CBRE’s New England headquarters in Boston is by Elkus Manfredi [47]. ZGF [18] designed an office for a confidential client in Irvine, California. Photography by Connie Zhou.
CBRE’s New England headquarters in Boston is by Elkus Manfredi [47]. ZGF [18] designed an office for a confidential client in Irvine, California. Photography by Connie Zhou.

Interior Design Unveils the Top 100 Giants 2022

If there’s one word to describe the current state of the interior design industry. . . Well, we don’t know what it is, but, for starters, it’s looking better. COVID-19 and its fallout threw firms across the country into uncertainty. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, however, U.S. unemployment is way down, and economic indicators are way up. But, as of this writing, virus-case figures are back on the rise, thanks to the Omicron variant. Exhausted yet? Yeah, us too. As we perused the new set of business trend data for our annual look at the firms composing the Interior Design Top 100 Giants, we saw a bit of everything, including some very good news.

Rankings

wdt_ID 2022 Ranking Firm HQ Location 2021 Design Fees (in millions) 2021 FFC Value (in millions) 2021 Sq. Ft. (in millions) 2021 Rank 2021 ID Staff
1 1 Gensler San Francisco 545.69 1 3,073
2 2 Jacobs Engineering Group Dallas 308.27 6,743.35 38.50 2 1,204
3 3 Perkins&Will Chicago 188.00 6,200.00 55.00 4 396
4 4 AECOM Dallas 184.21 7,090.77 3 459
5 4A Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. Suzhou 171.60 4,695.60
6 5 HOK New York 151.29 4,700.00 53.00 6 290
7 6 IA Interior Architects San Francisco 128.80 2,800.00 43.10 8 526
8 6A Cheng Chung Design (HK) Ltd. Shenzhen 119.27 57.00 471.50 1,556
9 7 Stantec Edmonton 116.79 11 693
10 8 NELSON Worldwide Minneapolis 110.58 5

*A: International design firms without a North American office


International Rankings

wdt_ID 2022 Ranking Firm HQ Location 2021 Design Fees (in millions) 2021 FFC Value (in millions) 2021 Sq. Ft. (in millions) 2021 Rank 2021 ID Staff
1 1 Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. Suzhou 171.60 4,695.60
2 2 Cheng Chung Design (HK) Ltd. Shenzhen 119.27 57.00 471.50 1,556
3 3 Matrix Design Co. Shenzhen 75.00 34.50
4 4 M Moser Associates Hong Kong 69.62 810.04 19 968
5 5 Steve Leung Design Group Hong Kong 64.85 14.92 24.30 393
6 6 Space Matrix Design Consultants Singapore 36.34 481.00 9.40 36 365
7 7 YiTian Design Group Wuhan 33.52
8 8 DSP Design Associates Mumbai 28.72 450.36 6.70 323
9 9 BDP Manchester 12.60 3,305.70 15.00 91 1,215
10 10 MCX Interior Singapore 10.00 8.40 New 50

Total 2021 design fees for these largest firms came in at $4.55 billion. That’s up from last year, but only slightly. Before COVID hit, 2019 was a record year at $4.9 billion, then 2020 dropped to $4.5 billion, and with 2021’s figures, well, the Giants just scored over $9 billion for the two years of the pandemic. Would that number be higher if the virus never existed? Definitely. But given what the world has gone through, it’s hard to hate on those results.


Firms with Most Fee Growth

wdt_ID Firms with Most Fee Growth 2021 Design Fees 2020 Design Fees
1 Jacobs Engineering Group 308,267,536 213,638,267
2 Populous 58,280,949 22,547,270
3 Rockwell Group 42,689,698 23,000,000
4 Stantec 116,785,425 97,832,591
5 NBBJ 78,000,000 61,000,000
6 STUDIOS Architecture 47,867,699 34,460,000
7 Flad Architects 67,185,000 54,225,000
8 B+H Architects 27,753,569 17,090,249
9 CannonDesign 110,000,000 101,000,000
10 HGA 59,150,000 52,202,500

Project Types

Break that $4.55 billion down by sector and you start to see how business has shifted. Corporate office work has always accounted for a third or more of the Giants’ overall fees, and they came in just about even to 2020’s numbers at $1.55 billion. Right before the pandemic, the corporate total was pushing $2 billion. This alone accounts for the biggest change in overall business. With the 2022 forecast at $1.53 billion, the Giants don’t expect this to change, but they do see increases in tech installation and coworking spaces.

Another sector worth noting: healthcare. It has moved up to become the second largest by fees—a slot it’s never held before, as it’s usually occupied by hospitality. But it’s one of the mixed blessings of the pandemic, which has brought rare, but intuitive, growth for this category: $598 million in 2019, $667 million in 2020, and $715 million in 2021.


