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Understanding the role of an Interior Designer

An interior designer’s role is to provide accurate advice for the optimal safe occupation of those who work, live and relax within an interior space. Operating across a variety of sectors from public space, retail and restaurant to hotels and residential developments, a professionally designed interior should comply with all building, health & safety and product regulations to provide improvements to the interiors domestic or commercial purpose. As that advice can directly impact on the wellbeing and safety of consumers, especially in a commercial environment, that advice must be qualified and independently measured. Inaccurate advice will incur cost, delay and risk to the consumer which will impact on the designer and their suppliers, causing industry complaints and bad reputation.


An Interior Designer is not only an advisor to the client, but also to the contractor and tradesmen in their procurement of product layouts, plans and installation of materials chosen for the design scheme. A designer must therefore possess knowledge of a multitude of skills. These skills include a strong grasp of mathematics and numbers for measuring, calculating dimensions, budgeting and financial control. This is regarded by SBID as ‘basic knowledge’ and is a requirement of SBID Accreditation.

A professional designer’s minimum task is to define the space and safety performance of the interior, as well as producing plans to demonstrate proposed layouts for clients to review before agreeing to the design. This is the scheme. The designer should also include schedules of the materials required to procure the design scheme. When the scheme is approved by the client, the designer will commence specification schedules.

This multi-faceted profession is not simply a flair as many assume, but requires practical training and years of experience. Being the first professional interior design organisation in the UK to recognise education by degree as a condition of membership, SBID promoted the skills that a designer must possess and provided the tools to assist those who needed assistance to strengthen their skillset.

To find out more about current membership requirements, click here.

The distinctions within the profession of interior design:

International differences in the titles and responsibilities of an Interior Designer

In many countries, the title Interior Designer refers to the skills and remit of what the UK describe as an Interior Decorator. The confusion relates to protection of title. In Europe an Interior Architect describes the same remit and skill of a British named Interior Designer. The title Architect is a protected title and therefore the UK may not use the recognised title to describe the skill and remit of an Interior Designer. The confusion for the greater public then expands as Europe describe an ‘Interior Designer’ with the skills of what the UK describe as a ‘Interior Decorator’. Around the world the description of skills are known by different names, unlike that of an Architect, Lawyer or Doctor.

SBID clarified the definition of an interior design professional and continues to work towards title recognition in the UK for an Interior Designer.

How does an Interior Designer become qualified?

In the UK, anyone can describe themselves as an ‘interior designer’. Therefore for consumer protection, separation and distinction from the masses of hobbyists is paramount. This issue was addressed by qualification and accreditation by SBID for the first time in 2009. The status of SBID Accredited therefore denotes professional qualification and experience to work to SBID’s highest level of practice. SBID have gone further to identify and define 12 sector specialisms to help the public correctly select a designer trained for their task.

SBID set the standards for measurement of content within a university degree course to ensure content is fit for purpose. Working with the Department of Education and Minister of Universities, SBID created five modules for degree courses, making it a pioneering professional body endorsing the content of Interior Design courses provided at some UK Universities. In 2012, SBID were accredited by HESA for the benefit of students to guide them in their choice of university.

Students of any SBID Recognised course can apply for free Student membership. Following on from graduation, trainee designers can progress through the membership levels to the highest level of qualified recognition.

What training is required to become an SBID Accredited Interior Designer?

Independently qualified, an SBID Accredited Interior Designer is equipped to provide consumer protection for the public’s interest.

To be recognised at the highest level of competence within SBID Accreditation, a minimum of three years full-time learning, plus three and a half years’ work experience is required. SBID Accreditation also involves an annual commitment to acquire 24 hours of SBID Approved CPD. We encourage membership at all stages of a designer’s professional career, click here to find out more.

As of 2020 an entry exam will be required to become SBID Accredited if a designer does not meet SBID’s minimum level of education standards; the highest combined status of an Interior Designer qualification for practice within the UK.

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SBID supports its members in the promotion and protection of the global standing of British interior design.

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Becoming ‘SBID Accredited’ means that you have had the highest assessed industry benchmark* in a promoted category of interior design capabilities.
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