AIGA Design Census 2016: Participation

This is the first in a series analyzing the results of the 2016 AIGA Design Census.


2016 was the inaugural year of the AIGA Design Census; a partnership with Google Design to collect invaluable data about our evolving design industry. The survey was open to all, and data was collected for a 19 day period between December 1–19, 2016.

That data is now publicly available on GitHub, with an online gallery for people to submit their findings.

But before drawing any conclusions from the results, it is vital for both creators and consumers to gain a contextual understanding of who makes up the data-set. Without this, we fall victim to biases that could exist within the information — leading to potential inaccuracies in the interpretations we make and the facts we share.

This analysis aims to present a breakdown of all US census participants by location, and identify which regions and states of the country are most and least represented by the data.

Participation Totals

Total Participants: 9597
Total US Participants: 7719
Total US Participants-Cleaned: 7697 (Note: A)

Figure 1. Number of AIGA Design Census Participants, US Regions, 2016

From this high-level, regional view, we can observe the following:

  • Three regions each collected 1000+ participants
    (Northeast-Middle Atlantic, West-Pacific, South-South Atlantic)
    The census data is statistically likely to be more accurate for designers from these regions.
  • Three regions each collected fewer than 500 participants
    (West-Mountain, Northeast-New England, South-East South Central)
    The census data is statistically likely to be less accurate for designers from these regions.

Figure 2. Number of AIGA Design Census Participants, US States, 2016

Breaking the data down into individual states reveals important details not obvious in the regional view:

  • Three states represent 37.5% of the entire census
    (New York, California, Texas)
    The census data has a significant bias weighted towards these states — especially New York and California, who both have 1000+ participants.
  • 28 states each collected fewer than 100 participants
    (IN, CT, WI, KY, KS, SC, AR, LA, OK, AL, IA, NM, NE, RI, NV, VT, MS, AK, ME, SD, HI, NH, WV, ID, ND, DE, MT, WY)
    The census data is likely to be considerably less accurate for designers from these regions.


  1. Residents of New York and California have the strongest likelihood of finding relevance in the conclusions coming out of 2016's Design Census. Residents from other states and regions should be wary of universal statements they read in AIGA’s gallery of visualizations. These statements are not wrong per se, but they carry a substantial bias.
  2. In the grand scheme of nationwide census participation, 7697 is small. As a comparison point, AIGA’s US membership totals 24,942 (Note: C). However, it is of critical importance to stress that the low sample size of this data shouldn’t be viewed with a defeatist attitude. Even with a sample size of 100,000 it would be difficult to make definitive conclusions from this information until there's 3 — 5 years of data to draw accurate trends from.
  3. The most important conclusion to make from this analysis is that the Design Census offers immense potential. All designers should be encouraged that this is a platform worth promoting, supporting, and participating in.
  4. The best thing to do with year-one data is to dig into it, and start finding the questions you want answers to. Upcoming editions of this series will begin to present some of those questions.


A. Credit and thanks to Sosolimited, who cleaned the US data.

B. Regional breakdown based on the same used by the US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration US Census Bureau:

C. Number confirmed by AIGA National, as of 3/1/2017.

Archie Bagnall is a British Designer and Brand Consultant based in Southern California, and is the current President of AIGA Orange County. Data is his jam.

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