Fees by Project Types

Corporate was 35 percent of overall fees but accounted for 41 percent of total projects. Meanwhile, hospitality accounted for only 6 percent of the annual job total while delivering 10 percent of total fees. Healthcare performed similarly: 11 percent of total projects tallying 16 percent of overall fees. So, while corporate work is critical and by far the biggest work sector, it hasn’t been nearly as lucrative per job as healthcare and hospitality.

While corporate and hospitality have long ways to go to reach pre-pandemic fee levels, healthcare and smaller sectors like government, education, and retail have all performed better than their pre-pandemic numbers. Government fees, for example, spiked to $425 million in 2021, up from $336 million (which was up from $285 million in 2019). Firms expect most new government work in 2022 to come from offices, hospitals, and laboratories.

Education is a $310 million-a-year business but retail is the only segment other than hospitality forecasted for 2022 growth, a hopeful 9 percent gain. Meanwhile, the residential sector has been an adventure. If you recall, that work rose to $373 million in 2019 (it had already gone up between 2017 and 2018). But in 2021, it retreated to $214 million. Possible explanation: Firms may have jumped into smaller residential jobs early in the pandemic to help keep the lights on but have now moved on. But in this sector, the Giants expect condo/mixed-use residential work to grow the most in 2022.


Another notable business shift: For the first time since 2004, new construction dropped below 50 percent of total work, to 48 percent; 10 years ago it was 56 percent. The work seems to have shifted to refreshes, which have almost doubled to 8 percent, and renovations, at 45 percent up from 40.


Project Locations

Fees per square foot jumped 32 percent to $129 from $89, but the Giants’ total number of jobs dropped to 65,000 from 71,000. That number is expected to remain steady in 2022. Furniture & fixtures and construction products installed came in at $75.4 billion, up slightly from $73.6 billion a year ago. The Giants’ original forecast was $69.8 billion, so by that measure it was a great year. The breakdown between F&F and construction remains steady around 34/66—and that breakdown hasn’t really changed in five years.

Fees per design staffer held steady from 2020 with a median of $224,000, down only $3,000. Fees-per-hour billing rates have remained nearly the same for two years, with principals/partners at $275, project managers/directors at $200, and designers at $145. The majority of firms bill more than 80 percent of their designers’ time. Annual salaries all went up: principals/partners at $184,000 from $175,000, project managers/directors at $125,000 from $107,000, and designers at $80,000 from $73,500.

Editor’s Note: Take a look at recent coverage of our Top 100 Giants most admired firms of 2022 below. Gensler tops the list followed by Perkins&Will, HOK, and Yabu Pushelberg.

Read More About Gensler

Annual Salary

wdt_ID Title Annual Salary
1 Principals/Partners 184,000
2 Project Managers 124,950
3 Designers 80,000
4 Other Design Staff 62,000

Hourly Rate

wdt_ID Title Hourly Rate
1 Principals/Partners 275
2 Project Managers 200
3 Designers 145
4 Other Design Staff 118

The fee forecast for 2022 is $4.3 billion, down a bit from this year, but still a firm stack of cash. The Giants have gotten pretty good at forecasting, as their guesses at total fees haven’t been off by more than couple percentage points since the pandemic began. Their confidence in forecasting is also high: Six out of 10 are “confident,” with another 28 percent “very or extremely confident” in their predictions.

So, all that gives a helpful snapshot of 2021. But what should we expect in 2022? The 100 Giants seem to think more of the same. Yes, there’s uncertainty, but the economy is also on fire. Yes, Omicron ensures the pandemic will last at least for the first quarter, but the rest of the year could see big improvements. To wit, a healthy 17 percent of the Giants plan to open new offices in the coming year.


Business Challenges

wdt_ID Business Challenges Percentage
1 Earning appropriate fees 66
2 Dealing with clients' increasing demands 56
3 Increasing interference from client's consultants 16
4 Creating cutting edge design solutions 9
5 Managing the growing needs for sustainable design 17
6 Managing vendors 8
7 Uncertain economy 62

Read More About Perkins&Will

Client Dynamics

wdt_ID Client Dynamics Percentage
1 Competing business entities entering the market (i.e., Co-working, CRE services, etc.) 21.80
2 Client's willingness to pay what it's worth 3.70
3 Finding new clients 28.70
4 Retaining current clients 9.20
5 Getting clients to understand design value 50.60
6 Client's willingness to take design risks 32.20
7 Managing client expectations 39.10

Read More About HOK

Practice Issues

wdt_ID Practice Issues Percentage
1 Recruiting qualified staff 88.50
2 Diversity 55.20
3 Retaining staff 49.40
4 Training staff 31.00
5 Creating new business/Diversifying into new services/segments 29.90
6 Marketing firm's capabilities 12.60
7 Keeping track of profits and expenses 4.60
8 Offering staff appropriate pay scale and benefits 16.10

