Co.Design

The Best And Worst Paying Jobs In Design

Move to California. And learn to code.

In the U.S., a corporate culture of pay secrecy can make it difficult to figure out whether you're getting paid a salary you deserve. Co.Design took a look at designer salaries across the world, based on data from a Designer News survey that garnered 1,000 responses from 58 countries. The responses reveal wide discrepancies in how people are paid, at least among the group of people surveyed (an admittedly small, self-selecting sample). Here's how the field stacks up:

Credit: Lily Tidhar for Co.Design

The takeaways? It's a good time to head to California. Average salaries in Los Angeles and San Francisco top six figures. However, while America boasted the highest salary on the list by far, the lowest-paid designers in the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, and Australia are paid much better than the lowest-paid designer in the U.S.

Click to embiggen. Credit: Lily Tidhar for Co.Design

And, as you might have heard by now, you should probably learn to code. For the most part, developers and engineers are getting paid more than designers at all stages of their career. Case in point: The survey's highest-paid respondent--a mid-level developer in the Bay Area--gets paid more than twice the salary of the highest paid principal/founder surveyed. Coders rake in the dough. Art directors and design managers? Not so much.

Do these figures match your experience? Let us know in the comments.

*The map originally misstated the average and lowest salaries in Germany. We've updated the post.

[Image: Golden Gate Bridge via Vlad Turchenko / Shutterstock]

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75 Comments

  • This article is irresponsible and misleading. For one, developers/engineers are not designers. If you're going to throw other careers in there, I'm sure you could survey hedge fund managers in New York that would make Manhattan look like the best place to get rich as a designer.

    Also - "Designer" - even if it didn't include things that aren't design - is too broad of a topic itself. Check out this Google Ventures Article http://www.gv.com/lib/how-top-startups-pay-designers (I think Co. Design already copy-pasta'd it) that breaks down the types of designers and how they get paid (in SF at least).

  • Mario Leo Fasolo

    Wow, this inspires me NOT to code because I can get well above 50k from just being a regular designer! Until a family is present, I don't think you'd even NEED much more than that!

    I think a comparison that factors in living costs would be appropriate though, because obviously anywhere in Southern Cali can make rent well over 1k a month, versus somewhere like Ohio, when you can get something for 400 lol.

  • David Macfarlane

    Interesting article, and won't surprise anyone that the largest incomes are California. The term 'Designer' is such a broad field though (and probably shouldn't be bundled in alongside Coders/Engineers...totally different jobs!). Also, I found that when I stopped chasing the salary and settled into a position I loved, my life became so much better. I quit a $50k Studio Manager role to set out on my own, and although I don't earn as much as I used to, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'd much rather be in control of my own workload and work / life balance, than be under the pressure of a 14-hr a day Coder in an corporate office in the valley. Chasing a salary is fools gold, enjoy what you do day to day and you'll find your creative side flourishes ;)

  • I'm a designer. Industrial designer. This article is about coders, not designers. "Designer" by the way is too broad of a term to base your research on, need to be more specific. And name your articles correctly. advslkaj [veoijwaq e[Grrrr

  • Having the time to commit to becoming both an A-level designer and an A-level developer is an extremely tall order. I see plenty of designers with a basic understanding of coding, and plenty of developers with a basic sensibility to design, and that seems to be the best balance.

    But enough with the 'learn to code' mantra already.

  • Despite the small sampling it still echoes how much more evolved the design space has become. Design may not directly equate with coding, but there is no ignoring the fact that the present and the future dictates that designers with some coding skills or knowledge of how it impacts design are relatively more in demand, especially with the huge mobile-centric influence. Even positions and titles have evolved; visual this, ui/ux that.

    Unless you are perhaps in the urban/environmental, architectural, engineering, packaging or industrial design areas, you need to adapt and diversify your skill set. You'd better be extremely awesome at one thing which separates you from everyone else, or be super efficient at many things. Sure they'll always be a separation between design and development, but it's the designer/developer types who are able to command higher pay.

  • According to the media, developers and coders earn more money than most designers and pretty much everyone else. Whether or not it's true, this article is flawed in that Ferro attempts to draw a comparison between two different jobs and skill sets. None of the conclusions support the title "The Best and Worst Paying Jobs in Design." Developers and coders don't work in design. They work in technology.

    As Fred Zaw noted, the sample size is ridiculously small, averaging 17 respondents in each of 58 countries? Even if this is skewed to developed nations, it's hardly enough to influence a career decision.

    I'm not suggesting that coding isn't a valuable skill set for designers, or writers, for that matter. But the recommendation to learn to code, change careers and move to California rings hollow coming from a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture and urban design. Last time I checked, writing isn't a particularly lucrative career choice either.

  • Patricia Callaway

    It's difficult to understand or quantify the statistics without more context such as type of employer (is it a creative agency, a start-up or an established brand?).

    You've included the $950K job in designers' salaries but if you read the source material, that salary was paid to a DEVELOPER.

    Seems odd to include developers and programmers in a survey about design salaries, unless you're specifically trying to prove a point...

  • Article totally dropped the ball on the most important job: Internship

    It also missed the point of how out outrageous is it that some of the most renown studios shaft the future of the industry—which in turn would pin the US as the highest and lowest (if any) paid designers in the world.

    If you need and intern, you have the money to pay.