Industry Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the specialized design services industry, which employs many design workers, employed a total of 142,820 workers in 2018, an increase in overall employment from past years.

Digital technology now dominates the workplace in all design fields, so job candidates need to be skilled with design software. In some workplaces, skill with hardware is also advantageous—for example, tablets for inputting sketches or 3-D printers for rendering physical prototypes of industrial designs.

Design is usually a collaborative effort. People usually enter these fields by working as part of a team at an established business. Even those workers who eventually become self-employed need to confer with clients and with workers such as engineers and contractors who will implement their designs. As a result, good communication skills are important in this field. These include not only the technical skills for communicating designs but also the people skills for persuading others and for working well within a team environment.

Design firms and freelance designers at all levels found themselves canceling, rescheduling, and revising projects for clients when the coronavirus outbreak reached the U.S. in 2020. The pandemic caused many companies to temporarily close or shift to remote working platforms. Changes in consumer demand and supply chain disruptions for manufactured products led many companies to rethink their business models as well as their design needs. The general economic slump caused by the pandemic slowed the pace of business. Service and entertainment businesses closed for long periods of time and canceled events, ending the need for design support for promotional and other materials. While still-employed designers found it possible to telecommute and freelancers often already worked from a home office, the available work shrank. Interior design suffered from decreased demand as construction projects slowed. Landscape designers found it easier to continue working as outdoor projects experienced fewer restrictions.

As of early 2021, the graphic design industry in the U.S. is valued at $12.7 billion business, and is projected to grow by 4.1 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. The interior design industry is a $14 billion business, the industrial design market is valued at $3 billion, and the landscape design sector is valued at $5.6 billion. Overall, the U.S. design industry is expected to grow in the coming years as the pandemic becomes contained and the economy rebounds. Businesses and consumers will have improved economic situations and more disposable income for design projects. The research group IBISWorld predicts growth in demand for interior design services through 2025 due to the expected surge in nonresidential and residential construction. The landscape design sector will also experience increased demand, particularly for small-scale design projects, due to the increase in construction. Strong growth is expected in the graphic design industry because companies will be focused on advertising and marketing projects to recapture consumers' attention.

Graphic Design

The Department of Labor projects slower than average employment growth for graphic designers through 2028. The area of greatest growth—24 percent—will be in computer systems design and related services, but understand that this is a small niche. By contrast, the publishing field other than the Internet will have a decline in employment of 22 percent through 2028.

Like many creative occupations, the graphic design field attracts many talented people, creating competition for jobs. Best opportunities are expected for workers who are skilled with Web site design, interactive media, and the latest technologies and techniques.

Industrial Design

Industrial designers should experience 3 percent growth, slower than the average for all occupations. Manufacturing will continue to be their largest employer, but a slight decline in this industry will contribute to the overall decline in growth for industrial designers through 2028. Demand for new product styles and innovative products will support growth in this profession.

Best opportunities are expected in the design of products that demand a high level of technical knowledge and attention to detail, which must be manufactured to precise tolerances, and products made of sustainable materials. A strong background in computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided industrial design (CAID) will be a particular advantage, as well as experience with interactive design (IxD), user experience (UX), and user interface (UI). Connecticut, Colorado, South Dakota, Washington, and Arizona had the highest concentration of industrial designers in 2018.

Interior Design

Employment of interior designers is projected to increase 4 percent, or as fast as the average for all occupations, through 2028. The volume of interior design work depends partly on the rate of construction, which varies with ups and downs in the economy. However, the occupation has more stability than many construction-related careers because commercial interiors need to be freshened up periodically, so redesign work is budgeted for years in advance.

In the coming years, the aging population will create opportunities for interior designers as older individuals remodel their homes in ways that allow them to age in place. Interior designers tend to find more work in high-income areas, where homeowners have more disposable income to spend on interior designs. Interior designers familiar with the latest design tools, including three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) software, will also have the advantage in the job market.

Landscape Design

The Department of Labor projects average employment growth for landscape architects, 4 percent, through 2028. As our urban society grows increasingly urban, appreciation for well-designed landscapes also grows. Interest in sustainability will create some opportunities for new kinds of design work, such as energy-saving green roofs, and the general concern for the environment will create demand for designs that reclaim polluted landscapes and that prevent waterways and groundwater sources from being contaminated.

Competition for jobs in outstanding firms is expected to be strong. Experience in internships will be an advantage for job-seekers because it will reduce the amount of on-the-job training that employers must provide. Detailed knowledge of environmental codes and regulations, as well as familiarity with geographic information systems, will also be advantageous. At firms that specialize in site planning, opportunities will be better for job candidates with additional training or work experience in urban planning.

The same economic forces that create demand for licensed landscape architects will also provide work for landscape designers.