AIGA's Design Leaders Confidence Index began to rise again in the most recent quarter. For the fourth quarter of 2011, the index rose from 86.63 to 100.71 - higher than all but four quarters since AIGA began monitoring confidence in April 2005.
Responses to this quarterly survey of more than 400 design leaders show a strong bounce of optimism in the design industry. For instance, less than 9 percent believe the overall economy is worse now than six months ago and even less (6.9 percent) feel the design economy is worse than in July 2011; 86 percent think it will be the same or moderately better in six months.
Looking ahead, a majority are confident that the broader economy will improve over the next six months (61.8 percent) and nearly as many (60.1 percent) believe that will drive improvements in the design economy in the first half of the year. Only 6 percent believe the economy will be weaker over the next six months.
In terms of hiring, a majority (51.3 percent) feel their likelihood of hiring additional staff has not changed over the past quarter; 37.9 percent believe the chances of adding staff have improved. The optimism of the respondents also affects their willingness to acquire hardware and software: 45.8 percent believe they are more likely to invest in technology tools today than in October 2011; less than 10 percent expect to be less likely to invest.
In other measures of confidence, The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, which had also declined in the third quarter of 2011, improved in the fourth quarter. The measure now stands at 49, up from 42 in the previous quarter; a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses. Among CEOs, confidence appeared to be based on short-term factors; overall optimism was relatively subdued, as more CEOs remained pessimistic than optimistic.