Demand for Designers Climbs Yet Salaries Remain Stagnant, AIGA Survey Finds

You may need to look no further than your paycheck and your inbox to corroborate some of the findings of the 2012 AIGA/Aquent Survey of Design Salaries, released this week: design salaries have remained relatively flat for several years, even as many design firms report that they are busier than ever. “There are indications that firms are busy because they have not replaced workers who had been released during the start of the recession,” according to AIGA executive director Richard Grefé, who has observed a move toward outsourcing by in-house design departments. “The result has been an increase in the use of freelance and contract employees, whose availability has held compensation increases in check. In addition, approximately 12,000 students of communication design graduate from four-year programs each year—more than can be absorbed into the current workforce.”

The good news? Design is increasingly in demand, and compensation is on the rise for some positions, particularly those involved with integrating design into business strategy&#8212strategists and operations management&#8212as well as roles which deal with usability, web, and interactive design. Below are some more thought-provoking highlights from the survey results. Dig into the data yourself at AIGA’s newly launched design salaries site.

• 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