Business of Design

Big Business

Welcome to 2023 and the Business of Design. We’re kicking off January as DI Career Readiness month with a snapshot of interior design as a business. For the big picture, Interior Design magazine and Sandow Research polled the 100 largest firms for 2022 and found the top ten firms alone billed over $2 Billion in fees in the preceding year. That’s only the designers’ fees – interior design has a large constituency that increases that number by magnitudes: furniture manufacturers and dealers, contractors, real estate professionals, and materials manufacturing and transportation. Bottom line: this is a BIG business with a lot of stakeholders.

Five of the top ten firms have a San Diego office and 8 of the top 10 have a Southern California location.

Adaptive re-use: an interior design business opportunity for 2023

In 2022 the top 100 firms saw reconstruction and remodeling projects overtake new construction by volume of work, and in 2022 for the first time the AIA tracking of architectural firm billings for renovation exceeded new construction. This trend represents a tremendous business opportunity for interior designers – whose expertise is in repurposing existing spaces. It also bodes well for one of the most powerful green design strategies: adaptive re-use, a DI topic coming in Spring 2023.

That said, the interior designers need more than ever to make the case for what the profession does. The largest firms – Interior Design magazine’s 100 Giants – reported their biggest challenge with clients was not fees, nor competition, but “getting clients to understand design value.” For strategies to meet that challenge, stay tuned for DI topics coming in Spring and Summer of 2023: sustainability, and the impact of interior design on human health and wellness.

Small firms

Interior design is a big business, but 94% of interior design firms have less than 10 employees. The work in these firms happens in small interpersonal settings where clients, designers, and contractors are on a first-name basis and collaborate to find great solutions.

California has the largest number of interior designers, according to the ASID 2022 Trends Outlook, and ranks in the top 5 of U.S. States for interior design salaries. The Trends Outlook also reported a steady increase in the number of interior design firms; since the start of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, the industry has seen an 8.6% growth in the number of U.S. firms to over 16,000.

Opportunities for interior design students

2023 is starting with student-friendly career initiatives from both interior design professional organizations. This spring, the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Student Mentoring Program will match over 500 students with mentors in the interior design industry to provide real-world experience. Registration for this learning and networking opportunity closes February 20, 2023 so sign up today!

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) 2023 student portfolio competition is accepting submissions now. Each year, this event showcases the best student design work in the country. The competition allows students to see what design professionals and interior design schools value in a portfolio, and how to produce work that measures up. The submission period is open now and remains open until February 15, 2023, so register today!

Looking forward, throughout 2023 DI will be exploring several creative practice trends directly related to the business of design. Watch this space for tips on beginning and thriving in your interior design career, from portfolio, resume, and interviewing skills to networking, certification, and credentials in sustainability and health and wellness.