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A key stat from the GraphicDesign& survey

Work / Opinion

Bored, overworked but ethical – how do graphic designers see themselves?

A couple of months ago there was a lot of interest in this survey in which clients described the four worst types of creative agencies as they saw it. Now we have a chance to hear from the practitioners themselves, by way of Graphicdesign&’s in-depth industry study. Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright have partnered with social scientist Nikandre Kopcke to create a questionnaire which explores “practice, perceptions and prejudices alongside the usual questions about age, education, work and pay.”

Hundreds of designers have already taken part – from interns to creative directors – and the survey will be open until Sunday, but Rebecca and Lucienne have released a few interesting stats they’ve gleaned from the process so far.

So we have learned that:

80% of respondents say they work more hours than they are paid
75% say it’s rare they are ethically compromised by their work
65% admit they get bored by their work
66% aren’t designing what they thought they would be when they first started
64% say they adhere to a set of principles in their design work, but 55% don’t think clients understand what this means

Of course the survey has a few more days to run and these numbers will change in the final reckoning but there’s a few interesting questions thrown up already:

1. How sustainable is it that four out of five designers work more hours than they are paid for? How well are employers embracing flexible working and technological improvements to improve designers’ work-life balance? Does the industry risk losing talented designers because of this culture of overworking?

2. Should we focus on the fact that three quarters of designers don’t feel ethically compromised, or be shocked that one quarter admit they are? Is this balance actually quite impressive for an industry that works with all manner of creative clients, or should we be concerned that one in four respondents are very much graphic designers who are losing their soul?

3. How does this ethical question relate to the fact that almost half of those surveyed don’t think their clients really understand their design principles? Surely this misunderstanding provides fertile ground for potential ethical compromises? Or are designers too precious and idealistic in a commercial landscape that can’t afford to indulge them?

4. Why do nearly two thirds say they are bored by their work? Did they expect more lion taming in their graphic design career? Or is the reality that a majority of design work is pretty formulaic, and clients aren’t paying for them to push their creative boundaries?

I raise these really as points of interest rather than to provide answers. Maybe once the full survey results are published, it’s time for an honest and open discussion about where the graphic design industry is, and where it wants to be.

You can take part in the survey here, and it closes on Sunday 26 April.