Read More About Yabu Pushelberg

Top 10 Office

wdt_ID Firm Office Fees
1 Gensler 340,224,083
2 Jacobs Engineering Group 101,571,963
3 Perkins&Will 95,880,000
4 M Moser Associates 67,853,000
5 IA Interior Architects 66,576,720
6 AECOM 57,105,100
7 DLR Group 44,337,000
8 STUDIOS Architecture 38,197,206
9 NBBJ 36,580,000
10 HOK 35,000,000

Top 10 Hospitality

wdt_ID Firm Hospitality Fees
1 HBA International 103,512,000
2 Rockwell Group 22,927,898
3 Perkins Eastman 20,283,400
4 Gensler 19,919,142
5 Populous 19,815,523
6 AvroKO 13,728,837
7 Gettys Group 13,275,000
8 DLR Group 12,091,900
9 Wimberly Interiors 12,000,000
10 JCJ Architecture 11,600,000

Top 10 Retail

wdt_ID Firm Retail Fees
1 Gensler 35,491,641
2 Nelson Worldwide 25,936,961
3 CallisonRTKL 20,915,060
4 Sargenti 19,000,000
5 RSP Architects 16,476,000
6 Little Diversified Architectural Consulting 10,031,331
7 Ware Malcomb 6,526,897
8 TPG Architecture 5,719,000
9 ASD/SKY 5,700,000
10 IA Interior Architects 5,499,760

Top 10 Government

wdt_ID Firm Government Fees
1 Jacobs Engineering Group 151,724,869
2 AECOM 46,052,500
3 Gensler 29,140,091
4 HOK 24,000,000
5 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 14,190,000
6 EYP 13,333,952
7 Page 12,585,600
8 KCCT 12,450,000
9 Leo A Daly 12,250,147
10 Stantec 9,418,555

Top 10 Healthcare

wdt_ID Firm Healthcare Fees
1 HDR 60,873,600
2 CannonDesign 60,000,000
3 Perkins&Will 56,400,000
4 Gensler 50,926,397
5 Perkins Eastman 41,580,970
6 AECOM 40,526,200
7 HKS 40,249,723
8 SmithGroup 34,237,879
9 HOK 33,290,000
10 HGA 28,056,074

Top 10 Education

wdt_ID Firm Education Fees
1 CannonDesign 30,000,000
2 HOK 24,000,000
3 SmithGroup 19,564,502
4 Stantec 17,783,435
5 Gensler 15,400,000
6 DLR Group 15,045,950
7 Perkins Eastman 13,184,210
8 Corgan 13,000,000
9 AECOM 12,894,700
10 Flad Architects 10,077,000

Top 10 Residential

wdt_ID Firm Residential Fees
1 Marc-Michaels Interior Design 27,250,000
2 CDC Designs 26,450,000
3 TRIO 17,500,000
4 Stantec 16,707,708
5 NicoleHollis 14,670,006
6 Ryan Young Interiors 9,041,891
7 Rockwell Group 8,771,376
8 Workshop/APD 6,922,500
9 Meyer Davis Studio 6,866,424
10 Vocon 6,355,600

Top 10 Cultural

wdt_ID Firm Cultural Fees
1 Gensler 24,117,964
2 HOK 20,000,000
3 Stantec 11,929,269
4 AECOM 9,210,500
5 DLR Group 4,030,650
6 HGA 3,754,109
7 STUDIOS Architecture 3,583,408
8 OTJ Architects 3,509,156
9 Populous 2,914,047
10 Rockwell Group 2,814,826

Top 10 Transportation

wdt_ID Firm Transportation Fees
1 Gensler 26,225,117
2 PGAL 25,770,950
3 ZGF 16,520,000
4 Corgan 16,000,000
5 AECOM 14,736,800
6 HOK 12,000,000
7 Jacobs Engineering Group 9,493,257
8 Stantec 7,658,880
9 IA Interior Architects 7,032,480
10 Perkins&Will 5,640,000

Methodology

The first installment of the two-part annual business survey of Interior Design Giants comprises the 100 largest firms ranked by interior design fees for the 12-month period ending December 31, 2021. The 100 Rising Giants ranking will be published in August. Interior design fees include those attributed to:

All types of interiors work, including commercial and residential.

All aspects of a firm’s in­terior design practice, from strategic planning and programming to design and project management.

Fees paid to a firm for work performed by employees and independent contractors who are “full-time staff equivalent.”

Interior design fees do not include revenues paid to a firm and remitted to subcontractors who are not considered full- time staff equivalent. For example, certain firms attract work that is subcontracted to a local firm. The originating firm may collect all the fees and re­tain a management or generation fee, paying the remainder to the performing firm. The amounts paid to the latter are not included in fees of the collecting firm when determining its ranking. Ties are broken by dollar value of products installed, square footage of projects installed, and staff size respectively. Where applicable, all per­cent­ages are based on responding Giants, not their total number.

All research conducted by ThinkLab, the research division of the Sandow Design Group.

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