TWIG launches Design Sector Study

1 April 2021

Design is recognized around the world as a key to economic and social prosperity. Toronto is well positioned to take advantage of this current design focus with a critical mass of designers working in the design disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, industrial, interior, graphic, fashion, planning and urban design ( This cluster includes both firms specific to these disciplines and the trained and skilled individuals working in various capacities and levels of formal education across a variety of related occupations and across numerous industries. Research from over 15 years ago ( found over 25,000 individuals working in design across the Greater Toronto Area. 

Of the 500 occupations identified by Statistics Canada, ten have either the word architect or design in their title, and 42 have either or both in their description. The 2016 Census shows that the Toronto Metro has over 62,700 people working in one of those ten occupations with almost 24% being self-employed (the average for self-employment in Toronto is 12.7%). Making up 1.9% of the workforce, designers earn 2.0% of regional income, ranging in average from $38,500 per year for theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers to $120,000 per year for architecture and science managers. Sixty-two percent of these individuals have a university degree (the average is 40%), and 90% have some post-secondary education (Toronto average is 67.5%).

The Design industry has eight specific industry codes with the words design or architect in their titles and 34 industries with them in their description. As of 2020, those eight industries employed 82,800 people across 17,200 firms in the Toronto Metro and comprise 3.5% of regional employment by industry and 7.6% of all firms. Most of these firms are in the SME (small and medium enterprise) category with an average firm size of 4.8 employees versus the regional average of 10.4.  Eighty-five percent of firms in the Design Industry have one to four employees (vs. 62% overall), and 99% have under 100 employees (vs. 97.7% overall).

Given the prevalence of self-employment and smaller firms, the Design industry is of special interest.  With limited labour market information on this sector, both skill and labour market gaps are poorly understood, and with many working as freelancers, traditional job posting data does not capture the nuance of the situation. The Toronto design sector needs to be profiled to better realize its potential and the potential of its practitioners to address innovation and social needs emerging in today’s complex economic and social environment. TWIG will be conducting a Design industry profile in the 2021-22 year.

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  • TWIG

    Toronto Workforce Innovation Group is a non-profit and independent research organization devoted to finding and promoting solutions to employment-related problems in the Toronto Region.

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TWIG launches Design Sector Study

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