By all indications, 2017 was a stellar year. Total design fees hit $4.1 billion, a 5 percent gain from the previous survey and a 70 percent gain over the past decade. This matched the Giants' own forecast, and they expect $4.4 billion next time.
For the first time, the total square footage completed by the Giants eclipsed 1 billion. That resulted from 61,300 jobs, another 5 percent gain. (For context, in 2010 the Giants completed 22,000 jobs.) Fees per square foot came in at $142, up from $103. While this number does fluctuate year to year, $142 is the highest total we've ever recorded.
Now for some more big gains, this time for staffing. Total interior design staff at the Giants came in at 17,800, up 1,000 from last time and more than double the 8,700 reported in 2010. We also saw gains in what firms are billing per hour: $145 for designers, up from $132; $193 for project managers, up from $180; and $253 for principals/owners, up from $238. Unfortunately, salaries didn't grow with all the other numbers. The average designer's earnings were flat at $75,000, and the $110,000 that managers had made previously remained unchanged. Principals, however, saw a bump from $175,000 to $187,000.
Corporate work, as usual, accounted for the biggest chunk, at $1.5 billion, but its overall share dropped a bit, 4 percent. Residential work, on the other hand, jumped 31 percent. Hospitality, health care, educational, transportation, and cultural segments all had healthy double-digit gains. For next time, the Giants are looking for further growth in transportation and retail as well as a 5 percent rebound in corporate. More big numbers: Furniture and fixtures, along with construction, reached $90.6 billion, up nearly $17 billion over the past three surveys. The Giants now forecast $91 billion for next time.
Work outside the U.S. was 20 percent of the Giants output, a number notable because it has dropped every year since a high of 25 percent in the 2013 survey. The biggest international hot spots were the Pacific Rim, Canada, and Europe, with the latter witnessing a steady uptick over the past three surveys. Asia will see the most growth overseas, 50 percent of the Giants believe. But compare that to the 94 percent that see the U.S. with the biggest potential—the Northeast and South in particular—and you can understand why globalization is less of a buzzword.
Sustainability still commands a big chunk of a firm's bandwidth: Half of all fees come from sustainable design, and 60 percent of all products installed were green, $53 billion's worth. Though "only" 53 percent of square footage was green, the lowest since 2012, it did amount to 548 million square feet, which represents the largest amount ever reported.
The majority of Giants—68, to be exact—saw growth, with only 20 going the other way. And 84 expect growth ahead. That leads us to one final stat. In each survey, we ask the Giants if they're optimistic about the coming year's business. This time, 96 percent said "yes." That's the highest we've seen since the 2015 survey. The takeaway? No matter what you thought of 2017, it's worth looking ahead to better things to come.
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, 2017. The 100 Rising Giants ranking will be published in July. 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 the dollar value of products installed. Where applicable, all percentages are based on responding Giants, not their total number. The data was compiled and analyzed by the Interior Design market research staff in New York, led by Wing Leung, research director.