The Thursday Blog: Exploding Jute Edition

In Florida, it used to be illegal to practice the somewhat dangerous trade of Interior Design without a license. (As it now is in Alabama, Louisiana, and Nevada. Nineteen other states have restrictions on interior design.) This law was in place, obviously, to protect the public from designers who might attempt to ply their trade without a degree, or the proper safety measures, like never combining polka dots with paisley. The people of Florida were thus protected for decades, with not one interior design related fatality in all that time.

Riding the wave of pseudo-populist Tea Baggery, Florida’s new Governor Rick Scott has been cleaning house in the state’s capital. I think it’s fair in general to call him pro-business, and anti-everyone else. While I have not been a fan of much of Scott’s agenda, one sort of funny thing he decided to do was to take on “Big Design”, head on, by way of eliminating the more-or-less absurd licensing requirement. Amusingly, it was not easy.

Licensed designers are fightin’ mad about losing their “protected status” here in Florida. They hired lobbyists, and waged a PR campaign on their own behalf. They gathered up design students from campuses all over the state and sent them to the legislature to plead their case. The students discussed the effect color choices had on the human nervous system, how a degree, apprenticeship and exam protected the good people of Florida from wicked and incompetent “faux” designers, the fact that 88,000 deaths were prevented annually here in Florida due to proper fabric selection, and finally how their own degrees would become completely worthless should “just anybody” be allowed to practice interior design in the state — as, I presume, are the degrees of designers in the other forty-seven states of the Union. Actually, it was this final reason that caught my attention, as implicit within it is the admission that the licensing was the one and only thing keeping a design degree from actually being worthless, as well as an acknowledgment that anyone can do the job. (For the record I don’t really think that’s true, you do need an eye for it and a familiarity with the tools of the trade, but it’s interesting from a rhetorical standpoint.)

Now Alabama, for instance, has recently gone the other way. There they have passed a law making it illegal to rearrange furniture without a license, with penalties up to and including a year in the pokey. State Representative Blaine Galliher says the law is essential “to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the consumer in the state of Alabama.” It is also essential to continued campaign contributions from the American Society of Interior Designers, though he is less garrulous on this point. (ASID… Big Design)

ASID points to the fact that qualified designers are absolutely necessary to handle the tough decision making, such as placing brighter colors and kid-sized furniture in a kids’ library, or putting down a mat on a slippery floor. Things that you or I would never in a million years have considered possible. The ASID maintains that “every decision a designer makes saves lives”, (like which end of the sofa needs a throw pillow) and that 11,000 deaths are caused annually in America by bad design — like confusing tile patterns and a lack of pink. (Sadly, those are their examples, not mine.) To date they haven’t revealed how they arrived at that number, or made available the names of any design-related fatalities. During legislative argument in Florida, (home of the 88,000 annually prevented deaths) the Florida Attorney General’s office stated they could find no evidence that the licensing of interior designers was of any benefit to the public in any way.

Personally I am astounded by the lack of me having killed myself by decorating my own home. I feel I should be terrified by my lack of qualification for picking out sheets, towels, and wall colors, and I wonder how worried about my fish (whose tank I decorated) I should be. Still, and I feel it’s important that I should admit this, I think the ol’ Tea Bagger got this one right… as long as I can manage to put down the new jute rug I got for the living room without blowing up my house.

54 Responses to The Thursday Blog: Exploding Jute Edition

  1. Wow. Up here in Michigan we only have to worry about Governor Rick Perry sending in a corporate shills fresh out of a special two-day training class to come into towns and cities across the state, firing all the elected officials and privatizing city services—which, as happens with 99% of such cases, will soon be far more expensive.

    Trade ya.

    • Perry is similar to Scott, except that Scott is really just using the whole Tea Party thing as a front for his own crooked dealings. Republicans held their nose at the polls and said “Well he may be a crook, but at least he’s not a Democrat.” They are currently getting an education in what it really means to do that.

      • Yes, they are getting educated that it’s possible to have governors that are crooks, what a shockingly original development.
        Seriously, many of the most staunchly partisan places in North America are places most in need of turfing the old corruption rackets out. This seems to be a bi-partisan phenomenon in America.

