June 15, 2020

Firms Persevere Despite Q1 Challenges ASID’s Interior Design Billings Index Survey Finds

Most in the design industry don’t need an official survey to detail current business conditions, which pose unchartered challenges for many. Regardless, the American Society of Interior Designers examined the first quarter of 2020 with its Interior Design Billings Index, continuing an initiative the professional organization has undertaken since 2008.

Data was compiled from 200 firms, representing regional diversity and differences in size, from sole practitioners to larger firms with 25 people or more, offering an analysis of conditions in commercial, institutional, and residential sectors. Billings took into account size of firms; construction and improvement spending; and outlooks on the economy at large touching upon such factors as gross domestic product, unemployment, income and consumption, and the financial markets in general. The big unknown, as emphasized by ASID’s researchers and webinar presenters Susan Chung (pictured left), Ph.D; Jack Kleinhenz (pictured right), Ph.D, and Eric Lynch (pictured below), was, of course, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the pandemic’s near and long-term impacts.

Rather than reiterate a litany of dispiriting statistics, Interior Design looked for glimmers of good news.  We mined some nuggets. Here’s the first. None of the firms surveyed have closed. Further, in the spirits of openness and honesty, they cited increased communication with clients and customers.  When asked about actions they were taking to combat COVID-19, many stated that they were making changes and modifications in supply chains, signaling design firms’ adaptability. Queried about changes made in business strategies over the last 12 months, most design firms came to the conclusion that no single strategy prevailed. There was no one silver bullet.

Additional questions led firms to realize that among the resources lacking in the interior design industry and their own practice was business strategy. Meanwhile, two of the main resources identified to advance business practice were networking and relying on industry showrooms and reps. This translates to an area in which design professionals typically excel: personal interaction and relationships.

More concrete news came from surveys the analysts incorporated into the IDBI. One from the Atlanta Federal Reserve stated that for every 10 jobs lost, three were being created. The ASID panel also cited this seed for recovery: an increase in the number of ads for help wanted made by small employers.

Finally, the panel concluded with an uplifting, yet familiar, thought: the resiliency of the interior design profession. Change and disruption leads to continued improvement.  

Recent DesignWire