HOW Magazine’s 2010 Design Survey: Salaries are Down, but it’s not All Bad

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.

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Branding for Blunts: How would Ad Agencies Brand Marijuana?

Proposition 19, the recent initiative to legalize marijuana for the masses in California may have failed, but that’s not stopping ad agencies, firms and potential future growers of the “cash crop” from thinking about how to brand pot should it ever make its way onto convenience store shelves.

Just what might a carton of joints look like? How magazine advertisements try to persuade you to buy one brand of pot over another? Newsweek recently asked two of New York’s most well-established ad agencies, Pentagram and Mother, to show their take on what pot branding might look like in the future. Package designs, billboards, print ads, even images of an iPad weed recipe app are all available for your viewing pleasure in a slide show on Newsweek’s site, presenting us with some interesting –and humorous – ideas on how pot products might be branded across various mediums.

Northern Lights, a pot brand developed by Pentagram, takes its name and design inspiration from the effects of a well-known, award-winning strain of marijuana. The brand’s mascot, Onehit the Wonder Moose and his smoky breath, representative of the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights) adorns packages billboards and magazine ads that focus on the lighter, more humorous side of marijuana use.

Mother shares a similar vein as Pentagram in its approach to pot branding, but with a very different look and feel to their designs. Mother’s Finest, is a pot brand composed of various blends similar to tobacco products by Marlboro or Camel, with each blend having its own unique appeal. With branding reminiscent of art and design of the 60s, psychedelic patterns and heavy serif fonts are used throughout environmental displays, packaging and signage. Color is also used as a signifier of the mood that each blend is best suited to.

“We imagined ‘Mother’s Finest’ to be the Marlboro of weed and established an occasion based marketing and packaging approach to give consumers the exact high they were looking for based on the activities of their particular day” (Mother New York).

A Sustainable Shoebox for PUMA

Clever Little Bag

As sustainable packaging practices are becoming ever more popular, many businesses continue to question whether or not such practices are worth the associated price tag. While it may have cost more to go with that special grade of PCW paper a few years ago, there simply is no reason not to incorporate sustainable materials into manufactured goods today. While big business continues to question the price tag associated with “going green”,  our landfills continue to grow at a fearful rate, aided in part by the enormous amount of excess packaging and material which is continually produced by these companies only to be thrown out later.

Boxes contribute to millions of tons of waste each year, and even with proposed second uses, they are eventually thrown out (Communication Arts).

Fortunately, PUMA is one of the industry giants that is trying to do their part to lighten the load we place on the environment. The shoemaker recently partnered with award-winning industrial design and branding firm fuseproject, which churned out what founder Yves Behar calls the “Clever Little Bag”. Intended to conform to PUMA’s long-term sustainability program, this revolutionary new packaging system is designed as a cleaner, greener solution to the tissue-filled shoebox of yesteryear.

Clever Little Bag 2

The result of 2,000 designs and 21 months of packaging research, this innovative packaging system uses 65 percent less cardboard than the standard shoebox, ships for less and eliminates the need for a shopping bag. Adorned with the PUMA logo, each recyclable bag serves a dual purpose as it protects the shoes in each package and can then be used as a tote post-purchase. Only a single, die-cut cardboard element is used in each package and requires minimal assembly.

PUMA claims implementation of this new packaging system will cut water, energy and fuel consumption through the manufacturing process by more than six percent a year, saving over eight tons of paper and one million liters of both water & fuel oil. In addition, the new system is projected to save an equivalent of 275 tons of plastic retail bags and will keep 10,000 tons of CO2 out of the air. PUMA plans to implement this new system in 2011.

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Second Life: The Environmental Design Tool of the 21st Century

A Second Life view of the Dow Chemical Company's customer hospitality and business center at the '09 NPE tradeshow created by The Scott & Miller Group.

Recently, the Dow Chemical Company worked with The Scott & Miller Group, a business to business marketing communications firm with an award-winning reputation and a 45 year history of work to help the company both plan and design a customer hospitality and business center at the ’09 International Plastics Exposition Tradeshow, held in Chicago last June.

To address the needs of their client, the Scott & Miller Group implemented Second Life, the internet’s largest online 3D virtual world, to help design the center. Working within the software, the agency built a virtual replica of the 36,000 square foot Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place, complete with furnishings, meeting rooms, workstations, kiosks, dining areas, a lounge and bar. They then invited Dow Chemical Company clients to login to Second Life and explore the customer center themselves using avatars (icons representing people) to evaluate the center’s layout and design on their own.

According to Greg Baldwin, communications manager of Dow Basic Plastics, the virtual 3D ballroom was an invaluable tool used for evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed layout and design of the customer center, which ended up drawing over 1,100 customers during the week the event took place.

“When you’re working in such a large space, it’s difficult to predict every nuance that will impact the look, feel and functionality of the room – color choices, deciding where graphics are needed and where they aren’t, or even arrangement of dining tables. I was able to login to the virtual customer center any time and feel confident about the final decision.”

Working within the Second Life universe to accomplish such tasks has its advantages. For starters, the ability to bring multiple parties and locations together in one identifiable virtual space not only saves time, money and resources, but the sustainability of a virtual space as a means of both presenting and communicating an idea is immeasurable. According to Tom Leinberger, owner and president of The Scott & Miller Group, this idea of implementing virtual worlds into event and program planning is growing increasingly in popularity.

“When you have access to a dynamic medium like Second Life which combines social and visual components and can help achieve resource and cost efficiencies, it’s reasonable to assume many more companies will be incorporating virtual world activities into their integrated marketing communications strategies.”