      • Isn’t that the same thing that got Obama into office? 😉
        Admit it, you’re just as bad as those Republicans you constantly sneer at whom you say chose someone based on him not being a Democrat.

        • Yah, it’s really dumb to vote for someone just because they’re “not” something (Not Republican, Not Democrat, or Not George Bush, for example) – When I vote for someone, it’s because of something they ARE, not something they aren’t…

          In the last Presidential Election, I voted for the other ticket because of Sarah Palin (I grew up in Alaska, and the people up there have their heads screwed on right, however the press might want to paint them as backwoods boobs…) Not because of McCain (Who is more or less McSame as every McLame McPolitician who ever ran…)

        • Dude, I sneer at everyone, and yes, I am just as bad. But I’m trying to get better!

          Honestly though, the thing with Scott has little to do with his party and much more to do with him. He recently passed a law that basically said a percentage of state employees would have to give money to his personal company. I’m open to anyone who is willing to tell me he isn’t a dishonest actor, but I haven’t met the person yet. As far as his political affiliation, I genuinely believe that he doesn’t truly represent them, but is taking advantage of their energy. (As I stated above.)

  2. I know some women have a knack for rearranging their furniture in the middle of the night.
    So you state that they would do something illegal in Alabama?
    Sounds like another law from Florida with similar humor factor.

    • I don’t understand the link, but yeah to the other question. I think you’re allowed to decorate your own home, as long as you don’t call it decorating… or designing, or anything someone might get paid for.

      • As far as I am informed, there is a law in Florida making it illegal to shower in the nude…

        • I’m guessing that’s supposed to be on a public beach or other such public place. Those kind of “funny” law-lists do show a lot of outdated laws or ones that are perhaps poorly worded, but most, if not all, can be understood if you actually think about them in context instead of giggling.
          It’s the same kind of manipulation of things out of their context that I don’t like, but I’m sure Kevin just loves it, don’t you Kevin? 😉

  3. As someone with an Interior Design degree (who works in telecom), I can say that, while a bad designer usually won’t kill someone (aside from things like spec’ing the wrong floor coverings or furnishings for, say, a hospital environment where some seriously bad stuff can live on those surfaces), a bad or sadistic designer can really mess with people. Interior Designers deal with pretty much anything that’s not load-bearing- walls, lighting- they can even tell the HVAC guy where to put the vents sometimes.

    But the licensing requirement is idiotic. ADA codes will deal with a lot (not all, but a lot) of the safety issues (wall sconces below 7′ can’t stick out too far, etc.), and unless you’re dealing with a group of people whose brains stopped functioning about 50 years ago, your client should be able to say, “No, I don’t like it,” to screen out the less serious errors.

    Oh, wait… we’re talking about public buildings, here. Scratch that- maybe licensing *is* needed to keep the board of brain-dead corporate pond scum from blindly agreeing to that evil designer’s scheme to piss off everyone who comes in the building…

    • It hadn’t occurred to me that interior design was something that could be used for evil. Still, you’d think someone who had to make a living from designing would want a public space to be something that’s at least likable, since it’s basically free advertisement.

      • Clearly you know little about design: Eye catching and memorable sells better than comfortable and optimized frequently because people as a rule tend to not have the imagination to figure out what living/working in a space is like and value that more than what seems shiny/attention-getting about it. This is one of the factors leading to architectural failures with pretty looking buildings that disintegrate under their own weight and design-induced abnormal problems (like a roof that rots and collapses despite being made of modern materials).

      • Of course it can be used for evil. Did you think all those evil overlords/scientists designed their empire/lair all by themselves?

    • As I said, I really don’t think a design degree is worthless. But why can’t you just ask if they have a degree, instead of asking if they have a license? (Requiring more pain-in-the-ass and financial outlay for the designer?)

      • A private vetting company that did something as simple as tallying satisfied and unsatisfied customers would work, and be cheap. That would take care of a LOT of the issues supposidly justifying licensing ‘professionals’.

        • For what time-periods, under what criteria? Modern aesthetics is often a crapshoot because different people design different things for different reasons and design itself is still not something we have applied sufficient scientific rigour to for making it strongly non-subjective. Polling sufficient customers with enough methodological development, regularity and statistical analysis is probably much harder and more expensive than a licensing scheme.

