Report: The State of the Graphics World
November 9, 2011

Report: The State of the Graphics World

If you’ve ever been to the movies, watched TV, played a computer game, or read an advertisement, you’ve experienced the power and benefit of computer graphics.

Computer graphics is as old as computers, and is popularly thought of as having started with Ivan Southerland, but the technology actually dates back to World War II and artillery projections. The industry began to formularize as a special interest group within the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and in 1969, SIGGRAPH was set up. By 1974, SIGGRAPH was holding conferences with exhibitors. Now, every year, there is a massive conference in the US (that moves from city to city), and one in Europe, known as Eurograph. In 2008, SIGGRAPH expanded to Asia, and the first SIGGRAPH Asia conference was held in Singapore. For 2011, SIGGRAPH Asia will be held in Hong Kong December 12 to 15.

This year, the overall CG market will exceed $67 billion dollars, and is expected to hit $100 billion in 2014. The industry has enjoyed a 7 percent growth for past five years through recessions, and bubbles.

The computer graphics hardware market was worth $53 billion in 2010 and should exceed $67 billion in 2011. The market for CG software was worth $13 billion in 2010 (not counting services, maintenance, and other aspects). Moreover, CG software is expected to grow to $14.8 billion in 2011, as the industry shakes off the remaining effects of the recession and customers start replacing software tools.

Figure 1: Computer Graphics Hardware Market

As a result of the pullback due to the recession, more people will be buying computer graphics software programs, and we will see the development of traditional segments, like CAD/CAM, expand as new design approaches in automotive, aerospace, and architecture are brought forth. Visualization, a market that has been almost dormant for the past few years, is poised now for great expansion due to exciting and lower-cost technologies. 

Figure 2: Computer Graphics Software Market

There is considerable opportunity for computer graphics software on several fronts. The tools used for making movies are the highest profile market, but it represents a very modest proportion of the total market. Design tools, game development, manufacturing, and scientific visualization are much larger markets, and there is a great deal of opportunity as these markets adapt to changes in mobile devices and take advantage of the vast compute power in the cloud. There has been a bubbling up of interest in computer graphics tools for mainstream and hobbyist users as well. It is still a tiny proportion of the overall market, but this, too, is an area where intriguing product development and growth is happening. 

Over the course of the next five years, we will see the effects and tools used in filmmaking extend to much larger markets for small production houses, independent filmmakers, and even enthusiast/hobbyists. Game development will shift to accommodate new game platforms, including mobile devices. And, most exciting, we expect to see a resurgence for imaging, vector graphics, and desktop publishing, as new distribution models enable new business models for the publishing industry. 

The demand for programmers, artists, scientists, and designers has picked up again, and firms are actively looking for people who can use and exploit these new programs and their associated hardware accelerators. The economic recession has caused a slowdown, but it’s going to look like a small bump in the road by 2014. 


CG in Asia is like most other things in Asia: growing rapidly, energetic, and boundless with optimism and a can-do attitude. Asian consumers, due to heritage and custom, have been users and consumers of CG—from the beautiful calligraphic characters of their rich logograms to the design of their clothes, buildings, and theater. 


Part of SIGGRAPH is the SIGGRAPH Pioneers—people who have worked in the CG industry for over 20 years. Long celebrated in the US, the SIGGRAPH Pioneers will be part of SIGGRAPH Asia. 

CG scientists and artists in Asia have been doing amazing work for more than 30 years. But language differences and the great distances between Asia and Europe or North America have limited the exchange of information and community. The Pioneer’s meetings are one place where those obstacles get bridged. 

Therefore, we are making a special plea and invitation to all Asian computer graphics practitioners, from arts to designers, to programmers and hardware developers. Anyone based in Asia who is involved in the generation, manipulation, or use of a pixel should come to Hong Kong in December and experience SIGGRAPH. And, in particular, anyone who is qualified to be a Pioneer should get in touch with me, Jon Peddie, as soon as possible ( 

The future of CG beckons, thanks to the efforts of those who have paved the way.