State of the Industry

Jan. 1, 2003
Anita L. Barnett, FIIDA

State of the Industry

The professional interior designer is qualified by education, experience and examination to enhance the functionality and quality of interior spaces for the purpose of improving the quality of life, increasing productivity, and protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public (NCIDQ). Interior designers represent a broad and expanding industry with significant social influence. A brief overview of the state of the industry today can provide insight into our true buying power and commitment to the development of the profession.There are more than 20,000 registered interior designers in the United States, even though less than half of all states currently require registration. Further telling statistics can be derived from the Universe Study prepared by TMR, Inc. in 2000. There are approximately 31,150 firms in the U.S. interior design market with at least one interior designer who specifies, selects or recommends products for interior design projects. Interior design firms account for the majority of qualifying firms (71 percent) in the industry, architectural firms represent 25 percent and office furniture dealers account for four percent. Design firms employ an average of 3.6 interior designers. Designers specify a broad range of products. At least half of the designers handle 26 of the 27 product categories studied. Four out of five firms work on office projects (81 percent) and two-thirds work on residential projects (64 percent). Close to 40 percent of the firms work on hospitality, retail, healthcare or institutions. Overall, nearly nine in 10 designers (86 percent) are generalists who work on more than one type of project during the year. Only 14 percent specialize in one type of project, such as only offices or only residential.When looking at design professionals, there are approximately 110,000 interior designers employed by design firms in the U.S. Per the U.S. Department of Labor (September 2002), three out of 10 designers are self-employed, making the total population of designers difficult to label an exact number. Per the Universe Study, female designers comprise more than half (58 percent) of interior designers, while 42 percent are men. The majority of the designers in firms are between 35 and 54 years of age (64 percent); the average age is 45. Almost nine in 10 designers have at least a four-year college degree and nearly half (48 percent) of these designers have their degrees in Interior Design. About seven in 10 have been employed as interior designers for over 10 years. On average, designers have been working in the industry for 15 years.IIDA members reflect the industry at large in a variety of ways. It is clear from results of a comprehensive member survey conducted by IIDA in the fall of 2002 that diversity in practice and increased specialization have been the parallel doctrines embraced to weather the slow financial market. While over 60 percent of responding members practiced primarily commercial design in 2002, large numbers also reported focusing on the healthcare, residential and education sectors in today's economy.The vast majority of IIDA Members regularly read design publications to stay abreast of recent trends. Over 93 percent of respondents indicated that they find Perspective somewhat or very interesting and relevant to their work. Individual comments will help the editorial staff continue to address readers' needs and best serve as the source for critical commentary on the profession. Other design publications are also referenced as key sources of information.Almost half of IIDA members regularly look to for information on association initiatives. The most common reasons for visiting the site are information on events, to learn more about the association and access to forms. Look for an expanded list of features including on-line training and news articles in IIDA's redesigned Web site to be launched in early spring 2003.One could conclude, based on the information gathered about IIDA designers, that all designers share common goals: passion for IIDA's emphasis on collaboration within the design community, desire for diverse local networking and educational activities, public awareness and a commitment to the highest level of continuing education opportunities. Ours is a powerful profession with the ability to shape environments and change lives by affecting performance and profitability potential in contract environs and shaping familial ease of living by creating nurturing environments in residential projects. While workplaces may be in flux, commitment to quality design and professional development continues to be the hallmark of successful designers and the associations that represent them.IIDA president Anita Barnett is vice president and corporate practice group leader for Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. IIDA is headquartered in space 13-122 at The Merchandise Mart, Chicago, and can be reached at (888) 799-IIDA or by visiting

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