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Executive Summary

Commercial interior design is a cyclical business that tends to parallel the ups and downs of the commercial real estate market. Billings at local design firms peaked in 1991, plummeted in 1992 and have been slowly coming back.

Although the designers aren’t necessarily taking in more money than they were six years ago, they’re employing a lot more people. In 1991, when billings at the top 25 commercial design firms in L.A. County stood at $86 million, there were 416 employees at those firms. Last year, when billings were only $81.9 million, there were 519 employees.

Designers explain that firms are adding many new services to attract clients. And in recent years, older, higher-paid personnel at design companies have been replaced by younger staffers who are working for a fraction of the price.

Pacesetter

Gensler

Managing Principal: Andy Cohen

Gensler isn’t just the biggest commercial interior design company in L.A. County; it’s the biggest in the nation, with 14 offices around the country.

Consistently cited as the nation’s best-managed design firm by Interior Design magazine, Gensler enjoyed a boom year in 1996. Its L.A. billings rose to $10.3 million, a 37 percent increase over 1995. Meanwhile, the local office more than doubled its staff, growing from 33 employees in 1995 to 78 last year.

Fledgling movie studio DreamWorks SKG had much to do with that growth. Gensler designed the interior of DreamWorks’ giant animation complex now under construction in Glendale, as well as its new marketing and distribution office that opened last month on New York’s Madison Avenue.

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