The Payoff

What are the trends and issues determining wage rates in the design industry? Clare Dowdy finds out what you can expect to earn, from the office junior to the boss. Research by Natalie Spencer

Following the hike in salaries recorded in last year’s survey, pay levels of most jobs have continued to rise this year, although a few areas have recorded a slight drop.

This perhaps reflects the inconsistent nature of the year’s workload. This year started amid predictions of a recession, and although this didn’t materialise, some clients initially viewed spending their design budgets with caution. And while many consultancies now claim to be very busy indeed, this has come after what some admit was a quiet summer. All this, and the different types of survey respondents, has contributed to the recorded level of salaries found in this year’s salary survey.

However, judging by our survey of recruitment agencies last week, design consultancy recruits across the board can now expect to pick up higher salaries than this time last year. It is driven by the same issue – a shortage of good people. According to Gabriele Skelton, who topped last week’s survey, creative people can expect to be paid at least 30 per cent more than last year.

Salaries in different disciplines are obviously affected by demand, and anecdotally we hear that roles in digital media are commanding ever higher rates. Pretty much every traditional design consultancy of whatever discipline is looking to build its digital media offer, and the purists are all looking to expand. Skelton estimates that a middleweight digital media creative is offered a minimum of 25 000 to 33 000. Interestingly, a similar position in a traditional consultancy which now offers digital media would command significantly less than a pure digital media consultancy, according to Major Players recruitment agency.

However, this is not reflected in the results of our survey, as every role in digital media records a lower salary than in last year’s survey. This is likely to be accounted for by the type of respondent to the survey, few of whom were drawn from pure digital media consultancies.

Nor is the recruitment agents’ optimism about salary hikes necessarily reflected in pay increases forecasted by our survey respondents. A significant minority expect to put up salaries only in line with inflation – some 3.5 per cent – in the next 12 months. Some others are more generous, planning to offer between 10 and 15 per cent pay rises. The average salary increase throughout the industry is 6.5 per cent.

Of course, these figures don’t take into account annual performance-related bonuses. Only 17 per cent of respondents do not have in place such a scheme, which has the potential to affect take-home pay considerably.

Product design is not represented well enough nationally in our survey responses to get an accurate picture. However, according to Skelton, product design salaries are on the up, though no more than the level of inflation. And there is a trend towards product designers being recruited into digital media to help develop 3D applications. In London, all except junior product designers have achieved a salary increase, with creative directors’ pay up the most.

As well as salary discrepancies between disciplines, there are again wide differences between salaries commanded in London compared with the rest of the country. To supplement the London and national tables, we have this year published separate tables for Scotland. Unsurprisingly, figures for designers and executives north of the border are considerably lower than for London. For example, a creative director of corporate identity in Scotland commands 40 000, while in London the same role could bring in 11 000 more. A Scottish new business director working in packaging and branding comes in at 39 000, compared with nearly 47 000 in London.

Meanwhile, in-house design teams, although not targeted in the survey, continue to be the poor relation to design consultancies. Although status and salaries are slowly rising in this area, in-house designers can expect to be paid around 15 per cent less than their consultancy peers, according to Skelton.

And expansion continues. Last October, UK consultancies increased the size of their design teams by some 27 per cent, with a projected increase in staff numbers for the following 12 months of just under 6 per cent. This year, consultancies forecast an average increase in staff levels of 5 per cent.

Freelance rates

After a substantial boost in freelance rates last year, the market seems to have settled down. Corporate identity and print graphics are two of the few disciplines where freelance rates have gone up – from 21.90 an hour last year to 24.27 for identity and from 22.65 to 23.23 for print.

Meanwhile, respondents recorded a slight fall in hourly rates for other disciplines: packaging branding at 24.23, exhibition design at 17.50, and interiors architecture at 17.08. Digital media freelancing commands 23.80 an hour.

What we did

Our findings are based on a questionnaire which was circulated to more than 400 consultancies across the UK, including design groups listed in our 1999 Top 100 and Creative surveys. This yielded a 25 per cent increase in responses on last year.

As with last year, the majority of respondents list graphics among the disciplines they cover – 64 per cent listed print graphics and 49 per cent packaging and branding. More than half – 58 per cent – cite corporate identity as a specialism.

Interiors and architecture were listed by 31 per cent of respondents, while 29 per cent said they work on exhibition design.

This year, digital media accounts for 29 per cent. Product design was listed by 11 per cent of respondents.

