As an architect or interior designer, have you ever considered joining an industry association? But what’s the value of participating in an architecture or interior design association, like AIANOMAASID, or IIDA? As a young architect or designer just starting out, industry associations provide a wealth of networking and mentorship opportunities. But even more established practitioners appreciate participating in these organizations for their member events, informative conferences, and opportunities to volunteer and commingle with like-minded professionals. Who should join an architecture or interior design association? And when in your career is it best to start participating? Studio Designer talked to representatives from a few industry associations to answer all these questions and more.

American Institute of Architects

Community is the key word when referring to any of these architecture and interior design associations. Matt Tinder, senior manager, media relations at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), says, “AIA is a community and much more. … AIA’s members share their passion for architecture and their desire to change the world through the power of design.”

Founded in New York in 1857 by 13 architects who decided to form an organization to promote architects and architecture, AIA now boasts more than 94,000 members worldwide. According to the organization’s website, “Now more than ever, the collective voice of architects is essential for designing a better future for our country and planet. … We are at the table with policymakers, who are committed to a better built environment and a prosperous architecture profession. But we will not hesitate to call out those whose values we oppose.” And the website plainly states that AIA stands for economic opportunity, equity and human rights, a sustainable future, protecting from the impact of climate change, and architecture that strengthens communities.

Besides the benefits these architecture and interior design associations offer to its members—including networking opportunities, continuing education units, and access to best practices, case studies, and other resources like career and business support services—they also create a positive ripple effect through the A&D community. “AIA is here to support AIA members at all stages of their careers, enhance their practice, and advance the architecture profession. [And] AIA members are connected to exclusive resources along with opportunities to drive real, transformative change,” says Tinder, who adds that members also “help the institute advocate for issues important to the profession.”

National Organization of Minority Architects

Diverse group of architects is talking in the office

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) was founded more than a century after AIA, but via a similar concept: In 1971 a group of 12 architects of color were at an AIA convention and discussed forming an organization specifically to promote the work and elevate the voices of minority architects. Now, as the organization just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, NOMA’s mission is more prevalent than ever.

“Tirelessly championing for JEDI [Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion] initiatives across the building and design industry is physically and mentally taxing, especially when it’s hard to see true measurable progress along the way,” NOMA president Jason Pugh, AIA, AICP, NOMA, LEED AP, and principal at Gensler, expresses in NOMA’s Quarterly President’s Challenge. “DEI fatigue is real for both the limited few minorities across the industry and our white colleagues, partners, and supporters, who all champion for our cause. It is critically important we all take time in our busy professional lives to find a healthy work/life balance and also invest in both our physical and mental health in order to ensure we’re all able to continue fighting the good fight.”

With the goal of building a strong national organization, strong chapters, and strong members for the purpose of minimizing the effect of racism in our profession, NOMA’s mission is to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development, and design excellence. Pugh adds: “Small individual lifts can have a large collective impact.”

American Society of Interior Designers

Group of people is clapping during the conference

Recognizing the value of interior design associations like the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, WELL AP, WELL Faculty, founder of Ames Design Collective, and past chair of ASID, says, “Association membership is a great professional tool that allows members to stay informed and educated on issues affecting the industry.”

Founded in 1975 when the American Institute of Decorators (AID) and the National Society of Interior Designers (NSID) merged, ASID now has 48 U.S. chapters, 450 international members, and 7,500 interior design student members. “ASID membership is valuable in the connections and insights it brings, [as it] enables members to meet industry partners and discover new sources and grow their network within the profession,” Ames Noble offers. “ASID members can also learn valuable insight from industry resources and materials from our dedicated research division, which can benefit their business strategies.”

International Interior Design Association

Group of professionals discussing issues in the office

Similarly, Mike Johnson II, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP, NOMA, associate principal, director of Interiors at Hickok Cole, sees value in joining an architecture or interior design association specifically for the access they provide. “One of the most important benefits is access to industry leaders, events, resources, and education that can really support and enhance your career path in design,” he says, speaking specifically about International Interior Design Association (IIDA), but he is also a part of AIA and NOMA. “IIDA members are a wide-ranging group, including top design leaders across design firms and the broader industry, so as a member, you can tap into their knowledge and be a part of that community. That means that our young IIDA designers find themselves meeting and learning from the best of our profession.”

The youngest of the architecture and interior design associations we’re discussing, IIDA was formed in 1994 with the consolidation of the Institute of Business Designers (IBD), the International Society of Interior Designers (ISID), and the Council of Federal Interior Designers (CFID). Now with a network of more than 15,000 interior designers in 58 countries, IIDA “advocates for advancement in education, design excellence, legislation, leadership, accreditation, and community outreach to increase the value and understanding of interior design as a profession that enhances business value and positively impacts the health and well-being of people’s lives every day,” according to its mission statement.

Johnson says he personally has reaped the benefits of being a part of industry associations like IIDA, AIA, and NOMA, and he’s felt his memberships have helped to enhance the profession as a whole. “Some people I’m connected to via IIDA have been integral in my success as a designer. I’ve learned a lot from my peers, and they’ve broadened my perspective on the design industry at large,” he says. “Being active in the organization has also given me a part in shaping the profession and starting to contribute to the future of design.” And finally, he adds, “Having that IIDA designation after your name instantly shows clients, employers, and peers your qualifications, and demonstrates your commitment to your profession.”

Who Should Join an Architecture or Interior Design Association?

Woman leading a meeting in the office

Participating in an architecture or interior design association can be beneficial to any practitioner and joining early on in one’s career can be critical in setting up a design professional for success; student association memberships give aspiring architects and designers access at a young age.

“For students or those who are new to the profession, ASID membership can help launch careers through networking opportunities,” Ames Noble explains. “Because ASID represents all sectors of design, it allows members to be exposed to all design typologies, including residential, workplace, commercial, and hospitality. Associations like ASID provide members with the resources and opportunities to succeed and to position themselves as a leader within the profession.”

But when is the ideal time to join an architecture or interior design association? “There’s a place for everyone at ASID. Whether you’re a student studying design or an experienced practitioner, we make sure to provide resources applicable to every level of the profession,” says Ames Noble. “Members who join as students or early on in their careers can take advantage of the wide range of opportunities and establish a strong network that will be integral to business success. We have many success stories of members who have started as students and gone on to longtime involvement in the association— including myself, as well as our former CEO Gary Wheeler, FASID!”

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