field for two or more years, and hold National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) certification.  The current exam encompasses seven core competencies of interior design: building systems, codes, construction standards, contract administration, design application, professional practice and project coordination. The NCIDQ examination is regularly updated to reflect current knowledge required to design safe, functional and innovative interior spaces.

According to the Council for Interior Design Qualification, “Interior design is a distinct profession with specialized knowledge applied to the planning and design of interior environments that promote health, safety, and welfare while supporting and enhancing the human experience.”

RLPS is excited to kick off 2021 with another member of our interior design team, Emily Pietranton, having passed the NCIDQ Examination.  We recently celebrated her achievement with a virtual adaptation of our firm’s tie cutting tradition. This led us to ask a few of our designers to share their thoughts on the value of interior designer credentialing for our clients.

Reason 1: Health, Safety and Welfare of End Users

interior design credentialing requires knowledge of building codes and ADA requirements

Interior design professionals are responsible for ADA-compliant signage for wayfinding and safety.

Deb: It’s not going to be noticeable until it impacts you directly, but building evacuation plans are a crucial part of what we do.  We work with the architectural team to review building code requirements, create clear circulation pathways and exit plans. And interior designers also specify the ADA-compliant signage that helps with wayfinding–in an emergency and on a day-to-day basis. We also consider fire ratings of partitions and door assemblies for different types of occupant areas.

Emily:  Interior design also intersects with health, safety and welfare through material selections to minimize the chance of injury.  For example, we focus on coefficient of friction to consider the slip resistance properties of flooring materials. We also look for potential issues such as a casework edge or furniture piece that intersects with a circulation path. These considerations apply to senior living communities, schools and universities or any public building areas such as entry lobbies, corridors or stairways.

Jessie:  Another health aspect we consider is how material and product selections can impact indoor air quality – whether it’s paints and stains, flooring, wallcoverings and adhesives, millwork, or furnishings.  We avoid materials that off gas Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or other toxins. We work with facility staff to review cleaning protocols to specify materials that not only look good, but also are functional and durable throughout their lifecycle.

Reason 2: Project Coordination

interior designer credentialing requires coordination with other design disciplines

Multi-purpose event venues require coordination between interior design professionals, architects, lighting engineers, acoustical technicians and audio-visual technology specialists.

Emily: Interior design touches many aspects beyond the aesthetic elements at the forefront.  We coordinate with the architects and engineers on space planning, ergonomics, adjacency requirements, lighting levels, building technology integration, environmental factors, accessibility guidelines, building codes and sometimes LEED, WELL or related building standards.

Deb: We define everything from placement of partitions in a dining venue to outlet locations in a lobby. And we get into the details, like ceiling heights and materials for acoustical control whether it’s a front desk, elevator lobby, coffee shop or performing arts center.

As covered in a recent blog, Everyday Lighting Strategies, we also collaborate with lighting engineers to define how a space functions, highlight specific features, and in some cases, assist with wayfinding.

Reason 3: Inspire People and Transform Lives

a computer generated image of an interior space with glass rooms and walls

Inspiring and transformative learning spaces must meld aesthetic appeal with flexibility, accessibility, acoustics, technology integration, durability and a myriad of other considerations from floor to ceiling and everything in between.

Amy:  We tend to associate the idea of “Inspiring People” with aesthetic features, and how a space looks definitely matters, but I think it goes beyond that.  I think we can also inspire students—and teachers—by providing flexible classroom layouts and furniture options that can adapt to different learning styles.  And these principles tie into health and well-being.  We transform lives by helping to keep spaces accessible and incorporating biophilic design strategies to reinforce natural connections which can provide a myriad of physiological benefits.

Jessie:  When I think of inspiring people and transforming lives, I think it’s about planning around natural light and views, creating spaces that support social gatherings and enrichment and allowing people to live life to their fullest extent. For example, it’s creating a distinctively themed dining venue with expansive windows overlooking a lake. But it’s also making sure that we have considered the flooring transition for people accessing the space using wheelchairs or walkers.  It’s introducing a mix of contemporary seating options that reinforce a hospitality-inspired design aesthetic. But it’s also making sure those options are an appropriate height and depth for ease of use by older adults.

a bistro near Baltimore, Maryland with brickwork similar to nearby Camden Yards

Regional relevance is imperative for creating engaging, inclusive settings that resonate with end users. This bistro near Baltimore, Maryland takes design inspiration from nearby Camden Yards and highlights local artworks.