<b>Suits – National</b>
<b>Managingdirector</b> <b>New businessdirector </b> <b>Projectmanager</b> <b>Accountexecutive </b> <b>Accounthandler</b> <b>Accountdirector</b> <b>Productionmanager</b> <b>Studiomanager</b>
Print graphics 55 000 37 500 26 500 22 750 23 500 32 750 26 500 22 000
Packaging and branding 52 500 36 667 23 333 21 167 23 500 31 167 21 500 21 000
Exhibition 58 750 39 375 28 000 20 375 21 250 27 000 25 188 25 750
Corporate identity 65 000 37 500 24 000 22 750 23 250 32 750 20 750 20 000
Interiors/architecture * 40 000 23 000 30 500 21 500 30 500 21 500 *
Product 30 000 30 000 20 000 * * * * *
Digital media 65 000 37 500 24 000 22 750 23 250 32 750 20 750 20 000
* not enough responses to gain an accurate figure

Suits – National

<b>Designers – National</b>
<b>Junior</b> <b>Middleweight</b> <b>Senior</b> <b>Creativedirector</b> <b>Artworker</b>
Print graphics 13 667 20 167 29 167 37 500 18 667
Packaging and branding 15 000 21 500 28 500 35 833 17 667
Exhibition 10 813 16 625 24 125 40 000 18 125
Corporate identity 14 500 20 250 28 750 36 250 18 000
Interiors/architecture 14 000 20 500 27 500 32 500 21 000
Product 12 000 18 000 22 000 30 000 15 000
Digital media 14 500 20 250 28 750 36 250 18 000

Designers – National

<b>Suits – London</b>
<b>Managingdirector</b> <b>New businessdirector </b> <b>Projectmanager </b> <b>Accountexecutive </b> <b>Accounthandler </b> <b>Accountdirector</b> <b>Productionmanager </b> <b>Studiomanager</b>
Print graphics 74 647 47 308 49 095 21 300 22 250 38 038 28 250 25 000
Packaging and branding 79 042 46 944 27 250 25 333 23 350 44 818 32 438 28 850
Exhibition 77 571 51 667 28 100 22 000 19 625 33 000 30 750 22 750
Corporate identity 75 786 49 545 25 786 24 813 22 700 45 417 31 786 27 091
Interiors/architecture 79 125 56 429 28 083 25 917 21 700 44 571 27 167 26 667
Product design * 65 000 42 500 * 25 000 49 250 50 000 35 000
Digital media 73 444 54 286 28 100 18 667 23 125 42 333 26 500 23 500
* not enough responses to gain an accurate figure

Suits – London

<b>Designers – London</b>
<b>Junior</b> <b>Middleweight</b> <b>Senior</b> <b>Creativedirector</b> <b>Artworker</b>
Print graphics 15 870 21 793 29 680 49 095 22 964
Packaging and branding 15 560 22 680 31 497 55 821 25 727
Exhibition 15 469 21 781 29 063 49 000 24 750
Corporate identity 15 903 22 313 30 892 51 278 24 542
Interiors/architecture 15 813 22 104 30 458 48 375 24 250
Product 15 250 23 000 33 500 60 000 24 500
Digital media 15 477 21 432 30 273 57 091 21 786

Designers – London

<b>Suits – Scotland</b>
<b>Managingdirector </b> <b>New businessdirector</b> <b>Projectmanager</b> <b>Accountexecutive</b> <b>Accounthandler</b> <b>Accountdirector</b> <b>Productionmanager</b> <b>Studiomanager</b>
Print graphics 58 750 39 375 25 188 20 375 21 250 27 000 25 188 25 750
Packaging and branding 58 333 39 167 27 333 20 375 21 250 27 000 23 583 24 333
Exhibition 58 750 39 375 28 000 20 375 21 250 27 000 25 188 25 750
Corporate identity 58 750 39 375 28 000 20 375 21 250 27 000 25 188 25 750
Interiors/architecture 60 000 40 000 30 000 * * * 30 000 30 000
Product design 65 000 * * * * * * *
New media * * * * * * * *
* not enough responses to gain an accurate figure

Suits – Scotland

<b>Designers – Scotland</b>
<b>Junior</b> <b>Middleweight</b> <b>Senior</b> <b>Creativedirector</b> <b>Artworker</b>
Print graphics 10 813 16 625 24 125 40 000 18 125
Packaging and branding 9750 16 167 24 167 40 000 18 167
Exhibition 10 813 16 625 24 125 40 000 18 125
Corporate identity 10 813 16 625 24 125 40 000 18 125
Interiors/architecture 14 000 18 000 24 000 40 000 18 000
Product 18 000 27 500 33 000 * *
New media * * * * *
* not enough responses to gain an accurate figure

Designers – Scotland

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