The Future of In-House Design Departments


This summer, The Creative Group partnered with Graphic Design USA and polled hundreds of GDUSA’s American In-House Design Awards winners, gathering perspectives on what lies on the horizon for this group of creatives. Respondents to The Creative Group Survey of 230 Graphic Design USA American In-house Design Awards Winners provides valuable insight on a wide range of topics, including the implementation and influence of technology in the workplace, collaboration and also how in-house designers are influencing organizations’ business decisions and directions. Here are some findings from the survey:

In-house Design Teams are going high-tech

Presently, while not every office and its employees may be equipped with state-of-the-art tablets, smart phones and videoconferencing systems, as these technological tools are shown to boost productivity, businesses will undoubtedly adopt them once they become more affordable. Considering the flexibility this newer technology affords employees, it’s not a far-flung notion to believe that very soon, creative departments will have the choice to work and communicate from any location they choose with a myriad of devices at their disposal. In fact, 72 percent of respondents said that they expect the number of in-house designers working remotely will increase over the next three to five years.

According to the survey’s findings, in-house designers expect to use social & professional networking sites, mobile/smart phones, videoconferencing software (Skype, Facetime), tablet computers and laptops all on a more frequent basis in the next three to five years. 90 percent of in-house creatives surveyed said that they expect their use sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to increase. 86 percent of these creatives also expect their use of tablet computers to increase as well. While 87 percent of respondents expect their use of a mobile phone/smart phone to increase, nearly 60 percent of respondents expect a decrease in their use of a land line. 90 percent of respondents expect to see an increase in their use of videoconferencing as well.

In-house design departments should be aware that the freedom to work and communicate remotely won’t come without drawbacks. Despite the rise in these new technologies, nearly 80 percent of in-house designers surveyed said they expect these changes will make their jobs more challenging. Counteracting the drawbacks of being perpetually connected to the office may be increasingly difficult for in-house designers. Over 80 percent of those surveyed said they expect to be increasingly connected to the office outside of business hours over the next three to five years.

In-house Designers are expanding mobile and social media skill sets

As technology evolves, in-house designers are continually called on to expand their skill sets. Presently, in-house designers must provide for an integrated experience of print and digital media. At larger firms in particular, executing projects across multiple platforms (print, online and mobile) will increasingly become a priority. Furthermore, as social media is continues to evolve as a primary means of communication, in-house designers will be expected to design for these platforms. According to the survey, nearly 50 percent of in-house designers said they expect to be responsible for many more social media-related tasks over the next three to five years. Managing corporate image/branding on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, designing page backgrounds and avatars are just a few instances where in-house designers will be called on to lend support. Additionally, as businesses pursue additional social media outlets, in-house teams will be expected to demonstrate an ability to quickly establish an understanding of and presence in these new areas.

In-house Designers are becoming more influential

As business become more aware of the role creative thinking plays in business decisions, in-house design departments will become more influential as well. Company leaders are beginning to recognize that their in-house creative teams can dramatically help with business problems – and the two are collaborating more.

“We’re looked at as a respected group who can strategize, conceptualize and design, (Robin Colangelo, director of brand and design, White & Case LLP)

According to the survey, nearly 60 percent of survey respondents expect in-house designers to have more influence on company business decisions in the next three to five years. As these departments become more influential, they are also expected to grow. 56 percent of survey respondents said they expect in-house design teams (including both full-time employees and freelancers) to increase in size over the next three to five years.

In-house design departments will be expected to collaborate with more people – both internally and externally – than ever before. 70 percent of survey respondents said they expect to collaborate more with IT Departments and 76 percent expect to collaborate more with their company’s Public Relations/Corporate Communications Departments. Collaboration with Business Operations and Training/Staff Development departments is also expected to increase in the next three to five years.

In summary, The Creative Group’s Survey of 230 Graphic Design USA American In-house Design Awards Winners shows us that the influence, role and expectations for in-house design departments are all expected to rapidly increase in the next three to five years. In addition, as technology continues to change the face of communication, marketing and advertising, in-house design departments will be expected to stay ahead of the curve while also lending valuable insight and problem-solving skills to the decision-making process.

Download the complete report here.

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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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