Ivana McConnell // Blog

Design & Code // Design Salaries Survey 2014

When I first came across the results page of this survey, done by Cameron Moll, my first instinct was to try and visualise it somehow, to get some idea of how design salaries varied across continents, cities, and countries. Cameron hadn't had a chance to visualise it himself, and I had wanted to have a go with the HighCharts library for ages, so this seemed like an excellent opportunity. There were some interesting insights to be found in the data, and definitely encourage more surveys like this in the future.

Initial thoughts

The first choice I made when doing this was to visualise only the 'design' occupations. There were freelancers, developers, as well as engineers, but I have only visualised those with 'designer' explicitly stated in the job title, just to ensure focus. Hopefully I'll have time to do other visualisations later, and compare across occupations.

My first instinct upon seeing the data was what the average 'designer' occupation salary was. This would encompass everything from 'Art Director' through to Junior and UX Designer, as well as various countries so it wasn't expected to be hugely accurate, but interesting nonetheless. Again, it did not include 'developer' job titles. In total, the average international 'designer' salary was:

80,422 USD

All in, This included the job titles of Art Director, Chief Design Officer, Creative/Design Director, Design Manager, Designer (Junior, Mid-level, and Senior respectively), Head of UX, UX Designer, Mobile UI Designer, and Motion Graphics Designer/Animator. There were some points removed, where it was obvious an extra zero had been added, or there was a currency error. I have made note of which points were removed later on.

The highest salary included here was 350,000USD, for a Senior/Lead Designer in the US (Los Angeles to be specific), while the lowest was 4,500 USD, for an Junior Designer in India.

Now, on to the charts!

Specific Occupations (on average)

In general, an overarching 'average' salary on its own isn't especially useful, especially when the levels of occupations are so broad, as is the geographical reach of this survey. There were 800 design responses from 48 countries, so we would need to delve a little deeper to actually take some meaning from the data.

I thought a good place to start would be the specific occupations, as well as their averages, to see which ones might be skewing the mean one way or the other. 'Art Director,' for example, is a prestigious position to hold, and one would assume that it pays well (or at least, better than certain other design occupations. So let's find out:

So we can see that the highest averages are held by Chief Design Officer and Head of User Experience, as it turns out, with Creative Director a close third. Lead, Mid, and Junior Designers fall in the correct order, though the average for UX design (80,375 USD) falls on the higher end of this, and higher than the average Art Director, which surprised me a good deal.

However, this still isn't as detailed as I'd like, as I noticed that many of the occupations had quite a few responses from the US, so I wanted to see what the variation was within the countries themselves.

Submissions by Country

For reference, there were 537 responses from America. Once they're removed, the distribution of the remaining 263 data points looks like this:

So the UK and Canada head the vote here, along with quite a few European countries, with a few scattered submissions from India, the Middle East, and South America. Once this was established, I then wanted to see what the variation was of the occupations between the countries.

Specific Occupations by country

There were more data points for some occupations than others, of course, but the initial plotted results are interesting. Click an occupation to have a look (and you can click and drag on the charts to zoom).

Please note: I removed the following points: $300k+ from 'Mid-Level Designer', $1000 USD (CHI) from 'Junior Designer', $8100 and $11.5k (both USA) from 'Senior Designer', as well as $580k (SIN), $4k (RUS), and $1k (TUR) from 'UX Designer'.

What's interesting here is that a few of the occupations barely had any, and sometimes none, respondents outside of the US-- these were Design Manager and Motion Graphics Designer/Animator. This could simply be a conflict of job titles, as Design Manager could conceivably be grouped in with Creative Director or Chief Design Officer. Another thing to note is that the highest salaries are definitely to be had in the US, though this could definitely be due to living costs, particularly in areas such as San Francisco and New York.

Drilling down

Since the US had the most respondents and also seemed to pay the best, I wanted to see how these varied by city and/or state (or, more to the point, how the results varied between the West Coast and everywhere else). I have tried to visualise it with cities for most of the occupations; some people had responded to this with their states, but I've included them anyway for comparison purposes. The Senior Designer and UX Designer visualisations are done with states only, as it got a bit unwieldy with all the different city points. I'm not quite sure how to add a city label with HighChart, so if anyone can help, please let me know.

Nothing terribly surprising there-- California and New York state appear to have the highest salaries, as one would expect given the cost of living in the major cities of those states. One occupation that seemed to vary wildly from city to city and state to state is Creative Director, which had a range of $30,000 - $135,000 in Atlanta, as well as one of the highest salaries in Connecticut ($160,000), and lowest in Pennsylvania ($42,000). Washington State seemed to have larger salaries on average than expected, also.

America vs. Europe

So, since America seemed to pay so high on average, I was curious to see the difference between the US and Europe. The results were surprising, to say the least.

Note: Design Manager and Motion Graphics Designer/Animator are not included, because they did not have any European respondents. Head of UX only had one, from the UK.

The US appears to sweep every occupation, with the greatest difference being between for Chief Design Officers. In the US, they can expect to make $138,666 compared with $73,323 in Europe, a difference of $65,343, almost double. This could be due to incorrect currency conversion, as it seems a massive difference, or it could also be skewed by some of the $150k+ salaries in California and New York state.

Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed visualising this, digging through the data and trying to find both the surprises and the consistencies, and learning how to use a new JS library in the process. I am by no means an expert and this is just a preliminary visualisation, but I welcome feedback by e-mail or Twitter.

Future Thoughts

In the dataset for this survey, there were clearly some entry errors, and in some cases not enough specificity on the part of those entering their data. There were some cases where an extra zero was either added or missed, and some cases where it was likely that the user entered the data in their native currency (GBP or CAD, most likely). In the comments for the original post, Cameron mentioned formatting the entry fields better in the next survey, and I look forward to those results, and would love to be involved in it.

In terms of more comparison ideas, it would also be interesting to see how the salary of each occupation in each country (or at least those countries for which there is enough data) compares to the standard of living in the local area. I didn't quite have time to do this, but would love to do it in the future, or help out if someone else decides to have a go.

Thanks!

Due to Cameron Moll for doing the survey to begin with, and to HighCharts for the chart library that I've yet to fully come to grips with.