An advocate for interior designers

July 22, 2022


By Christopher Hann

Bryan Soukup, L’13, enrolled in law school for the same reasons he later went to work as a Capitol Hill lobbyist. “I always had an interest in law and public policy — why things are the way they are in this country and in the states and in our society,” Soukup said.

After graduating cum laude, Soukup found his way to Washington, D.C., where he became vice president of government and public affairs for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). In other words, he was the chief lobbyist for interior designers across the United States.

Why do interior designers need a lobbyist? Soukup says the answer requires a basic understanding of the complex work that designers perform. While some may simply focus on furnishings and aesthetics, others, Soukup said, are “really more like building scientists.” These designers might remodel abandoned factories into luxury apartments or determine the form and function of interior spaces in airports and hotels. And with the recent federal infrastructure law expected to provide funding to renovate existing buildings while making them more energy-efficient, Soukup says the work of interior designers is about to take on added importance.

The problem, he says, is that only 28 states regulate interior designers, and even fewer allow them to perform work that would impact occupant health, safety, and welfare independently, without requiring an architect or engineer’s oversight. So Soukup led ASID’s efforts to establish state-level registration standards for interior designers whose work affects public health, safety, and welfare.

His office scored a major victory last summer. A four-year effort by the society culminated in a voluntary system of regulation for interior designers in North Carolina. Fittingly, the campaign invoked Soukup’s twin passions for law and public policy, and he describes the resulting legislation as “the crowning achievement for design advocacy and my department.”

Earlier this year, Soukup made a career move when he became the first director of policy and legislative affairs at Origin Materials, leading the government affairs function for the company. Origin has developed a platform for turning the carbon found in non-food biomass into useful materials while capturing carbon in the process.