Not Just Another Acronym – NCIDQ and What It Means for You

New year, new decade, new resolutions, new goals. We won’t be discussing how we plan to hit the yoga studio more often or cook more from home.  But there is one major goal of Allison’s we’d like to discuss with you, and that is taking and passing the first part of the NCIDQ.  So, what is NCIDQ? You may have seen it on Kathy and Courtney’s business cards and perhaps just thought, “Ah, another accreditation of some sort meaning something”- now where’s my tile layout?  With each industry swimming in a sea of certification acronyms, it’s difficult to be knowledgeable about each one.

What is the NCIdQ?

Before we dive in, let’s get the simple question out of the way. The NCIDQ stands for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification.  It is administered and developed by the CIDQ: Council of Interior Design Qualification. To put it simply, a designer having NCIDQ certification means they have gone through multiple tests, both academically and in the “real-world” to be a professional interior designer. Founded in 1974, the exam is the only nationally recognized professional competency exam in the United States and Canada.

Why this matters to you and our clients

We will try not to bore you with all of the technical jargon and requirements for the testing, but we do want you to know why working with an NCIDQ certified designer will ultimately help you and your project be a smoother sailing ride through the choppy sea of construction. So, let’s explore a few key benefits:

1. The designer is serious about their education.

In order for the designer to even be considered for the NCIDQ, they must have an education in design.  Binge watching HGTV and following design Insta accounts do not count towards education.  Rather, CIDQ is looking for associates, masters, or bachelor’s degrees in Interior Design or Architecture.  

Let’s say you kill yourself for four years in a highly competitive interior design program, navigating life through constant all-nighters (not the partying kind) and the internship required for your degree; finally, you have your diploma in hand.  So…you’re done, right?! Nope! Time to begin testing for the NCIDQ. The test is completed in 3 parts, and the first part is designed for this recent graduate, to really cement that knowledge from school into their brains.  

Even after the NCIDQ tests, many organizations such as ASID require Continuing Education Units (CEUs).  We’ll touch more on ASID in a later blog post. However, the point is that there is so much for designers to keep up with besides the trends.  Are there newer safer building practices?  What about more sustainable practices? The industry keeps changing and will keep changing.  It is important to have a designer who is receptive and serious about educating themselves. 

2. The designer has learned from the best, not just fumbled through enough projects to be proficient.

Of course, you need real world experience to become a professional interior designer.  According to CIDQ, this direct supervisor/sponsor must be either NCIDQ certified or a licensed interior designer in their state/province.  In order to even take the test, you need to work directly under a qualified professional for 2-4 years.  

However, there is definite merit to working under a licensed professional.  Sure, you can learn your mistakes on your own and get the hang of things…eventually.  This is not fun for the clients, contractors, or the designer. Having the guiding voice of an experienced design professional is one of the most valuable tools a new designer can carry with them – both to the jobsite and the NCIDQ test.  A new designer also needs this helping hand in organizing their projects, which brings us to our next point.

3. The designer is organized in their practice and processes.

Project management, project goals, data collection, conceptualization, selections and materiality, documentation, coordination, contract administration.  There is so much that goes into executing interior design.   Scheduling, budgets, coordinating consultants, collecting client data, understanding the client needs, verifying there are no roadblocks, coming up with an amazing idea,  putting together materials and objects that scream “this idea”, and then document all of this information and make sure that every single person involved in the project knows what this idea is.  Of course, it won’t always work out, so sometimes parts of the process need to repeat, repeat, repeat.

I hope all of this information was just as disorganized as intended, because it truly takes a professional to be able to tie it up in a neat little package.  We can’t give you all the secrets, but there is one item to always be taken seriously…

4. The designer is knowledgeable about lawful and safe building practices.

Serious pants are on now, people. Building codes are meant for your safety.  Chances are, there was some very horrible event that happened that caused a need for these rules, and they should not be taken light-hearted, even if it means a change to your “vision”.

Interior designers aren’t required to only know safety standards when it comes to paint, carpet, or drapes.  We need to know about the fire safety of a building, how far users can safely travel down a hallway to exit a space, how to design a safe stairway and doorway, accessible design for those with disabilities, electrical codes, plumbing codes.  I am just brushing the surface in laymen terms; the NCIDQ takes this information very seriously, wearing their serious pants.  Building codes can be very complex, and you should be able to trust the professional you are working with that they are knowledgeable on constructing your space safely.

5. The designer knows about more than just the interiors.

This little secret spilled a bit in the last paragraph.  Interior designers need to know a little bit about everything and a lot about some things.  This includes knowing basic plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and structural practices.  

For example, perhaps you have an amazing idea about reconfiguring your living room and adding a small bar area. You know exactly where each fixture and outlet should be placed, just the perfect spot for each. But the wine fridge is located on a brick exterior wall in front of a heating register with no existing electrical nearby, all existing plumbing is located far across the home, and the massive marble bar is spanning the same direction as the 50-year-old floor joists.  Some of these problems are obvious perhaps, but the main take away is a designer can help you understand what vision is feasible for you, and help you find the design that you can really fall in love with. 

We understand that professional interior designers need to know a lot about how things are built.  Makes sense. But, the NCIDQ also tests on business practices. This includes budgeting, contracts, and insurance principles.  With the bottom line often being a huge determining factor, let’s stay on the budget.

Boasting and such

It is pretty clear the NCIDQ qualified designer has it all.  Inquisitive, disciplined, organized, caring, adaptable, remarkable, refined, clever, striking…. oh, wait.

All kidding aside, we hope this helps you understand a bit further about the NCIDQ certification and what it means for you as a client.  It is a proud moment to receive the certification, and we wish Allison the best of luck on passing the first part of this test. We also hope that we inspired you to set some of your own educational goals, whether that means going back to school, or receiving a qualification for your own career.  Cheers to the next decade and year!

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