From July 2008 to July 2010, over 1,500 designers shared details of their salaries with HOW. According to HOW Magazine’s 2010 design salary survey, the average national salary for designers dropped slightly (-1.5%) from 2008 figures to $49,753. If you’re a designer, does this decrease mean that you should worry about the demand for your services? The good news is that it’s not all that bad.
“Graphic designers and production artists are in huge demand right now,” says Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. For Donna, all signs are pointing to an approaching growth and hiring phase. According to a recent hiring index by The Creative Group, 6% of marketing and advertising managers planned to expand their staff in the third quarter of 2010. Up more than 5% since the second quarter, this is a good indication that growth and hiring may be in an upswing. The survey’s “Specialty Areas in Demand” include print design/production, web design/production and creative/art direction.
$2,200 average salary increase
Additionally , designers who were fortunate enough to see a salary increase saw an average of about $2,200. Creative directors showed a modest increase in pay (+3.9%), bringing their average annual salary to about $70,600. The increase likely due to both their experience and an ability to concept on-demand. Web designers also showed an increase in salary growth (+3.4%), bringing the average annual salary of this group to about $51,300. As a need for knowledgeable, creative web designers continues to be a demand, this figure should only continue to increase.
Male Designers still make about $1,600 more than their female counterparts annually.
And now for some bad news. The 2010 survey indicates a continuing disparity between the incomes of female designers and their male counterparts. According to the 2008 survey, female designers on average made nearly $5,400 less than their male peers. While this figure shows improvement in the 2010 survey, male designers still make about $1,600 more than their female counterparts annually. Cash bonuses for designers are also down an approximately $200 in 2010, but only 46% of participants reported receiving bonuses this year.
The average salary of designers living in southern states is down 8.5% while designers working in NYC made 18% more on average than in 2008 .
Geography seems to be a large factor in determining a designer’s salary as both the demand for services and the cost of living play influential roles. While the salaries of designers working in the North Central and Southern areas of the country make anywhere between $45,000 to $49,000, their counterparts working in larger cities on the east and west coast make significantly more. The average salary of designers working in New York City is up over 18% since last year ($63,056). Furthermore, while designers working in San Francisco may have seen a 6% drop in compensation this year, the average salary of $55,772 remains amongst the highest in the nation behind New York City ($63,056). Designers living in southern states appear to have suffered the most this past year, with salaries down 8.5%, bringing their average annual salary to approximately $45,500.
Freelancers’ average annual salaries are down 9% since 2008.
How much designers are paid is also influenced largely by what type of organization they work for. For the purpose of the survey, HOW grouped designers into four groups indicated by workplace: In-house, Design Firm, Ad Agency and Freelancer. The average salary of these four groups comes in at $48,988. Who’s making the most, you ask? Creatives working at Design Firms are currently averaging a salary of just over $51,000 (+3.2%). Unfortunately, it’s just the reverse for Freelancers, whose average annual salaries are down 9% since 2008. Representing the lowest average annual salary in the group ($47,394), it’s likely that freelancers’ have suffered more from the recession than these other groups due to clients’ shrinking budgets and difficulties finding new ones.
Entry-level designers suffered a 3.9% drop in pay.
As in other fields, it goes without saying that experience has shown to be the largest factor in determining how much a designer can presume to make in his/her field. HOW divided survey participants into seven groups, determined by their title: Principal, Partners or Owners, Creative Directors, Art Directors, Senior Designers, Designers, Entry-level Designers/Production Artists and Web Designers. The survey shows that while Entry-level Designers make understandably less than more experienced, senior level designers, they also suffered a drop in pay this year (-3.9%), making on average just over $30,000. Principals, Partners and Owners suffered from the largest percentage drop in 2010 (nearly 12%), bringing the average annual salary of these individuals to just over $55,400.
It’s important to note that a majority of the survey respondents (35.9%) come from the Midwest/North Central region of the United States. Participants from larger cities included in the survey (San Francisco and New York City) comprise only 7.2% of the overall figures. HOW states that while the survey numbers were down in comparison to 2008’s survey, there’s a possibility that this survey may actually show a modest improvement over the last half of 2008 and the first half of 2009, signaling signs of what will hopefully be a lasting economic recovery.