Still in the Dark: COVID-19 Continues to Impact the Lighting Design Profession

by | May 5, 2021 | News

The December issue of designing lighting featured an article detailing the results of a survey the IALD conducted regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the lighting design profession. The IALD has since repeated that survey in 2021 to get an updated snapshot of the profession for the January to March time frame, with mixed results.

Firms continue to experience a decrease in prospective work, with the trend remaining fairly constant. When compared to May 2020, there has been an improvement all across the board in 2021, but compared to October 2020, the results are largely the same. The ongoing pandemic has still presented difficulties to the vast majority of firms in terms of revenue, with firms predicting a revenue loss of 38% in January 2021, up 6% from October 2021. The optimistic takeaway of these results is that the profession is not experiencing a deep downward trend as the pandemic progresses but remaining at a relatively flat level. However, all numbers are still down compared to pre-pandemic data.

The sectors that have been most significantly affected remain the same compared to previous survey results, with only slight differences in increases/decreases. The government, health, and residential sectors remain at a steady increase compared to prepandemic business, while the other sectors continue to see a decrease.

In Figure 3 we begin to see a slight positive trend. Projects are moving ahead at a better rate overall in January 2021 than in previous months. See Figure 4 for a more detailed breakdown of business operations in 2021.

Below are more largely positive updates, with the only negatives being related to supply chain issues (ie. difficulty in getting lighting equipment, asked to unblock supply chain problems). The supply chain problems are unsurprising, as we featured an article in the February issue of designing lighting that detailed these complications. Lighting designers are not alone in this struggle, as many industries across all fields and professions have also been faced with the same problem.

Staffing situations have remained similar between October 2020 and January 2021. There have been slight increases in reduced staff pay and lay offs, but all other areas remain largely the same. It is unfortunate to see a negative trend in staffing even if it is very slight.

Overall, the lighting design profession has remained adaptable and strong in response to the pandemic. It will be some time before we begin to see business prosperity return to pre-pandemic levels, but many designers think that the adaptations we have made are here to stay. Many professionals have expressed a preference in working from home and the new flexibility in their approach to projects. In addition, eliminating unnecessary travel has lowered expenses and allows more time to be spent on projects. It will be interesting to see which trends persist or dissipate postpandemic. We once again would like to thank the IALD for publishing these results and allowing us to use their findings.

The IALD’s article on their January 2021 survey can be found here:

This article was originally featured in the April issue of designing lighting (dl)