How much designers earn and other data from the AIGA Design Census 2019

23 September 2019

AIGA and Google: Design Census 2019

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Google have published the results of its annual Design Census, which surveys the design industry on subjects such as salary, side work, skills and job stability. This year, 9,429 participants took part in the survey which covers the US only and all members of the design industry from students to educators, freelancers and business owners.

The survey is split into five sections, covering topics such as “Who’s designing in 2019?” – looking at age, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQIA+, location, education and experience – as well as “How are designers working today?” – looking into skills, industries, employment type, hours, and side work – and the big one, “How much are designers making?” There’s also looser, more opinion-based topics such as “How satisfied are designers?” and “What do designers think about the future of the industry”.

In the salary section, the data revealed that most designers make between $50,000 – $75,000 a year, regardless of gender. Global creative directors are paid the most, with an average salary of $146,777, while junior designers make the least, with an average salary of $44,837. Perhaps unsurprisingly, designers living in rural parts of the US make less than those in major cities and known creative hubs. Designers in California make around $94,858, while designers in Ohio, for example, make $56,613. Around 2% of those surveyed make over $200,000. One positive takeaway is that experience appears to pay off: designers who’ve been working up to four years are making an average of $72,504, while designers with five to nine years of experience jump to an average of $90,205.

In the section charting “who’s designing”, 32% of respondents said they hold a bachelor’s degree, by far the most common educational background, while 17% learned online, and just 6% have a master’s. The average age was 35, and 61% of respondents were female as opposed to 36% male, prompting AIGA to report that “more women than ever are in the design workforce”. The numbers of women and men designers are most equal in the self-employed/small business owner category.

Most non-binary and gender fluid designers work full-time in-house or at an agency or consultancy, the report states, while the number of designers who identify as LGBTQIA+ has increased 5% since 2017, representing 15% of this year’s census. Meanwhile in a racial split, 71% of the respondents are caucasian, 35% Asian, 8% Hispanic, 5% multi-racial and 3% black/ African American.

In terms of employment type, 42% of those surveyed said they work full-time in-house, 27% are full-time through an agency or consultancy, and 9% are freelance, with another 9% self-employed. Interestingly, the data showed a four-year drop-off point for those working full-time, as the report says many designers tended to “stagnate”. Meanwhile most self-employed/small business owners stated much higher job longevity, having been in their roles for 11+ years.

Read the full report “here”:

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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