AIGA, a professional association for design, reported that its Design Leaders Confidence Index slipped slightly this quarter, dropping from an all-time high of 105.09 to 101.42.
The most recent AIGA survey of more than 300 design leaders reflected that the majority were confident the state of the economy as a whole—and of the design economy in particular—would be moderately better in the next six months. Overall, there were more optimists than pessimists, although the number who thought the economy would improve was lower than in the previous quarter.
Fewer than 9% of the respondents felt that the design economy was worse today than six months ago, and fewer than 6% felt conditions would be worse six months from now.
In terms of employment, nearly two out of five felt the chances of hiring additional staff were better than in January; only 13% thought they were worse. Among corporate CEOs, half thought they would be hiring additional staff in the next six months.
While the design profession’s optimism may appear to be inconsistent with national economic data—which seem to have flattened—AIGA believes that this is a reflection of increasing demand for design as companies look toward building competitiveness during a recovery. The first phase of business’ reaction to any recession is normally cutting expenses. Once operations are as lean as possible, CEOs must look toward increasing revenue to improve future profitability, since there is no further gain to be had from cost cutting. This is often the point at which there is a reinvestment in design as a means of creating product or service differentiation and competitive advantage as the consumer economy recovers.
Anecdotally, designers are reporting that they are currently very busy, although project budgets are considerably leaner than several years ago.
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