These are interesting times. I believe it is the Chinese who use that as a curse, "May you live in interesting times." As an architect it has definitely been interesting for most of the past decade.
Not too long ago, anywhere from 20% to 40% of us had found ourselves unemployed or underemployed. That has slowly changed, but for a while it looked like the new normal.
The Bad News
The mega-firms dominate the design landscape.
The world we operate in is getting more and more complicated. Is anything less complicated than it was 15 years ago?
Complexity favors the large firm over the small firm even though the 120,000 architects in the United States are still predominantly employed in firms of less than 20 people. Firms of five people are the most common. A pizza shop has more employees.
How to survive? How to flourish?
The Good News
The vast majority of building projects are too small to interest the mega-firms.
The world is significantly more design-aware today.
Every day you can read about a new tool or technology that lets the small firm provide a service that wasn't even possible for the big firm to provide just a few years ago.
What is less complicated today than it was 15 years ago is the barrier to starting your own firm. I have described the opportunities here and here.
I think the big firms are Goliaths, very vulnerable to the Davids - niche-oriented small firms.
What are these niches? Here are some ideas to get you started with your own list:
The key to surviving and flourishing in the 'new normal', more than ever before, is to avoid commoditization by building your niche. (Described here).
Originally posted July 25, 2013