GDUSA Poll: Designers Expect 2021 Economic Rebound

Contemplating The Post-Pandemic Marketplace

The vast majority of designers – slightly more than 90% – expect an economic recovery in the second half of 2021 and an attendant rise in demand for graphic design and related services. That is the central finding of a poll of 10,000 GDUSA subscribers and e-subscribers, randomly selected and conducted during the first week of May. The poll reflects and captures considerable optimism and relief, counterbalanced by understandable uncertainty as to precisely how the post-pandemic era will unfold. There is some debate, for example, as to how strong the recovery will be, how fast it will arrive, and how directly it will stir creative businesses. There is no debate, however, that positive economic news will be warmly welcomed by a community that has been rocked but remains resilient.


Do You Expect An Economic Recovery In The U.S. During 2021?

Strong Recovery 55%  |  Weak Recovery 36%  |  No Recovery 9%


Dozens of representative comments, which add depth and nuance, are published below. We’ll have more on the post-pandemic outlook in the June 2021 Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) magazine, print and digital editions.


Please Comment: Will There Be An Economic Recovery?

… And Will It Benefit Creative Businesses?


The economy will rebound in the second half of 2021 and YES it most certainly will benefit my organization. In-person trainings, workshops, and conferences will pick up and, therefore, increase the need for graphic design and printed materials. There will be a need to redefine companies and help them communicate internal messages to employees.

A healthier economy will definitely benefit the business I work for. It will lead to more creative opportunities because people expect so much more from brands these days, both in print and in digital form. People expect an open dialogue with brands, and the creative business is perfectly suited to deliver.

Graphic design is a trickle-down business. Not a popular phraseology, but it is true. As the society opens up, designers are going to experience a nice bump. A rising tide, they say, lifts all boats. That means good things ahead.

I hope so! If history is a guide, the roaring 20s were, in part, a response to the influenza outbreak of 1918.

Most definitely! People will be aching to get out and be more social. More events, more advertising, more design. And, by the way, I’ve built more websites during this time, too.

People will always have information to share, things to sell, and stories to tell. And they will need creative people to help them do that. Things are different now but the fundamentals will always be the same.


“Spending More On Joy”


It’s good to have a challenge that makes you rough up the ground and dig deep. Being flexible, learning new ways of doing things and new approaches to meet new needs is all part of our evolutionary journey as creatives. There will definitely be things specific to the pandemic that are writing a new history for this “Age” but humans are resilient. People are spending more on joy which is what we try to create.

There will be a greater need for design and creative support as those businesses who were not well established digitally (or had been more static in prior years) to activate their digital marketing in a much more significant way. I expect a lot of new website and restructuring work, further integration of social/e-communications strategies and a proliferation of social influencer engagement.

Recruitment and retention will be critical moving forward. Companies will need to figure out what employees need and want moving forward. Some industries like home improvement have flourished. It will be interesting to see how these companies adjust to a return to pre-pandemic sales and opportunities.

Opening up is happening too fast and is spurred by revenue concerns by governmental bodies. We could be in bad shape with variants come fall.


“This Virtuous Cycle Is Starting Now”


When the economy is good, there is more funding for projects. If there is more funding for projects, people need designers. This virtuous cycle is starting now.

My company has been lucky during the pandemic because we make consumer products for use in the home, and this category has been booming during the pandemic. It’s hard to imagine that we could do even better once things open up. Trend reports indicate that people will continue to do a lot at home so I think we should continue to see the benefit.

From my experience, creative business has thrived during the pandemic. I found that clients have been putting in more of the work during the quarantine so they could be prepared for when businesses open back up. And for those businesses put on hold, it seems opportunity has really begun to increase at this point as people start engaging more with physical locations. I only expect the economy, and as well as creative businesses, to continue to improve.

My industry will improve when air travel, business travel, and leisure travel ramps back up. This will help me.

I expect ridiculous inflation. I also expect ridiculous paper prices (following the already ridiculous lumber costs). As such, printing costs will escalate.

It’s hard to say. Some rebound is inevitable, but other communication functions that were forced on everyone during the pandemic will probably stay and become the norm. I see a quick uptick in work followed by a gradual stall.

Small companies who have made it through this far are going to need help getting back on their feet and it’s up to us to find new ways to get them back out in the public eye again.


“People Are Ready To Live Their Lives”


I do expect the economy to improve later this year and have already felt the effects of people wanting to brush up their branding and print materials. Overall, I think graphic design and the creative business in on the rise even more because people want to be engaged in all the ways. People are ready to live their lives again.

I have found the loyalty factor between myself and my clients to have a far greater impact than any trend. So far, I have seen a welcome improvement of both work and cash flow in the first half of 2021. I expect it to continue.

There will be a correction to the lack of spending; I think some normalcy will be restored, but innovations made in the pandemic economy will stick.

I’m not sure how it will affect higher education, as most of the loss in our revenue is because we went remote. For extended education, our revenue has been steady with the move to all online classes for our Summer Session/Intersession and certificate courses.

Graphic design and creative business will play a more important role as people are finding out that our reach goes beyond being in-person. Great creative/graphic design can make/break first impressions and break boredom for retention.


“Adapt Or Decline”


Like other firms, we’ll adapt or decline.

Whether the economy improves in the second half of 2021 or not, it’s critical for businesses and organizations to maintain a meaningful presence. Emphasis on “meaningful presence.”

People will always have information to share, things to sell, and stories to tell. And they will need creative people to help them do that. Things are different now but the fundamentals will always be the same.

I am not very optimistic about the second half of 2021. So many industries do not need to advertise or promote right now due to the ongoing shortages of goods and workers.

I do not expect the economy to improve much. It may even get worse. We need to open up our businesses, schools and event venues! I don’t think that is going to happen to the extent that it needs to.

I do not expect the economy to improve under the current US administration… The current policies in the US [including California’s rulings that threaten independent contracting and freelancing] do not make for a strong, prosperous system where creativity and diverse points of view can thrive. I do not expect my design business to increase in 2021.



“I Look Forward To 2022 or 2023”


Recovery?  Yes and no. The business that I work for, yes. As in in-house designer, I am fortunate that our clients have adapted to the new trends, and the market is picking back up. The graphic design and creative business in general, however, will recover from the recession and some jobs will be brought back, but it won’t be at the level that we hope to see because of the deep job losses, the bankruptcies, and designers who have ventured into other fields. I look forward to 2022 and 2023 because that should be back to around where 2019 left off for the design industry.

A robust economy will provide more business growth. The future of advertising and marketing will ride on the coat tails of manufacturing and intellectual products. A national comeback will spur industry and our industry.

The public will need to know that businesses are open, and they are doing all they can to keep the public safe. There may need to be promotions to get people to come back to that restaurant, theater, store, etc. That is where the creative/design world will benefit. If we can make people feel safe and comfortable to return to a somewhat normal life again, then we have done our jobs.

As a retail advertising specialist, as more stores open up, so does my business.

I’ve been furloughed since March of 2020. Over time, I’ve been working from home and since then things have been moving along fairly well. If it has not yet paid off financially, it’s definitely increased with networking with new clients.

Most of our clients will need to communicate to their audiences the opportunities or changes so we’ll have work to do. I know we’re taking the opportunity to capture our story and send something out to all the clients. A stronger economy should benefit us, but we have to do the work to ensure that clients think of us!