In March 2015 the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) announced its
intention to register new professional categories for interior designers. This will provide statutory
recognition for the professional status of the interior design occupation and it will allow interior
design occupational closure, a state where both the practice and title of the occupation will be
To reach this milestone interior design’s practical and scholarly endeavour was focussed on the
professionalisation of the discipline; a lacuna was produced in which the discipline did not adequately
consider a separate identity for interior design. The pursuit of a stronger discrete identity could
provide a stronger professional identity (Breytenbach, 2012).
If interior design reaches the professional status it pursued it faces two consequences: firstly the
discipline arrives at an ethical dilemma; secondly energy previously spent in the pursuit of
professionalisation would be at large to deliberate discrete knowledge areas.
The ethical dilemma is located in professionalism itself. When an profession reaches occupational
closure it succeeds in establishing a monopoly of service which is based on its technical authority
which links skill and practice to provide services to the public which are uniquely trustworthy.
Professions are technical and adhere to norms and standards. These norms and standards have an
ethical dimension: they must service the greater public good (Wilensky, 1964).
As an industry, the interior design occupation must focus its intentions, efforts and influence toward
'that which ought to be'. This represents a normative position for interior design in which the
discipline must clearly state what its obligation to society is, and how it will be met. Currently interior
design is offered the opportunity to redirect its scholarly endeavour in the pursuit of ethical and
discrete knowledge areas. This paper will argue that interior design can face both consequences
simultaneously, and that these can be addressed through its mimetic production.
During this emergent and developmental phase interior design can expand its practice and scope of
expertise in an ethical manner. This paper aims to present some of these opportunities: interior
design is uniquely placed in the built environment to denote occupation, inhabitation and identity;
further, interior design is a tangible vehicle for the expression of intangible cultural practices that are
expressed as public rituals (e.g. casual encounters and the conducting of conversations and other
opportunities of exchange). Interior design contributes to the establishment and expression of
identities which could support social cohesion; this is relevant in the establishment of a principledriven
and human centered profession. The professional accountability and social responsibility lies in
interior design’s contributions in the cultural realm.