Top 100 Giants

2021

Historic, tragic, relentless, and, in the end, a four-letter word—2020 was a lot of things. Our annual survey of business trends among the 100 Giants, aka the industry’s largest firms, shows the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic and also leaves us with questions—and some positive takeaways.

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#1

Gensler

San Francisco, CA

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#2

Jacobs

Dallas, TX

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#3

AECOM

Los Angeles, CA

Ranking

wdt_ID # Firm HQ Location url Design Fees (in millions) Value (in Millions) Sq. Ft. (in Millions) ID Staff 2020 Rank
1 1 Gensler San Francisco, CA gensler.com $565.40 NR NR 2643 1
2 2 Jacobs Dallas, TX jacobs.com $213.60 $5,341.00 35.6 835 2
3 3 AECOM Los Angeles, CA aecom.com $209.50 $8,057.70 NR 494 4
4 4 Perkins+Will Chicago, IL perkinswill.com $198.00 $6,500.00 58 449 3
5 5 NELSON Worldwide Minneapolis, MN nelsonworldwide.com $167.10 NR NR 382 7
6 6 HOK St. Louis, MO hok.com $150.00 $4,911.00 55 296 5
7 7 Gold Mantis Suzhou City, China goldmantis.com $149.70 $2,994.00 128.2 1651 new
8 8 IA Interior Architects San Francisco, CA interiorarchitects.com $136.90 $2,976.00 45.8 510 6
9 9 Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Santa Monica, CA hba.com $112.00 $6,975.00 NR 1480 8
10 10 CannonDesign New York City, NY cannondesign.com $101.00 NR 34 210 12
# Firm HQ Location url Design Fees (in millions) Value (in Millions) Sq. Ft. (in Millions) ID Staff 2020 Rank

Fees

Total design fees for the group came in at $4.5 billion, a decline of nearly 8 percent over last year’s $4.85 billion tally. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad in the context of what other industries experienced, but just because we’re technically out of 2020 doesn’t mean 2020 is quite done with us.

Since the end of the Great Recession, the design business has been on a fantastic upward curve (2010 fees totaled $2.2 billion, exactly half of this year’s take). That means it took a global pandemic to knock what had been a very strong business backward. The more alarming data: The financial haircut seems to have come primarily from corporate office and hospitality work—two of the three biggest segments in the industry (the other is healthcare).

Median Annual Salary

Median Hourly Rate

Market Sector

Office projects accounted for 33 percent of fees ($1.56 billion), down from 40 percent. Hospitality, 10 percent of the pie ($488 million), was down from 15 percent. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise given how the pandemic specifically targeted those areas. Widespread remote work has put all office space under the light, particularly high-rent urban spaces.

The rest of the Giants’ business segments were largely even for the year. Healthcare accounted for 14 percent of all fees ($667 million), with residential and government bringing in 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Other segments like educational brought smaller returns but have been steady. For the 2021 forecasts, the Giants expect a decrease in most segments except for hospitality and residential; also, some government and healthcare work could get a proverbial shot in the arm from increases in hospital and lab/training facility installations, one boon of the pandemic.

Hospitality

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 9 Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) 112.00M
2 19 M Moser Associates 67.26M
3 7 Gold Mantis 37.43M
4 34 Wilson Associates 33.25M
5 1 Gensler 28.27M
6 11 Perkins Eastman 25.40M
7 59 Wimberly Interiors 16.90M
8 56 Yabu Pushelberg 16.61M
9 16 DLR Group 12.64M
10 68 The Gettys Group 12.23M

Retail Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 17 CallisonRTKL 48.02M
2 5 NELSON Worldwide 38.43M
3 1 Gensler 33.92M
4 43 Sargenti Architects 19.50M
5 33 RSP Architects 16.15M
6 7 Gold Mantis 13.47M
7 28 Page 13.11M
8 34 Little 11.10M
9 63 Chipman Design Architecture 10.36M
10 30 TPG Architecture 8.29M

Goverment Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 2 Jacobs 106.82M
2 3 AECOM 52.38M
3 1 Gensler 28.27M
4 6 HOK 22.50M
5 29 PGAL 13.98M
6 27 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 12.32M
7 28 Page 12.24M
8 26 EYP 11.43M
9 71 KCCT Architecture 9.60M
10 13 SmithGroup 6.75M

Healthcare / Assisted Living Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 4 Perkins+Will 63.36M
2 12 HDR 57.99M
3 10 CannonDesign 55.55M
4 3 AECOM 46.10M
5 14 HKS 43.77M
6 11 Perkins Eastman 40.05M
7 6 HOK 39.00M
8 20 NBBJ 32.33M
9 13 SmithGroup 30.85M
10 1 Gensler 28.27M

Educational Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 10 CannonDesign 25.25M
2 1 Gensler 22.62M
3 11 Stantec 20.54M
4 13 SmithGroup 18.32M
5 6 HOK 15.00M
6 3 AECOM 14.67M
7 15 Corgan 13.84M
8 16 DLR Group 12.64M
9 4 Perkins+Will 11.88M
10 22 Flad Architects 10.85M

Residential Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 7 Gold Mantis 55.39M
2 23 Shenzhen Matrix Interior Design 52.19M
3 21 Steve Leung Design Group 48.59M
4 45 CDC Designs 25.45M
5 42 Marc-Michaels Interior Design 25.01M
6 38 Ricky Wong Designers 20.43M
7 11 Stantec 16.63M
8 61 TRIO 13.26M
9 58 NICOLEHOLLIS 12.75M
10 62 Denton House Design Studio 12.08M

Cultural Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 1 Gensler 33.92M
2 6 HOK 12.00M
3 3 AECOM 10.48M
4 16 DLR Group 8.43M
5 11 Stantec 5.87M
6 24 HGA 5.22M
7 48 OTJ Architects 3.35M
8 62 Denton House Design Studio 3.02M
9 13 SmithGroup 2.89M
10 35 STUDIOS architecture 2.76M

Transportation Design

wdt_ID rank name fees
1 1 Gensler 28.27M
2 15 Corgan 25.95M
3 3 AECOM 16.76M
4 18 ZGF Architects 16.06M
5 6 HOK 13.50M
6 40 YiTian Design 8.60M
7 2 Jacobs 8.55M
8 4 Perkins+Will 5.94M
9 11 Stantec 4.89M
10 8 IA Interior Architects 4.11M

Breakdown of Projects

Growth

Total square footage rocketed 40 percent to a new record of 1.68 billion (after a “mere” 1.2 billion in 2019). The Giants forecast even greater spaces: 1.9 billion square feet in 2021. That sounds good, but it’s actually proof that the Giants are being paid less for their work. Fees per square foot fell from $97 to $89 in 2020, but it should be noted that $89 is in line with 2016–19 numbers. Total jobs remained mostly steady at 71,380; the 2021 forecast, however, drops to 61,600, which would be the lowest in four years. This aligns with responses to our survey on the biggest business concerns for the 100 Giants. By far, “client’s willingness to pay what work is worth,” “getting clients to understand design value,” “earning appropriate fees,” and “dealing with clients’ increasing demands” are top of mind.

Top 10 Firms with Most Fee Growth

(*in millions of dollars)