industry insider | Mar 7, 2019 |
How much do commercial designers make?

Though many economists are predicting storm clouds on the horizon, commercial interior designers aren’t sweating it: A new report by the IIDA reveals that salaries are on the rise. The average base yearly compensation for contract designers is $78,100, an increase from $73,300 in 2016.

The study, based on a survey of more than 2,200 professionals across the country, is the second report the IIDA has commissioned. It contains a wealth of information, ranging from regional differences in compensation to the correlation between accreditation and salary (it makes about a $15,000 difference) to overall job satisfaction (69 percent of design professionals say they’d recommend their career to a high school student).

Most of the findings won’t come as a shock, nor do they show radical change from the findings of the 2016 study—“steady growth” is the central takeaway. John Czarnecki, IIDA senior vice president and deputy director tells Business of Home that it’s a product of the time period the study puts under a microscope. “The economy overall was fairly robust across the board [from 2016 to 2018],” he says. “They go hand in hand. When the commercial design industry is strong, the economy tends to be strong and vice versa.”

There’s one notable exception: The gap in income between professionals with an architecture degree and an interior design degree is closing fast. In 2016, architects made $35,000 more than interior designers. Now it’s only $23,000. “The interior design profession is being more broadly recognized by peers and design professionals and the general public,” says Czarnecki. “That helps to account for this narrowing of the gap.”

How much do commercial designers make? In 2016, architects made $35,000 more than designers. Now it’s only $23,000.

So what does this mean for individual firms? Should bosses fear their designer employees storming the corner office demanding raises, brandishing a copy of the report? Czarnecki says the survey is most helpful as a general benchmark, a way to gauge what’s roughly expected in a given market—not necessarily a tool for drastic action. He thinks it can be especially useful to large, national firms that have offices in multiple cities: “I look at the example of San Francisco, where there’s a median salary of $100,000 and Chicago, where it’s $75,000. That’s a big difference between two cities,” says Czarnecki. “A firm that has an office in both cities could use these numbers to help calibrate salaries.”

The IIDA’s survey comes on the heels of its Index Report, which showed overall “moderate to steady growth” in the commercial design industry. Taken together, “these findings jointly point to the fact that the business of commercial interior design is strong at this time,” says Czarnecki. He says the IIDA plans to continue to publish studies, and will likely commission another compensation report for 2020.

A full copy of the report costs $75 for IIDA members and $175 for non-members.

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