Three designers set out to survey their industry —
and ended up creating a beautiful book that reveals
some truths about graphic design.
Authorship in the design world is murky territory, especially when it
comes to graphic design. "The designers who work their black magic on the global
economy are also largely unknown to us," writes sociologist Nikandre Kopcke
in the introduction to Graphic Designers Surveyed, a new book from U.K.
studio publishing house GraphicDesign& that seeks to quantify an industry
that's difficult to define. They are also largely unknown to themselves."
In an effort to fill the gap of concrete data about graphic designers, GraphicDesign&
polled 1,988 designers in the U.K. and the U.S., asking about everything from
salary to work satisfaction to gender perceptions within the industry.
Led by GD&'s Lucienne Roberts, Rebecca Wright, and Jessie Price, the team also
enlisted the sociological expertise of Kopcke to create the survey and data
designer Stefanie Posavec to visualize the data. They present their findings in
the beautifully designed, full-blown print book, now available through their webshop.
We've pulled out some of the most interesting revelations below.
They're Overworked And Underpaid,
But Largely Undeterred
In 2014, the mean annual income in the U.S. was $47,230 (In 2012, the mean annual
income in the U.K. was £28,800). In the U.S. and U.K., nearly half of the people surveyed
worked 41-50 hours a week, with U.S. designers generally working more hours than their
U.K. counterparts. And 78% of people polled, from both the U.S. and U.K., say they work
more hours than they get paid to work. "Generally, designers reported that they were
'getting by' or 'living comfortably' on their income," Roberts, Wright, and Price write.
"But 45% reported that their income was 'unpredictable.''
While the survey size was fairly small — at 1,988 designers polled — it revealed that the
average survey participant was in his or her twenties. Responders were also fairly
homogeneous: overwhelmingly white (88% in the U.K. and 79% in the U.S.) and with at
least a bachelor's degree.
They Suffer From
A Major Gender Gap
When asking male and female
designers questions about their
salary, education, and confidence
in their work, GD&'s survey
underscored the perception that
graphic design is a male-leaning
industry. Though there are more women getting graphic design degrees than men, there are
fewer female graphic design educators. Men were more likely to think their work was
better than their peers' work—and they felt more comfortable promoting it. And whereas
felt that success was the result of hard work, women were much more likely to think
men that who you know is a greater advantage. The report illustrated that this
imbalance extended to income:
Income inequality was stark across the board, with women designers in the U.S.
one and a half times more likely than men to be making less than $30k a year, and
nearly twice less likely to be making more than $90K. The U.K. results were even more
definitive: Women were one-and-a-half times more likely to be earning less than £20K,
but six times less likely to be earning over £60K.
They Actually Enjoy Critical Feedback
Despite the cultural stereotypes about their fragility, surveyed graphic designers said
that feedback from clients, bosses, and team members is a large and positive part of
their jobs. And while negative feedback is never fun to receive, the survey participants
suggest that they can take it—and turn it into something helpful. Most designers polled
said they find negative feedback to be constructive (31%) or at least an "interesting
For more industry insights, the book can be bought for £15 (around $21) on
GraphicDesign&'s site. For more beautifully presented statistics,
click through the gallery above.
Meg Miller is an assistant editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.