  4. Licensing requirements for trades that don’t impact health and safety are simply a revenue source. All those licensed interior designers in Florida are just peeved because they shelled out bucks for a license and others may not have to. They can always go ply their trade in Alabama.
    If someone wants a well-designed room, they look for a designer whose work appeals to them, and probably would want a designer with a degree. The lack of a license does not nullify that degree. The designer still learned about color theory and room flow and the history of styles and all that; licensing was just the price of doing business in that state.

  5. Hey, an unlicenced deocorator could throw the flow of chi in your living room off…why the wrong curtains and a slightly wrong angle on your couch and, I dunno, you could attract Tornados or something…

  6. In the UK, while it is not illegal to do carpentry and other practical trades without certification to some organisation, if you don’t have it, the chances are that you won’t get that much work due to the fact that people probably won’t trust you.

    There are certification bodies (Yes bodies – plural) for pretty much every type of work, and while these bodies have various requirements and standards to maintain, most companies I know who sign up to them do so more as a form of advertising, rather than as a regulation.

    This doesn’t do too much to stop the crooks who rip people off, but it does help people pick more reputable companies.

    About design related companies? As a non-certified (web) designer, I can say that the best form of protection for that kind of thing is called a portfolio. This is what you show potential customers to convince them that you are not mad.

    To claim that properly qualified interior designers prevent deaths is a little bit … odd though.

    • I find it refreshing to know that there ARE areas in which the UK is less tied up in nanny-state bureaucratting than we Americans are. May we learn from you in this area.

      • #1 of those is the Pentagon budget, which gives out many non-compete contracts to many lobbying sweethearts.
        #2 is the American farming industry which has had a history of decades of subsidies for things like corn… which makes it economically viable to substitute sugar with corn syrup due to massive overproduction and remarkably under-fair-market pricing.
        #3 is the American “biofuel” subsidy for using farm produce and waste to make ethanol for fuel purposes… which takes more petroleum products to create than it substitutes for as a general rule.

        • But bio-fuel is GREEN! There, I said the magic word, now you can’t attack my argument, you fascist businessman!

          Though I’m guessing it’s mostly because the transport vehicles(assuming that’s where the major fault is) aren’t themselves fueled by bio-fuels.

          • No, it takes more energy (input oil, fertilizers, pesticides) to make corn-biofuel than you get from the biofuel. Making it is anti-green because making it generates more pollution and uses up more oil than just selling the petroleum inputs for the gas that it’s supposed to replace.
            Biofuel corn CANNOT be green because of how much petroleum it takes for the fertilizer, pesticide, processing and shipping steps in making it and distributing it: The more corn biofuel you use the more oil it takes to make it, more biofuel = lots more pollution. It is that simple, it is that stupid. It is yet another instance of the American taxpayer being tapped so that rich assholes can get richer with a measurable net harm to the common interest.

        • Are you talking about government waste rather than nannying? Two different issues. Nannying is treating a competent adult as if he were a child incapable of making his own decisions based on his own judgement, and must not be allowed to do so, or at least protected from his mistakes.

          I don’t know if I’d rate these 1-3; there are plenty of other areas where the US government wastes money, but they are all big ones, no argument. And on #1, I don’t buy the “Independence Day” explanation, although it’s nice to imagine there IS one more honorable than greed.

  7. If Obama can ‘save or create’ x number of jobs with no documentation, these designers ‘save’ 88k lives in Florida again with no documentation, then why does the government still want to throw me in jail for smoking marijuana when I am saving 42k lives a MONTH! Sorry, don’t have any documentation for that figure, but it must be true otherwise why would I have said it!

    • Simple answer : by smoking pot you are saving 42k lives a month, but through similarly definable permitters you are also killing 43k people, causing babies to grow up like Charlie Sheen, ratcheting the earths crust under California another 1.234 inches almost single handedly ensuring the next big quake will be over 9.7.

      The calmer heads in law enforcement have however taken into account the 6 people who will laugh out loud (lol) when you get arrested, and the 9 people who will giggle uncontrollably thus incriminating themselves as well.

      It’s all in a book somewhere.