Deb:  From a visual perspective, it’s also about respecting the regional and cultural heritage.  In this way, we can provide spaces that people can connect with and design details that support the desired brand experience in a visual form that is meaningful to the end user.  For example, we will often explore opportunities to incorporate local artisans’ work or historical photographs in the public areas of senior living communities.

Interior Designer Credentialing Matters for Your COVID-19 Response

Jessie:  As we move forward, interior design professionals are anticipating building code changes that would impact all types of built environments – particularly senior living and educational spaces. However, there is typically a considerable delay between the point when new building codes and guidelines are proposed, and when they actually get adopted. In the meantime, we can help our clients implement universal cues for comfortable social distancing without being overly obvious or distracting.

Expect to see more emphasis on flexible spaces that can adapt to different group sizes.  Furnishings will be farther apart and amenity spaces in senior living buildings and on college campuses will be designed to allow groups to separate from each other.  We also anticipate more handwashing and hand sanitizer stations in public spaces, along with a stronger overall focus on cleanable and sanitary materials.

Amy:  As RLPS addressed in a previous blog, even something as simple as adding hand sanitizer stations requires correct installation of dispensing stations and appropriate storage of a limited amount of sanitizer, as specified in the International Building Code and the International Fire Code. This is just one example that underscores the importance of having an interior design professional involved as you move forward with any changes.

Congratulations to Emily Pietranton, Our Latest NCIDQ Interior Designer!

Emily Pietranton - NCIDQ Interior DesignerWhat was your inspiration to become a commercial interior designer?

Interior design gives me the ability to combine creativity with functional solutions. It is so rewarding to see design concepts come to life and have a positive impact on those who inhabit a space.

What Was Your Motivation for Earning Interior Designer Credentialing?

My motivation grew out of my desire to learn more about the interior design profession. The NCIDQ exam gave me the opportunity to further my knowledge of the technical aspects of interior design and gain credibility in the industry.

What were your study habits when preparing for the exam?

Three crucial steps in my study process were preparation, discipline, and consistency. Early on, I developed a study timeline that fit into my daily schedule. Though staying focused was sometimes challenging, I just kept reminding myself how important it was for me to stay on track to reach my goal. During the study process, I took a lot of practice tests that mimicked the questions that would be on the actual exams. Practice makes perfect!

What are you looking forward to doing now that you have a bit more free time?

I appreciate that I can spend time with my family and having more time to exercise!

Interior Designer Credentialing Matters

interior designer credentialing is important to the RLPS team

The RLPS Interiors team includes 10 interiors designers who are NCIDQ Certified. Several are also LEED and WELL accredited Professionals and two team members are registered architects. This credentialing reflects RLPS’ focus on the health, safety and welfare of those who use the spaces we design.

Interior design elevates the human experience through aesthetically-pleasing environments that capture our imagination, motivate, engage and inspire. However, there are also hundreds of behind-the-scenes details that have a tremendous impact on how a space feels and functions. Interior designer credentialing is an important tool to help our team meld form and function for beautiful spaces that are code-compliant, accessible, and inclusive.


Debbie Kimmet, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C has more than 20 years of interior design experience. In addition to her NCIDQ certification, Deb is also a LEED Accredited Professional to support client objectives for healthy, sustainable environments. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources, Interior Design from the University of Delaware and an Associate Degree in Architectural Technology from Harrisburg Area Community College.

Emily Pietranton will soon be eligible for membership in the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) based on successfully passing the NCIDQ exam.  She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design with a dual minor in Business Administration and Sustainable Design from West Virginia University.  Emily is also a LEED Green Associate. She joined the RLPS team as a student intern prior to coming on board full-time upon graduation in 2018.

Jessie Shappell, IIDA, RA, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C has 17 years of experience as a professional interior designer who has earned a number of credentials in addition to NCIDQ certification.  She earned a Master of Science in Interior Architecture (MSIA) from Chatham University and a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  Jessie is also as a director on the Council for Interior Design Qualifications (CIDQ) board tasked with upholding the testing standards for the professional exam.

Amy Kleinfelter, IIDA, LEED AP, ID+C – has dedicated her 29-year career to the professional practice of interior design.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts, Interior Design from Marymount University. Amy has also earned NCIDQ certification and is a LEED Accredited Professional to help our clients consider options related to stewardship of resources and biophilic design principles.

Blog Editor – Jodi Kreider

Related Links:

CIDQ Definition of Interior Design

What Does an Interior Designer Do?

Health, Safety and Welfare Elements of Interior Design