Keat Ong, President of the Society of Interior Designers, Singapore (SIDS). Photo: Sarah Choo

The interior designer is perhaps one of the most highly underrated professions in the world today. In the Singapore’s build-environment industry, most of the roles of the professions are relatively clear, ranging from the architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, and so on, except for a few.

The interior designer is one of them. It is always one of the last groups to be considered and mostly to “fill in the blanks in a half-written article”, with some exceptions of course. There are other issues that lead to the disrepute of the profession as well. There are sizable untrained or under-trained people out there who have given their clients the false impression of their training and experience and have fallen short of what is expected of them as a professional interior designer. Often, because of this, the interior designers who specialise in home design were mistaken for renovators.

Distinguishing types of ID

The idea of professionalisation for the ID is not new. Two decades ago, the industry was discussing how to differentiate the trained and untrained interior designers. However, with the rise in technology and information, all professions must evolve. Today, we need an accreditation system to be simultaneously exclusive and inclusive. The exclusivity calls to differentiate the trained from the untrained while the inclusivity is asking the industry to accept a broader range of the interior design professions that has emerged to address the increasingly complex building design.

We need to be able to differentiate the interior architects, the interior designers and the interior stylists. SIDS has been working with National University of Singapore (NUS) to develop the Interior Architecture undergraduate course as well as a course that caters to the aspired interior stylists at the NITEC level. Meanwhile, the polytechnics and private institutions are doing fine in churning out the diploma holders in interior design.

An accredited profession

With the Industry Transformation Roadmap Development for Interior Design Industry in Singapore Final Report 2018 initiated by DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), prepared by Frost & Sullivan and tasked to SIDS, the latter has been charting the trajectory to elevate the ID profession in Singapore.

One of the most arduous but necessary tasks is to create an accreditation scheme for the local industry. SIDS has since taken on the leadership to steer this industry transformation. This year will be seen as Year Zero to discuss and align on the programme.

The Singapore ID Accreditation Steering Committee will consist of representatives from government agencies, relevant professional associations, academic institutions, and professional practitioners. A series discussions will take place before the implementation of the accreditation scheme in 2021. I hope that laying out the framework for the industry will elevate the quality of interior design talents in Singapore and help homeowners to better appreciate of the work that an interior designer does.