The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) recently conducted an economic impact survey in an effort to determine how the current economic downturn is affecting our members and their businesses. The following is a summary of the survey results.
Feedback from the survey resulted in a mixed outlook with as many feeling cautiously optimistic as those who are experiencing difficulty or who are pessimistic. "Significantly, it's not all doom and gloom," commented IALD Executive Vice President Marsha Turner. "There is a lot of trepidation - understandably - but there is definite optimism that comes through in the feedback."
The majority of respondents included Professional IALD members (40%) and Associate IALD members (40%); Fellow, Practicing Affiliate, Commercial Affiliate, Educator, Student members, and non-members made up the remainder of the respondents.
The majority of respondents were based in North America (88%), with the remainder based in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. More than half of all respondents (62%) were sole owners or had an ownership interest in their firm.
When asked how their businesses have been impacted by the current economic downturn/world financial crisis, three-fourths of all respondents said they are experiencing either a strong negative or slight negative impact. Interestingly, 11% of respondents reported a positive impact and 14% reported no change.
Of those with a negative impact, more than half (53%) have experienced a tightening of expenses or spending freeze due to the economic climate, and 28% have experienced hiring freezes. On a positive note, 29% have experienced no cutbacks.
Only 15% of respondents experienced layoffs at their businesses, while 85% reported none. Of those who have had layoffs, positions included administrative positions, and a few junior-level lighting designers.
Finding new projects (46%), collecting payments owed (37%) and keeping current projects (25%) have been the greatest challenges for businesses during this economic recession.
Expectations for the Future
When asked about expected growth (i.e. more projects, staff increases, etc.) in the first and second quarters of 2009, almost an equal number of respondents said they expect no growth, a slight/strong decline, or a slight/strong growth.
In spite of the current atmosphere, it is interesting to note that when asked about the coming year, half of all respondents were either strongly optimistic (7%) or slightly optimistic (43%), and a little less than half were either slightly pessimistic (31%) or strongly pessimistic (15%). More than half of all respondents believe this economic recession will last 12 or more months.
The following is selected commentary from those who chose to provide additional comments:
"Lighting designers in general should be gainfully employed in the near future. We just have to begin to look at doing the energy retrofit and renovation projects along with the award-winning exciting projects that we've all come to get used to."
"I believe that the lighting design profession will weather the downturn a bit better than others in the field due to a variety of factors, including: increased environmental awareness/need (LEED, energy codes, etc.), diversity of most firms in project type, emergence of, and interest in, solid state technologies/applications."
"[In the US] we are uniquely poised with a new President who actually says in his speeches the word 'lighting' related to his green initiatives. I think our work will shift in the type of projects. We have a sustainable design studio within our design team who is honed for the sustainable work that may evolve out of Obama's green team. For the last year we have been training and reaching out to clients and owners on this topic. Clearly the types of design projects are going to change but I think it will be for the betterment of the world."
"Worst I have seen it, because it is not just the US. It is global and it is impacting multiple industries, not just architecture and construction."
"Right now we are quite optimistic from our day-to-day feedback, i.e. offers of targeted projects and clients. One job so far has dried up. However, I am quite fearful given the wider news of lay-offs and downturns and how they may snowball and affect us. But given the situation right now, we are expanding."
Generally speaking, feedback from the survey resulted in a mixed outlook with as many feeling cautiously optimistic as those who are experiencing difficulty or who are pessimistic. "Significantly, it's not all doom and gloom," commented IALD Executive Vice President Marsha Turner. "There is a lot of trepidation – understandably – but there is definite optimism that comes through in the feedback."
"People are waiting to see what happens. In the meantime, IALD members are uniquely situated to add value to building projects and their expertise is needed now more than ever. Savvy lighting design houses are taking advantage of that."
For more information about the IALD, please go to www.iald.org.