Compelling evidence exists there has never been a better time to be a graphic designer. The reason for this is simple. Many people are starting their own businesses either as a primary source of income or as a secondary “back up plan” in case their job situation worsens. Every one of those businesses needs the services of a graphic designer. So how is this affecting professional salaries?
The Overall Trend Hasn’t Changed
Graphic Design work is becoming more specialized. As a result of this shift from general knowledge to specific knowledge (and sometimes project-type-specific knowledge) salaries, income and job prospects for all kinds of creative professionals from graphic designers to artists to all of their sub-specialties are increasing, provided the candidate’s skill set matches the employer’s needs.
Because the work has become more narrowly focused, some types of projects have become more standardized, which allows employers to concentrate on improvement and potentially increase revenues and compensation as well.
According to Adecco, the shift away from print design to digital design is causing a migration of graphics design professionals from firm to firm. As a result, hourly pay and income growth is only projected to be 7% over the next ten years. This is likely to offset both the productivity gains from moving to digital and the specialization gains from the overall trend.
Many of the print-to-digital designers are moving into career areas of the industry that aren’t purely “design” work only. Some are becoming client-side web developers and using their expertise in graphic design to rapidly improve user experiences with web pages. With advanced skills and coupled with a pure designer, these professionals can often command exorbitant salaries because of their highly specialized knowledge and visible results.
The X Factor
What many of the industry studies are not covering or are not able to cover is the steady growth of the independent market for graphic design. Sites like DeviantArt and ConceptArt are making it possible for designers to build careers by finding high quality clients on their own and building their own business through referrals, cooperative projects, team efforts and occasionally working through a freelancing site. Compensation for these projects can vary widely, and it is difficult to get a handle on what the trends might be, but there can be no doubt the volume of work is increasing rapidly.
Coupled with the freelance phenomenon is the ever-present likelihood a designer can get hooked up with a product development group like an app developer, game developer or YouTube podcaster. Every digital product needs graphic design to function, and many of the products developed by these small manufacturers rely heavily on visual appeal to generate sales.
Even the publishing industry is in the process of migrating to digital, and given the huge number of successful e-book authors that need covers, chapter header designs and the occasional advertising creative, it is no wonder motivated graphic designers are finding more than enough side work to cover any shortfall from their salaried jobs.
It’s not always entirely clear what the end result of these various trends will be, but for the time being it is clear the opportunities for creative professionals are multiplying quickly. Graphic designers are in high demand, even if that demand is coming from non-traditional sources.