2012 Salary Survey Indicates Areas of Growth

Annual AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries reveals trends in the industry

NEW YORK—September 25, 2012. The results of the 2012 AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salariesmay come as no surprise to working communication designers: salaries have seen little movement. Yet there are areas of the design industry experiencing growth, and lessons to be learned from the data.

Design salaries overall have remained relatively flat for several years. The good news is that design is increasingly in demand, both as a result of greater awareness of design’s value in advancing business strategy, and as companies seek competitive market advantage in anticipation of an improving national economy. Salaries do not seem to reflect the pressures of increasing demand as a result of several factors: a large number of underemployed designers, the constantly changing nature of technology and expected design competencies, and the impact of an estimated 12,000 emerging designers graduating each year from four-year design programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

The positions that reflect increasing compensation appear to be those involved with integrating design into business strategy—strategists and operations management—as well as roles that deal with usability, web and interactive design. Other patterns are also evident:

  • Those with 10 to 19 years of experience earn the greatest compensation, though younger designers’ (0–10 years of experience) technology skills may put them on par with older designers (20–30 years of experience) in terms of earnings
  • There does not seem to be a noticeable premium paid for the highest levels of education: a 4 percent median salary difference was reported between MFA and BFA graduates
  • Sixty-six percent of freelance respondents work with a staffing agency, and one in four of those working with an agency receive benefits
  • Women are still not earning as much as their male counterparts, despite the fact that 54 percent of design professionals are female and more than half of AIGA’s members are female

AIGA cautions against using the survey results prescriptively. “The survey reveals what is actually paid in the marketplace, not a recommendation on pay scales,” notes AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé. “As a matter of principle, AIGA takes the position that design is never valued highly enough. Yet the difficult truth is that design compensation has not increased—nor even kept up with inflation—for several years. AIGA’s highest priority is to increase understanding of the value of design.”

AIGA is creating resources to address these issues by helping designers develop skills—by establishingprofessional development opportunities and providing resources for everything from career questions to management advice—and offering strategy experience through chapter projects and programs such asDesign for Good.

For more insights into the survey results and the communication design industry, visitdesignsalaries.aiga.org.

About Aquent

Aquent is the only global staffing company dedicated to creative, marketing and digital roles exclusively for Fortune 1000 companies. The world’s most renowned global brands come to Aquent for high-caliber freelance talent. Its new division, Vitamin T, provides small, mid-sized and ad agency clients with faster, easier access to in-demand interactive talent. Aquent and Vitamin T have built an impressive global network of marketing and creative services professionals, including print and interactive designers, UX designers and developers, copywriters, brand managers, market researchers and more.

Published October 4, 2012
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