Springing Forward

ASID’s revamped Industry Outlook provides a comprehensive report on interior design today and anticipates its future.

by Rachelle Schoessler Lynn, FASID, CID, LEED AP BD+C

The annual transition to spring marks an incredibly dynamic time. For those of us in the interior design industry, a succession of national events carries us through the season—from WORKTECH and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair to HD Expo, NeoCon, and Dwell on Design—and presents the opportunity to gather, engage, and discover new processes, products, and design thinking.

The schedule can be hectic, but I always look forward to seeing the latest and greatest in commercial design, meeting industry representatives, and connecting with designer friends and colleagues who work in other parts of the country.

The interactions at these industry events are personally enriching and, more importantly, they give me a sense of how we are all doing. Conversations with industry reps might broach specification rates, while interior designers may express confidence or trepidation about their ability to attract new clients and projects. They give me a sense of how those operating in San Francisco, Denver, or Houston may be faring compared with those practicing in Philadelphia, Miami, or Minneapolis.

As president of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), which advocates on behalf of more than 28,000 interior designers and industry partners, understanding the experiences of individual designers and particular companies is invaluable. But even though I would relish even more time to engage in these one-on-one conversations at tradeshows and conferences, the information gleaned from the discussions is largely anecdotal. To accurately evaluate the health of our industry, these insightful, eye-opening stories must be complemented by rigorous market research. It’s a mandate ASID takes very seriously.

Charting industry indicators and surveying our members to develop a fact-based assessment of the field is one of the Society’s top priorities. This spring, ASID will publish its Industry Outlook. With expanded findings, the Outlook will provide an overview of the past year and, for the first time, telegraph member expectations for the coming year. I am extremely proud of the reinvented report, which will provide a long-overdue service to the entire industry.

Based on data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Barnes Reports, other secondary sources from media and industry organizations, and a proprietary survey of nearly 250 interior designers, our findings indicate that business is looking up and interior designers have a promising view of the future as the economy continues to turn around. They are embracing new professional and creative opportunities, yet are hyper-aware of certain economic and industry challenges.

Firm billings and project inquiries are expected to increase in 2014. More money is being spent on renovations and commercial development, and total industry sales are estimated to grow 6 percent this year. Trends in the most popular areas for commercial design—workplaces, evidence-based healthcare settings, and hotels/hospitality—are bolstering demand for professional interior designers across the board. As such, employment opportunities in interior design are predicted to grow 13 percent through 2022—on track to outpace the growth of other U.S. occupations.

Of course, there are challenges to overcome: only 15 percent of firms plan to expand their staff; per-square-foot fees are stagnating; other industries are encroaching on interior design services; and consumers devoted to design blogs, shelter magazines, and a steady diet of interior design television must be convinced of the value of a professional designer.

And yet, despite some lingering shortfalls, the industry is on the upswing. The findings I have mentioned offer only a snapshot of the variety of research ASID has captured. We hope business owners and mid-career designers, as well as educators and product manufacturers, will use the ASID Industry Outlook as a resource for making strategic decisions about their companies and practices.


Rachelle Schoessler Lynn, FASID, CID, LEED Fellow, is the national president of ASID and a senior associate with MSR in Minneapolis. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or asid@asid.org, and on the web at asid.org.