As previously mentioned, before formal interior decorators evolved the job was the concern of craftsmen or upholsterers. This means that many ‘decorators’ at this time were dealers in the elements needed for interiors. This called into question the qualifications of the decorator and their standing as an independent advisor.
This gave term interior decorator negative connotations for some, as a painter or curtain sales person can be a self-appointed decorator. Hence, the decorators favoured term Interior Designer. Interior design has now developed past the point of decoration and the terms, although overlapping, are distinct.
The most prominent development of the interior design profession was after World War II. From the 1950s onwards spending on the home increased. Interior design courses were established, requiring the publication of textbooks and reference sources. Historical accounts of interior designers and firms distinct from the decorative arts specialists were made available. While organisations to regulate education, qualifications, standards and practices, etc. were established for the profession.
Interior design was previously seen as playing a secondary role to architecture. It also has many connections to other design disciplines, involving the work of architects, industrial designers, engineers, builders, craftsmen, etc. For these reasons the government of interior design standards and qualifications was often incorporated into other professional organisations that involved design. Organisations such as the Chartered Society of Designers, established in the UK in 1986, and the American Designers Institute, founded in 1938, were established as organisations that governed various areas of design. It was not until later that specific representation for the interior design profession was developed. The US National Society of Interior Designers was established in 1957, while in the UK the Interior Decorators and Designers Association was established in 1966. Across Europe, other organisations such as The Finnish Association of Interior Architects (1949) were being established and in 1994 the International Interior Design Association was founded.
Ellen Mazur Thomson, author of Origins of Graphic Design in America (1997), determined that professional status is achieved through education, self-imposed standards and professional gate-keeping organisations. Having achieved this, interior design became an accepted profession.