Digital designers should keep their feet on the ground

What more evidence could you want for a boom in digital design than a hike in salaries and freelance fees? With freelance digital designers able to command £400-£600 a day and some £50 000 a year in income, it is clear that consultancy bosses are taking the upturn in client demand for digital communications seriously (see feature, page 18).

The outlook is great for digital designers, but a boost in their personal income could be bad news for the industry generally. High freelance rates inevitably inflate full-time salaries and, if freelances are snubbing pay of £35 000 a year for full-time posts, then offers could be forced up.

Since the downturn in 2001, accountant Amanda Merron of Willott Kingston Smith has been cautioning consultancies across the board to watch staff costs as fortunes improve in some areas of design, as they eat directly into profits. That advice has been heeded to an extent, according to Merron’s recent observations, but it would be a pity if all that good work came unstuck in the rush to get digital design on board.

Digital designers, meanwhile, need to consider the challenge from abroad highlighted by recruitment agents. Countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa came into the branding business later than Europe and the US, and, for them, digital design is a natural entry point for communications. There are some fine talents there and wages tend not to be as big a consideration as they are here.

Meanwhile, the notion of a virtual consultancy has been tried and sometimes works. Take Ergo-Id, the branding design group led by Stuart Mackay, in London, with a Swedish creative director and input on projects such as Coca-Cola’s Burn energy drink brand coming from specialist groups and individuals from across the globe.

So it’s not as simple as it might otherwise be. Digital design may be making great strides and attracting some of the brighter talents out there, but UK designers seeking digital jobs need to be realistic about pay and not push for higher prices.

LYNDA RELPH-KNIGHT, EDITOR

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