trade tales | Apr 12, 2019 |
Trade organizations: Take them or leave them?

Thanks to social media, it’s never been easier to create a sense of community and relationships with other designers in the industry. So, with all that at your fingertips, where does membership to a trade organization fit in? We asked four designers—Jean Liu, Heather Hilliard, Michael Adams, and Goli Karimi—to share why they have or haven’t opted to join a trade organization, and what advice they have for younger designers searching for community.

Trade organizations: Take them or leave them?
Jean LiuCourtesy of Jean Liu Design


“At this time, my firm is only a member of the American Lighting Association. But as for organizations, I believe social media allows people to connect more organically and with more immediacy—not to mention without the membership fees. I’m also seeing more designer roundtables on the rise, where a designer hosts a free event and invites other designers in the community to join. It can be a great way to meet people in the industry and to exchange ideas and experiences. I would tell a new designer to skip the trade organization membership and work on identifying designers or tradespeople in their area who share a similar design style. Reach out via Instagram, follow their work, and start a DM conversation. It’s amazing how receptive I’ve found artisans and designers to be through this particular medium.” —Jean Liu, Jean Liu Design, Dallas

Heather Hilliard
Heather HilliardCourtesy of Heather Hilliard Design


“I belong to ASID, am an allied member of AIA, and a member of the ICAA Northern California Chapter. When starting out in your design career, I feel it is important to join trade organizations to stay informed on best practices of the business. It’s crucial to have a network of colleagues and potential mentors with whom one can consult for advice on the industry, and the events these organizations host provide many opportunities to meet other professionals in the field. I once met a seasoned designer at a trade industry event, and when she eventually retired, she referred all her new business to me!” —Heather Hilliard, Heather Hilliard Design, San Francisco and Los Angeles

Michael Adams
Michael AdamsCourtesy of Adams Interior Design


“I think interior designers are like ladybugs—one, two or three are cute but 100 in the same room is frightening! I think trade organizations can be great for sharing information and there is certainly power in numbers when creating business standards and norms across the industry, but I also think, at some level, they are about keeping people out. Thanks to social media, what once needed to be a monthly meeting of the minds at your local chapter of chintz and tufting has morphed into a daily, cross-platform networking extravaganza where other people's work is passed on as inspiration. If I want to connect with other designers, I can just pick up my phone.” —Michael Adams, Adams Interior Design, New York

Goli Karimi
Goli KarimiCourtesy of Home Front Build


“There is always something new to learn at monthly ASID meetings, whether it’s a product, installation technique, communicating with clients, etc. The only con is the cost of joining the organization. While it’s true that everything is available online, with our busy schedules we really don’t have time to peruse all those websites or go to all the showrooms. With the ASID membership, there is easier and more direct access to design resources and industry partners that are applicable to our business. At ASID meetings, you’re able to meet more experienced designers and vendors who can help open doors.” —Goli Karimi, Home Front Build, Los Angeles

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Marie-Christine Design
New York, NY
Marie-Christine Design
New York, NY