The Washington, D.C., metro area has long been a center for design and architecture, but it has seen a boom in the last five years as a result of the rise of B2B Web design companies.
Now, many are focusing on the role of design and development in creating business and marketing opportunities for the local economy.
“The design and business development field is so big in this area,” said Peter M. Jones, who directs the Design and Business Development Program at George Washington University’s School of Architecture.
“It’s so exciting.”
The boom has also created a new breed of designer, a small but growing field that has gained prominence since the late 2000s and is quickly becoming a critical driver of the local business community.
Many of the firms are local companies that have sprung up to help businesses navigate the growing market.
Jones is one of them.
He started his business about two years ago with his brother and is now one of the most well-known designers in the area.
“I was lucky enough to find my niche in this industry,” said Jones, an artist and director of the Baltimore-based agency Wunderground.
“When you go to design schools and universities and look at what is out there, the design industry is growing and growing and it’s becoming a huge part of our society.
We’re at the crossroads of a really dynamic economy that needs to be reinvented.”
The field has exploded in the past decade and is expected to continue to grow.
Jones said he expects that to grow significantly.
“There’s so much more opportunity for design out there now than ever before,” he said.
“Baltimore is really the nexus of this, of this design boom.” “
In Baltimore, there’s a huge opportunity in the city right now,” he added.
“Baltimore is really the nexus of this, of this design boom.”
The demand for design is driving a new generation of young professionals to the city.
A number of these young professionals have already graduated from college and are seeking opportunities in the workforce.
“What you’re seeing now is a whole new generation coming into the design field,” Jones said.
A growing number of businesses have found themselves struggling to meet their own design needs.
A few examples: The B2C Design & Construction Group of Baltimore, which represents more than 100 companies that design and construct everything from hotels and restaurants to sports stadiums and schools, said that its growth in recent years has slowed, with fewer openings, more hiring freezes and fewer new hires.
“We are seeing some really, really hard times, because we are losing the people we have to fill those positions,” said Jeffery D. Wertheimer, the group’s president.
Wider employment challenges have also created opportunities for young professionals who have never designed before.
“These people are looking for a way to make a living and to get out of the office,” Jones, the director of Wunderlight, said.
Many companies are using new technologies to automate their processes, which have led to increased productivity.
Jones noted that many of the companies that now have their own office space have already been using technology to automate many of their services.
For example, he said, a local software firm has installed a video camera on every employee’s desk to capture images and video and then upload them to the cloud.
“This allows us to automate a lot of our processes and to do that at a much lower cost,” he explained.
Jones added that he believes that a larger percentage of the workers in his area are working in these fields because of the growing demand.
“If we don’t have enough people to go to school, or we can’t get the work done, then we need to hire more people,” he pointed out.
“And if we don, then they’re going to stay home, and they’re not going to be doing anything else.”
Jones said that he is optimistic about the future of design.
“Even if there’s no more people coming to work in the next five years, I think the business is going to grow,” he noted.
Jones plans to continue looking for opportunities in this new industry and said that his clients will look to him to help them navigate the changes that will come with it.
“People are always going to find opportunities, whether it’s in a design job or in a consulting or in an administrative role,” he remarked.
“As the industry gets bigger, you’ll see people working in design, in marketing, in all these different areas.”