How Much Does a Decent Designer Make? (UPDATED)


Coroflot, a job-listing site for designers, has published the results of its 2008 salary survey. It confirms, once again, that design is pretty good work if you can get it. Top flight graphic designers, interaction designers, and industrial designers can all earn well-over $500,000 a year, with your average experienced designer easily clearing $75,000. But design in general is a tough field to break into, with entry salaries as low as $15,000 (though average entry-level jobs pay twice that). 

A couple of other trends emerged. Salaries for almost all design disciplines have kept pace with inflation, but the one discipline that has outpaced inflation is interaction design—buoyed by the proliferation of mobile devices. Design management has also posted salary gains, which Coroflot chalks up to a recent management vogue towards "design thinking." Check out the full results on Coroflot, which also has a searchable database that allows you to compare your salary to that of your regional peers.

UPDATE:DesignIntelligence just released its own salary survey (which unlike Coroflot's results, are not free). It's not nearly as comprehensive for the design professions—it focuses on architects, structural engineers, and senior executives—and it puts a rosier spin on Coroflot's findings. For instance, they found that entry-level salaries had risen for architects from $39,333 to $41,102 between 2008 and 2009, while interior designers with 20 years of experience made $97,800 and architects with 20 years experience made $100,732. Sample sets are of course key, and I'm not sure how those sample sets were gathered—the average numbers seem high to me, given that interior designers are infamously low paid relative to other design professionals; it's also hard to believe that, with the well-documented glut of architecture grads and the once-in-a-generation building slowdown, entry level salaries actually rose. But as James Suroweicki has pointed out, it is possible for average salaries to rise while job availability falls. 

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