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How to remain competitive in today’s growing design service industry
Aug 8, 2018
Melissa Studach

Earlier this summer, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) debuted its 2018 Summit Report, a climate review of the interior design profession and a resource for developing relevant and valuable content for industry education.

CIDA’s board of directors, which consists of one representative from each of the collaborating organizations American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) and Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ), hosted a summit of design leaders in April to evaluate the results of an environmental scan the organization had conducted in 2017. The CIDA Summit Report serves to better inform future accreditation standards development, as well as help guide interior design continuing-education content.

Good news first: Employment is on the rise for interior designers, with a 4 percent increase since 2016, and the sector is growing, as proven by interior design firms showing revenue projections up from $9 billion in 2016 to $12 billion in 2019. With demand comes competition. The report suggests that the sector will see an increased rate of outside providers like real estate and project management firms entering the service realm—just as retail companies like RH and Ballard now offer in-house design services. Design services via online packages and tutorials are also expected to continue to grow.

Greater competition means interior designers will have to continue to sharpen and promote their value propositions. According to the report, that begins with demonstrating a level of expertise beyond competitors. “The capacity to engage and leverage specialized knowledge, conduct and use research, and market and deliver original and tailored design solutions that achieve measurable return on investment for clients will be important,” the findings suggest.

What the industry is lacking, the report says, is the proper documentation and promotion of the benefits of interior design. “Innovation is key to the interior design profession’s survival. Clients want new and original thinking that adds strategic value to their business and real estate. Why are we not talking more about documenting the value of innovative design solutions?”

As an example, the report poses traditional “place” systems, like offices, schools, health care facilities and places of worship. As these community spaces evolve to become more adaptable, there becomes a need for smart design. Interior designers become a “community commodity” in their ability to address societal issues using design solutions that consider human behavior. Those who have acquired specializations have an even greater competitive advantage, the report says.

Developing those qualified professionals reveals more challenges, as enrollment at design institutions continues to witness a decline. High tuition costs are not only causing some to consider the value of education in terms of return on investment, but also making access difficult for others. In an industry desperate for diversity, limited access creates a narrow pool of qualified, incoming practitioners. The report promotes industry initiatives that are already in the works to help encourage diversity and inclusion, from emphasizing the benefits of having diverse perspectives in design problem solving to enforcing diversity mandates within teams, leadership and recruitment.

Seen as “a strategic view to the future,” the full report presents the findings affecting industry areas of global influences, economy, social and demographics, workforce, emerging technologies, related industries, sustainability and wellness, occupant behavior, and interior and product design.

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