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State of the Industry

The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) has released its “2020 Outlook and State of Interior Design report,” which takes a deep dive into the interior design industry to provide a comprehensive outlook for the year ahead.

Highlights of the report include the following:

  • Industries employing interior designers have diversified over time.
  • Projected firm revenues/sales have seen an average 8% annual growth rate during the past decade.
  • Average annual salary and hourly wages increased, well above the national average, but slightly below the average inflation rate.
  • The total number of interior design students has decreased over time and raise challenges throughout the profession.

Economic Outlook
Additionally, the report looked holistically at the U.S. economy and construction industries to identify applicable indicators for the design world. In a webinar about the report, Bernie Markstein, chief economist, Markstein Advisors, focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the findings of the report and the industry.

Markstein noted that everything is changing hour by hour, but the underlying economy overall is strong, though certain sectors—like tourism and hospitality—would be impacted more. “The first impact we felt was the supply chain, particularly from China,” he noted. “That will continue to be an issue, even as in some places it’s getting resolved. In China, they are slowly starting up their output again; it’s not immediate, but we do see goods flowing back out of China, and it will increase.”

He added, “In terms of construction, there has already been shortages of materials delivery. Thirty percent or more of construction inputs come from China—in some places it’s as much as 80%. We’re already seeing shortages of lighting, as well as small appliances.”

Markstein also cautioned that just because a product doesn’t come from China doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear. “For example, some electronics are made in India, but they get their parts from China,” he said.

In terms of ongoing construction, Markstein did point to some local municipalities and states that have shut down various types of construction. “I’m not sure it’s necessary; a lot of construction workers do wear [safety equipment like masks],” he said, “but that is slowing down projects, and we may see a spread of this. In terms of projects that are underway, you’re not going to stop in the middle, so even though there might be delays, you’re going to go forward. The real question is new projects. Those are being put on hold; you’re not going to break ground at this point, but planning, presumably, can go ahead.”

In terms of hospitality specifically, he noted, “We’re still seeing the fallout from the coronavirus; we’ll see how long travel remains low—whether we come back quickly, or if there’s a lingering fear.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the report found that construction spending in the hospitality and workplace verticals would flatten. Construction spending trended downward over most of 2019, but was still up 6% for the year. Markstein noted that spending in hospitality construction would likely be slightly higher in 2021 than 2020.

Key Trends
Macro-trends that occur around the world and the U.S., and those that relate to changes in lifestyles, are important for interior designers to understand and apply in practice. Key trends from the report include the following:

  • Organizations are focusing on human-oriented outcomes as part of their business agenda and are turning to design for solutions.
  • Choices in living styles are transcending generations.
  • New technologies are improving productivity, management and occupant experience.
  • Wellness has become a way of life with people taking on a proactive approach.
  • Designers are accessing neuroscience to better understand how and why humans react to environmental stimuli in built spaces.

Lastly, the report looked ahead to future insights on the inextricable connection between design and culture. Sourced from conversations with a diverse set of designers and industry leaders, ASID explained that the significance of culture and its evolution can help form the basis for how to better service people-centric culture through design. Various factors used to approach culture, such as location, time, experience, technology and demographics can each be viewed in isolation, but together, they form the foundation for a more holistic approach to creating, supporting and, ultimately, preserving culture. It concluded that the design community has an immense opportunity to not only interpret, support and preserve culture, but also help create culture and space in service to humanity so that forthcoming generations will understand those who shaped the world before them.