You probably know to check out your contractor, roofer, or builder by inquiring after their state license, but do you also know to check up on your design professional? In recent years, there has been an increase in people calling themselves designers and selling their services as such. Maybe they have a good eye for color, or perhaps they know a lot about mid-century furniture, but without proper training, these design “professionals” can do a lot of damage to your home. They may make suggestions that can cost – rather than save – you money. They may also not have the material or structural knowledge to help you make the best decisions for your home – the very reason why you should be hiring a designer to begin with. So if designers aren’t state licensed, is it worth it to check up on their credentials? The answer is yes, absolutely, and there are several ways of going about it, even if there is no state design board.

Ask About Training

Right away, you can ask where your architect or designer studied. Licensed architects and interior designers most likely have a degree, and even older designers who never undertook the licensing exam more than likely still have a degree in the trade.

Specialized designers such as kitchen or bathroom designers will likely have studied their craft with the NKBA – the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association - who holds courses for those looking to take the test to become a certified designer.

A big red flag should go up if your designer can’t name an accredited institution where they studied.

Ask About Certifications

All 55 U.S. licensing boards require architects to earn their license before they can call themselves an architect. They all must have earned a degree from accredited programs by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), completed apprenticeship in the field and the Architect Registration Exam (ARE) to ensure that they are qualified to practice architecture independently. Many architects are associated with AIA (American Institute of Architects).

Kitchen and bathroom designers associated with the NKBA will have undertaken many hours of education before sitting for a certification exam. This certificate will help prove their knowledge and excellence as designers. Many interior designers will also take an exam, known as the NCIDQ, which is a national certification exam. Many states require practicing designers to have passed this exam, while other states, such as California have their own exam – the CCIDC – which sets the standard within their state and gives interior designers a license or certification to practice.

Ask About Affiliations

Like the AIA, NKBA, and the California Council for Interior Design Certification, there are many different affiliations that a designer can have. A qualified, reputable designer will more than likely be associated with one or more. Why? Because it’s the fastest and easiest way for that designer to stay up to date on the latest training, trends, and designs. Some designers need to continue their education to maintain their certification, so it makes sense that they’ll stay in touch with an organization that can do that for them.

Guidelines, rules, and codes can and do change over time. That makes it essential for any qualified designer to stay up to date. If your designer can’t tell you who they're affiliated with, even if they passed an exam a lifetime ago, it means they aren't the best person for the job.

Always Screen Your Pros

Just because someone is calling themselves a designer, they may not be qualified to do the job, or to do it correctly. Always screen your design Pros,. Even if your state doesn’t have a licensing board to check up on, there are still ways you can find out more.