As job market heats up, versatile designers are in demand
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
There has not been a better time in the past four or five years to be looking for an interior design job. Within the past six months, job listings have jumped from the dozens to the hundreds.
Business is on the rise in A&D firms. Many that had to let employees go during the lean years are staffing up again. Architects are taking on more new projects, and that is opening up opportunities for interior designers.
In our firm, we are seeing several trends in the current hiring boom. Hiring is not even across the board. Most of the activity has been in mid-sized and larger firms. Some smaller firms are hiring, but many — uncertain whether the upward swing in business will last — are choosing to outsource or hire only part-time personnel instead.
Demand is greatest for experienced designers. A lot of these firms are having to ramp up quickly to meet client demand. They are looking for designers with at least 10 to 15 years of experience, with impressive portfolios and demonstrated business skills, who can manage projects from start to finish, lead teams, maintain client relationships and bring in new business.
We are particularly seeing many requests for senior designers and design directors, either to help expand the firm into new design specialties and/or markets or to manage interior design departments. Often, it is assumed that these are long-term commitments, with opportunities to advance to principal or partner.
Firms also are looking for designers with experience in more than one specialty to form multidisciplinary design teams. Business is improving but still erratic, especially on the contract side.
Firms today need to be flexible and adaptable to take advantage of whatever type of projects come along. As the lines between specialties blur — offices and healthcare becoming more homelike, and hospitality is blending office and retail — designers need to be conversant in trends and product lines for multiple areas of design.
Along with experience, firms are asking for credentials. Just about any commercial firm requires or prefers LEED certification. NCIDQ is less often required, although firms that practice in states with interior design registration do stipulate it. For healthcare designers, EDAC is the certification most often requested.
Technology has become a critical skill area. Designers should have a working knowledge of the most common design and visualization software, such as AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp and Photoshop. Despite designers' preferences for Macs, most A&D firms use Microsoft Office for basic business tasks and expect candidates to be adept in its various components, such as Word and Excel. Knowledge of mobile technology and cloud-based applications is becoming increasingly important.
In some specialty areas, especially healthcare, knowledge of evidence-based design — the ability to conduct and use research — is expected. Designers in these fields should be conversant with the principle research for their area and be able to apply it to their design solutions.
We are seeing tremendous changes going on in the industry. Some firms are expanding by hiring, others through acquisition or consolidation. We expect hiring will remain fairly active for some time to come. Designers who are versatile, flexible and willing to take on new challenges will have a range of opportunities from which to choose.
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