Published April 2020
Design Industry Pulse
Since late March, the American Society of Interior Designers has been conducting a bi-weekly survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the interior design community.
By Jen Levisen
ASID started surveying March 31, 2020, and as findings from the April 28 survey indicate, levels of concern are starting to relax as the pandemic continues.
“Ultimately, our industry is made up of problem solvers who can demonstrate resilient solutions that push the industry forward,” says Susan Chung, Ph.D., ASID’s Director of Research and Knowledge Management.
April 28 Survey Key Findings
• Levels of concern are relaxing over time; however, a longer time for performance to recover to “normal” is now projected.
• The design community is resilient and adjusts to work-related changes quickly; because of this the industry is experiencing less impact from these changes.
• While challenged by the physical limitations brought on by COVID-19, pros continue to engage with clients and consumers through personal outreach and virtual communications.
Top 3 Covid-19 Related Concerns
Business Development: 76% (up 9% from April 14 survey)
Client Engagement: 44% (up 3% from April 14 survey)
Business Operations: 27% (down 4% from April 14 survey)
Business Development: 71% (down 1% from April 14 survey)
Client/Industry Engagement: 68% (up 18% from April 14 survey)
Business Operations: 35% (down 9% from April 14 survey)
While the level of concern from the industry is lessening (ASID’s survey reported a 6% decrease between their April 14 and 28 surveys), the top areas of concern remain consistent — designers and manufacturers are mainly concerned with developing new business and engaging with clients.
Concerns for operating business have also been declining, with designers less concerned about construction and installation which was down 9% between the April 14 and 28 surveys. Interestingly though, designers are increasingly concerned about product selection, which was up 4% in the April 28 survey, compared to the April 14 survey.
When asked what their main challenge was when engaging with clients and consumers during this time, the interior design community reported their main challenge was accessing their clients and consumers.
“Although technology has afforded opportunities for virtual access and communication during this troublesome time of travel and contact restrictions, adjusting to these limitations has been quite challenging,” says Dr. Chung.
“Our profession thrives in the physical world, in physically interacting with tangible design components and in directly engaging with clients and consumers.”
ASID’s survey reported efforts to increase engagement during this time include:
• Personal outreach
• Virtual communication tools
• Increasing social media posts
• Updating or rebuilding websites
Has Work Really Changed?
It has, and the industry is settling in. ASID reports that changes in work have minimized with half of the April 28 survey respondents indicating no impact compared to the April 14 survey, “an almost complete flip from what was reported a month ago,” according to survey findings.
Back to Business?
With the pandemic’s impact extending, longer and longer recovery times are anticipated, according to the April 28 survey results.
“Confidence in a recovery of less than three months has dropped. Respondents have made a significant shift toward estimating more than three months for recovery," says Dr. Chung.
"Firm employees project longer recovery times compared to self-employed designers, and more seasoned professionals (10+ years of experience) project longer recovery times compared to younger professionals.”
COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on the design community, and the commercial industry at large. Firms and manufacturers have had to rethink how they do business – from keeping teams connected, to continuing current projects, and attracting new business. More and more the industry is turning to digital solutions, such as video conferencing, social media, and marketing platforms such as Mortarr, to lessen the impact of face-to-face interactions and opportunities.
When asked what adjustments their firms might make due to their experience with COVID-19, Meteor Lighting, a California-based company which produces high ceiling architectural LED lighting fixtures for the commercial industry, responded that, from a marketing standpoint they’d be permanently focusing on digital efforts.
“We are going to permanently focus more on digital marketing communication channels,” says Hansen Chen, Meteor Lighting’s Marketing Manager. “Our main platforms are Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Mortarr.”
Mortarr is the only online source for both commercial project inspiration and product information, allowing users to gather inspiration for projects, reach out to potential professional and brand collaborators, and connect with clients and project teams on current work.
“Mortarr was developed with a vision for the future - a more digitized and sustainable design process - but we could never have imagined this pandemic shaping it."
"Today, we are focused on providing this asset to the A+D community at no charge,” says Abby Murray, Mortarr CEO and Co-Founder. “Our website and app are completely free to use and provide commercial project and product information, that, to an extent, can’t be found anywhere else, and definitely not all on one single platform. We are also extending our team for onboarding support, at no cost, to help support business continuity and provide online business development options for these audiences."
“Our digital pin up boards, which we call Design Rooms, offer a place for teams to curate and share client projects which helps keep work moving forward, and teams and clients connected. With traditional methods and those pesky email size limitations, they just can’t,” says Murray. “That sense of normalcy is such an asset to firms, regardless of size and location, their employees and their clients.”
ASID’s next round of surveying is open May 12-13, 2020. Click here to take the survey and check out the Resources section of ASID’s website to review findings. Survey results are updated the first and third Monday of every month.