Credentials and Training for a Kitchen Designer

A cabinetmaker who lost a job to a Certified Kitchen Designer wonders what it takes to earn those credentials. April 24, 2006

I had the opportunity to supply a kitchen for a spec house, but the job was given to a CKD and his contacts because he could supply the designs. How does one become a CKD? Community college, arts degree, 4 year program or what? Can't be that hard. I design that and more on a regular basis. Only, no diploma!

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor D:
I am in the stair and custom cabinet business here in Florida. I belong to NKBA and they have all kinds of training to get your credit hours to become CKD.

From contributor L:
Why couldn't you supply the design? Don't you do that anyway? Maybe they also want the mechanical plan. A CKD should have completed plans for all the trades. I'm not sure we as cabinet suppliers can get that much more for our cabinets to profit on that service. Sometimes my homeowners will hire an interior designer at $150 per hour to design a kitchen, and it's full of mistakes that I end up fixing. If I tried to charge $150 per hour, they would think I was crazy.

From contributor C:
From what I have gathered in the past, most of the designers that are CKD are those from Lowe's and Home Depot. I have never lost a bid because I was not certified. A potential customer never even mentioned it. I checked into getting certified, and basically it consists of a fee (of course), and a very simple online test. It is a money making scheme. It sounds like you did not get the job not because you were not a CKD, but for other reasons. I could never see myself losing a bid on not being certified. My sales skills would easily override that. Put my design next to theirs and make a decision.

But I do plan on getting certified, just to have the certificate on my wall for the customers (meaningless to me, though). The one I really want to get certified for is the handicap kitchen designer. I have little experience in this area and have had some handicapped customers in the past. Getting certified would allow me access to their standards and any other likes and dislikes of that population. Also, I need to learn for a family member that may need one of those kitchens in the near future.

From contributor K:
What state are you located in? I believe that in California you need to be ASID certified, which is basically your license to design. The CKD is a certificate from the NKBA and it takes a long time to get. Basically you need to go through stages. First is the Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer. After being certified as an AKBD you then proceed in training for a CKD/CBD. Then on to the CMKBD which is Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer. These certificates may be good for a cabinetmaker in the respect that you took courses, but you are not classified as an interior designer unless you become ASID certified, which takes a Bachelors of the Arts. It used to only take an AA, but too many people are doing it, I guess. Anyway, I'm a member of the NKBA just to say I am, but I think no matter how you cut it, I'm a woodworker and I know what needs to be done. That's what I tell my customers as well. Why waste your money on a designer when I will design it and build it in the same amount of time and you'll save money? CKBD - who gives a darn?

From contributor R:
When I show somebody a kitchen rendering done in Cabinet Vision and then they look at some scribbling typical of certified designers, they usually can't sign fast enough. Having said that, an ASID designer is usually quite competent even if their drafting is not. They usually have some serious schooling, for what it's worth, much more than the classes you have to take to become an NKBA certified designer. Nevertheless, we do live in a society in love with credentials and initials after one's name, so it certainly can't hurt, although it is a lengthy process.

From contributor B:
I love this topic. The walls and windows have been decided by someone else and already built. The sink is centered under the window, there will be a logical place for the stove and refrigerator, so what is left is "design"? Usually a designer means "build a monument to me" and the cabinetmaker should reinvent the wheel to suit the designer. I work with a designer that will help the customer choose the wood and color, door style, flooring and paint, but she leaves the cabinets to me. I figure out what will fit and the owner will decide if they want drawers or doors in a location. I build what they want in the most cost effective way I can.

From the original questioner:
I agree with all of you. I brought up this question because on this builder's last house, I got to do a basement library, bar, family room, books and a few small units. Not the kitchen. I thought by doing a bang-up job on the above, I would have a shot at the whole 9 yards with the next house. But no.

The designer, who is two states away, also subs the cabinetry to a local shop, does a markup on the local shop and they deliver. I explained that I am 20 miles away, a one man shop, no markup by third parties and can do anything she wants. But she thinks if she just uses him for design and does not buy the cabs from him too, it wouldn't be worth it for him and she would lose his services. Hence, is it worth having a CKD sheepskin? No. In reviewing most jobs I've done, 99% were designed by me. I think we've all answered my question.

From contributor C:
The average customer is pretty uneducated in k&b design. Can you not tell them what they want? Then when all's said and done, they say "why didn't I think of that?"

From contributor B:
Oh, I give them my opinion for sure, but in the end I do what they want. I am quite vocal when I don't agree with their decisions. I did have one customer who wanted her money back for a pop-up mixer shelf. I gave my opinion quite strongly, she insisted, so I installed it. Wanna guess where that went?

From contributor A:
Here is an excerpt from the NKBA site on becoming a CKD. It is not easy. There are not that many CKD's in the country. I don't know that much about them, although I do have the study materials for the test.

"CKD Applicants must document a minimum of seven (7) years of experience. A minimum of three (3) years must be specifically from full-time kitchen design experience, including design execution or project management. The remaining four (4) years can consist of full-time kitchen design, related experience, or formal education (as defined above).

"Applicants must earn a minimum of 60 hours of NKBA education*. All courses must be completed before the time the candidate submits an application for certification. Note - if a candidate has already obtained their AKBD certification, the 30 NKBA education hours that were applied to the AKBD application can be applied towards the CKD application as well, leaving a balance of 30 hours of education required.

"Applicants must pass the AKBD academic exam and the CKD design exam. Note - candidate is not required to obtain AKBD certification prior to applying for CKD certification. However, the same academic exam applies to both programs. If a candidate is already certified as an AKBD or CBD, and is pursuing an additional certification, that candidate is NOT required to retake the academic exam; only the design exam will be required."

From contributor G:
In addition, you must maintain membership in the NKBA, with yearly dues based on sales volume. Do you need to be a CKD to design kitchens? No. Would it help sell more kitchens? I think so. Is the training worth it? In my opinion, a must if you are going to represent yourself as a kitchen designer. Designing kitchens and designing cabinets are two different things. Also, at least here in Fl., if you are designing interiors, including kitchens, and you are not a licensed interior designer, you can only do residential and you must not represent yourself as an interior designer. CKD is not a state requirement, so it would probably look pretty good in place of ASID on your plans.