Design salaries are staying steady, new survey shows

The annual AIGA/Aquent Survey of Design Salaries shows that compensation in the design field has stayed static over the last several years. Yet there's small growth in surprising areas, such as print design and design-related writing.

The good news about salaries in the design field? On the most part, they have held steady over the last decade. The bad news? The same statement applies: salaries have held steady, generally without much growth. These conclusions can be drawn by looking at the annual design salaries survey published on August 9 by AIGA, the non-profit organization and professional association for designers, in conjunction with Aquent, a staffing company.

This year's survey, tallied from the responses of more than 7,000 design professionals, features a new interactive chart that makes navigating the data easy to use and easy on the eyes -- an appropriate touch for a document produced by a design organization.

According to the AIGA/Aquent survey data, only one design field has seen a decline in median salaries. Web programmers and developers working on the back end of programs saw their median annual compensation dip 0.4% between 2000 and 2010, to $65,000 from $67,500 (note that data was unavailable for the year 2006 in this field only). The highest bump? Writers and copywriters, who saw a 3.3% increase in annual rates over the last 10 years, to $62,000 from $44,800.

The median cash compensation for owners, partners, or principals in design firms is currently $110,000, the highest salary listed in the survey, followed by Creative or Design Directors at $100,000. The lowest? Junior designers of primarily print materials, at $38,000. Nevertheless, this field saw, perhaps surprisingly, a 2.1% increase in median compensation over the last decade, the third-highest rise in percentage.

One reason for the lack of overall salary growth could be the fact that design firms are using more freelancers during economic downturns, a move that keeps staff salaries static, according to AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé's analysis of the data.

Photo: Svilen.milev/Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on