  8. So you are for removing licensing on interior decoration professionals?

    When it comes to professional work I am for certifications and licenses. While the requirements to achieve these properties can be argued I feel that some form of standardization and/or regulation raises the quality bar. It allows standards in the industry that affects prices on products and services that are used, and allows consumers to have a basis as what is a good cost vs a rip off. It also allows regulation of these licenses that permits the FTC to actively protect consumers from fraudulent companies.

    While the idea that you need a license to decorate your own home is silly, it is another matter when you need to decorate a 20 story new hotel, spa, hospital, or work environment. Plad kills you know.

    • I am for portfolios, references, insurance, and contracts, all of which I would want whether you were licensed or not. If there were a genuine health safety concern then licensing would make sense, but interior designers? Really?

      • Sick building syndrome: Massive infestations of microbial life that collect due to poor maintenance and design. If I thought that interior design training actually covered this shit I’d disagree with you here Kevin… but I don’t.

        • It does cover the use of materials and fixtures with the implications inherent there in. And while this is mosltly the application of common sense) –
          Try telling that to the people displaced here in Toronto a couple years ago when a self-described interior designer lit a chord of wood in the fireplace to that her client hear the crackle, feel the warmth and see the apartment go up in flames– even though she (and her crew) knew that it was a gas-insert fireplace.

          I don’t think that denying people the privledge of decorating for money is right. I see no reason that ‘decorators’ should not be allowed to compete with ‘designers’,’ like ‘handymen/handywomen’ do with ‘contractors’. But goddamnit without a professional degsination how the are we supposed to seperate the ignorant from the arrogant?

          Force everyone in that industry to become ‘archetects’ if they want to work at the design level? That approach hasn’t worked for electronics, that’s why we have created the ‘technologist’ designation below ‘engineer’.
          Fallback on liability for damages? Try making a case for “reasonibly foreseeable outcome” when someone has not been educated that fireplace(gas!=wood), or how pointload bearing works.

          No, the world is ugly enough already;
          I’d rather the most (reasonibly expected to be) qualified be able to distinguish themselves so that they might change that, if I weren’t a cheap bastard and hired some student ‘decorator’ instead. “License no, designation yes.” I say.

  9. Speaking of designs, when they design houses, why don’t they put the electrical outlets 4 feet above the floor so they are safe from toddlers, and can still be used by a vast majority of people?

  10. On the subject of the Government and corporations poking their collective noses in things that are none of it’s business (Like your interior decorators), but a lot scarier – and I recently heard there is a device the police can use on your cell phone to download all the data on it…so if the cops ask to see your cell phone, say “hell no, get a warrent!”

    • OMG, not all my secret naughty calls! 😯

      The policeman who would resist falling asleep while sifting through my cellphone data has yet to be born.

      • That’s what statistical analysis and metadata analysis is for. You don’t think they data-mine your stuff by reading every damn text message with human eyes do you?

        • With mine you could do it in 10 minutes tops. I should call it my cell-alarm clock instead.
          But I’ve got to wonder, that data they’re processing with the computer program, is it just the call list? That’s great to show that I’ve only ever really phoned my sister and her husband in the 3-or-so years I’ve had this phone, but would it also analyze the few text messages and pictures I have?

          • It’s far more than that…In the case of the Iphone, it apparently stores every cell tower ping and GPS reading in a database on the phone that’s archived when you sync with a computer…they could literally track everywhere you went while you owned the phone as if they were following you with a GPS navigation system.

            • OMG, they’ll notice I haven’t left the city in years*!!! I’m just not a very interesting target as far as actions go(and I tend to leave my phone behind when…oh, never mind). But I’m biding my time…*Insert mad laughter here*
              They can already do that if they want to by asking the cellphone operator, AFAIK, associating suspects with scenes of crime, so the iPhone just makes it easier for Big Brother(that’s funny considering that famous “1984” commercial they had and how Apple are the ones who’re always tightly controlling their products) to watch.

              *Not including a few trips to another one when I was with the last gaming group.

  11. There is a new degree for people who want to be furniture re-arrangers. They are not ASID designers they get burley me to shuffle your furniture around and look for odd pieces of furniture you own and have not utilized to its greatest potential.

    And Governor Rick Scott looks like Count Orlac from Nosferatu.