Money is not a dirty word. There, we said it. And now we’re going to talk about it because, all too often, we’ve been struck by conversations with designers who have no idea or reference to how much they should be earning or whether their wage is comparable to their peers.
Former AGDA Victoria President and Design Business Council Founder Greg Branson has written a book called The Business of Design, where he provides a wealth of professional development and business management tips for designers. We’ve borrowed a few important statistics regarding salary, laid them out for you in easy-to-digest-in-your-afternoon-procrastination-break blocks and added some sexy graphs. Yeah, we know what you’re about.
Let’s crunch some numbers.
The statistics we’ve included are taken from The Business of Design and show the range of what design professionals earn across different states. Each job title wasn’t strictly defined in the study so, to help give you a rough idea, we’ve dipped into the Sex, Definitions & Helvetica Handbook and come up with some loose interpretations of our own. You’re welcome.
A junior designer left college or university less than a couple of years ago. They’re graduates, newbies, baby designers (designlings?)… usually those with two years or less design experience.
Senior designers have a fair few years’ experience under their belt and are responsible for design solutions from concept to completion. Sometimes they direct the work of juniors. They are your Master Splinters, Mr Miyagis and Yodas of design.
These are your project and account managers. They are wonderful. They take care of the non-design stuff. They manage timelines, books, clients, quotes, budgets, deadlines and the vast number of hugely important other things that need doing on a project. They have the ability to hold four phone conversations at once while typing 87 email replies. People people.
An owner either entirely or partly owns the company or studio. They’re usually the ones who decide who to hire and fire for the benefit of the company… so, you know, be nice to them.
If the ranges didn’t give you enough to go by, here is your mother-graph. This is a comparison of the median salary for each job title. The median is the ‘middle number’ in a sorted list of numbers. Medians are great because, unlike averages, they’re not nearly as affected by outliers. Like that designer who earns $5k a year working from his mum’s basement and living off Easy Mac. Or that millionaire guy we all know who has a solid gold MacBook. Maths is fun!
They say numbers speak louder than pixels*, and in this case it’s no different. We know these stats don’t tell the whole story – they certainly don’t say what you should be worth – but they do tell it like it currently is. And, hopefully, they give you some indication of your financial worth in the current design industry.
*They don’t. We made that up. It doesn’t even make sense.
Image by Magdalena Ksiezak