Graphic designers earn £3,000 less than average UK salary, research reveals

Research from the Office for National Statistics has shown that full-time graphic designers earn on average £25,900 annually, which is less than musicians, journalists and architects.

Courtesy of Gourmet Photography

Full-time graphic designers get paid almost £3,000 less than the average UK salary, research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.

Originally taken from the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) published in October 2017, the BBC used the data to create a salary tracker which looks at how wages vary across different professions.

It also looks at how salaries have changed over the last six years in line with inflation in the UK – the rate of increase in prices for goods and services.

The tracker includes data from full-time workers across 332 different occupations. It does not take into account the salaries of self-employed people or freelancers.

Design worse paid than advertising, journalism and architecture

It shows that the average annual salary for a UK graphic designer is £25,900, compared to the average UK salary of £28,800.

Contrastingly, product, fashion and web designers tend to earn above the national average. Product and fashion average at £29,700, while web sits at £30,300. The average salary across all three sectors is £28,600.

Compared to other jobs in the creative industries, designers earn less on average than musicians, journalists, advertising creative directors and architects, but more than artists, furniture makers and craftspeople, weavers and knitters.

In comparison to other professions, designers earn less than skilled workers such as electricians, plumbers and train drivers, medical and legal professionals, and university tutors. They earn more than teachers, non-governmental organisation (NGO) officers, builders and counsellors.

Biggest gender pay gap in product and fashion design

Despite earning the most, web designers have suffered the most from the rising prices of goods and services. Average annual salaries have dropped by 3% between 2011 and 2017, but in line with inflation they have actually fallen by 13%, equating to £4,400 per person.

The BBC tracker also looks at the gender pay gap in different jobs. The biggest gap for designers is in product and fashion design, where women are expected to get paid 18% less per hour than their male counterparts. This is also the discipline with the highest proportion of women, who make up half of all full-time employees.

In graphics, women get paid 7% less and in web design, 3% less. A third of graphic designers are women, while a quarter of web designers and developers are female.

See the ONS’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) in full here.

Hide Comments (9)Show Comments (9)
  • Neil Littman November 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Would be interested to know how those survey numbers were worked out. I was earning nearly 50% more than those figures 10 years ago before I went freelance as a designer in corporate and branding agencies. One of my friends told me that when he left London he had to accept a 25% cut in pay due to what he called the ‘outsde the M25 effect’ . So my question is how much do salaries vary by area and age and experience? An average figure doesn’t really indicate a lot and I don’t know any designers earning that figure. Most are significantly better paid.

  • Julie Hudson November 27, 2017 at 9:45 am

    How the hell did that happen? When I trained as a Graphic Designer back in the 80s, there were only around 30 people that started the course and a lot less that actually went on to graduate. The course was tough and uncompromising and upon graduation I was proud of my achievements. People were interested in what I did for a living as the industry was out of the ordinary, skilled and cutting-edge. Who’s to blame? The explosion of ‘education for all’? The general feeling that anyone can do it? The downward pressures from clients on budgets? The advances in technology itself? All I know is that this news makes me feel incredibly sad.

    • Gazwan December 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      exactly…. “The general feeling that anyone can do it” and “The advances in technology itself”. ..especially because of the millions free online stuff plus the online freelancing platforms which you can get a lot of competitor price for any kind of graphic project the clients want..that’s effect negatively even on the agencies business…subsequently the salaries.

  • Neil Littman November 28, 2017 at 7:50 am

    HI, I re read the article again after discussing it with other designers and we don’t think there is enough context to give a true picture of what is happening. In London for example junior designers at entry level are earning over £29k PA. One of my friends said about 100,000 people in this country are classified as ‘designers’. Can you shed some light on these figures and what they actually represent in terms of sector and geography etc. It’s all a bit meaningless and I think More or Less on R4 would have a field day with the data if they got hold of it!

    • Sarah Dawood November 28, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Hi Neil,

      The data is already readily available for anybody to view online, and was taken from an ONS survey which has been analysed by the BBC using a salary tracker. This compares the average UK salaries of various professions between 2011 and 2017. You can see the BBC salary tracker here.

      The figure of £25,900 is indeed the average salary for a graphic designer nationwide in 2017, as per what the ONS defines as a graphic designer. This is based on the ONS’s standard occupational classifications, which can be seen in more detail here, and which separate the role out from “product or clothing designer” and “web design and development professional”.

      The tracker does not specify the breakdown of average salaries across different regions or cities in the UK. Our article makes it clear this is a national average for the profession, not specific to any one region. We’ve now reinforced this in the standfirst.

      Design Week team

  • Jake December 4, 2017 at 9:41 am

    I feel like the ‘age of the graphic designer’ has passed – we now have to be painters, illustrators, filmmaker, animators, web designs, UX designers, keyword analysts not to mention the other career of making rare breed sausages or gin distillers! – p.s. if you need any of this please get in touch.

    • Ali May 9, 2018 at 10:03 am

      3D fields are also good options these days.

  • Patrick January 2, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    I can honestly say I have worked in design for almost 7 years since Graduating university, and am currently in my highest paid role so far, and still I am not making that ‘average figure’ (though I am close). I think it has a lot to do with location (I am in Sheffield) and also how undervalued being a ‘graphic designer’ is these days. Other specialisms are more valued and you have to find your niche, while also being able to ply your hand to other disciplines as Jake mentions. It’s tough out there.

  • Ali May 9, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Just landed over a £224 job which I am trying to negotiate towards £260.

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