Design Economy

Design Industry

Defining design

Massachusetts' design industries encompass advertising, architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape design, and specialized design services such as fashion, textiles and lighting design. Activities such as web design, interactive design and urban planning are included within graphic design, advertising and architecture, respectively.

While industry data measures design firms, occupational data measure talent, or numbers of people trained in specific skills. The majority of trained designers work as in-house or freelance designers for clients outside of the design industry.

Design occupations encompass architects, landscape architects, animators and multimedia artists, art directors, fashion designers, graphic designers, interior designers, commercial and industrial designers, set exhibit designers, merchandise displayers and specialized design occupations.

Measuring design employment

Approximately 44,500 people are employed in the Massachusetts design sector. Of those, 58% work in design firms within the design industry, 16% work as in-house designers outside of the design industry and 26% are self-employed or work as freelance designers.

The Design Industry

There are about 3,100 design companies in Massachusetts employing an average of eight people. Advertising (48%) and architectural firms (33%) account for more than 80% of the employment within design firms.

Relative to the rest of the U.S., Massachusetts has an above-average concentration of design industry employment. Massachusetts enjoys a particularly high employment concentration in the architectural industry, followed by interior design and advertising firms.

Design Occupations, relative and absolute

Within Massachusetts itself, the largest design occupations are graphic designers (33%) and architects (23%) which together account for about 55% of design talent. Interior designers make up another 11% of the designer profession.

On a relative basis, MA has a higher concentration of design talent than the national average. Design occupations with particularly high relative concentrations are art directors, followed by architects, landscape architects and interior designers.


Within design occupations, there are more self-employed designers (42%) than those employed by design firms (32%) or as in-house designers working outside the design industry (26%).



  • Industries: U.S. Census North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS)
  • Occupations: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Standard Occupational Classification

Employment Data:

  • Industry: U.S. BLS, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program, 2007.
  • Occupational: U.S. BLS Occupational Employment Statistics, 2007
  • Self Employment: U.S. Dept of Commerce, US Census Non-Employer statistics. 2006

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