Comparing total compensation for Art Director that have Include all inside Include all
National Median
25% earn less
50% earn less
75% earn less
  • 90 NUMBER OF RESPONDENTS
  • $100 REPORTED MEDIAN FREELANCE RATE
  • FREELANCE RESPONDENTS

Median total cash compensation

2012
2013

Annual rate

About

The AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries is the most comprehensive annual survey of compensation data for the communication design profession in the United States. Each year, for more than a decade, it has been commissioned by AIGA, the professional association for design, with the support of Aquent, AIGA’s official sponsor for professional development, and in cooperation with Communication Arts magazine. This survey is part of a comprehensive program of AIGA activities developed to serve the professional designer with strategies for success.

AIGA is the professional association for design, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. Founded in 1914, AIGA today serves more than 23,000 members through 67 chapters and 200 student groups across the United States. AIGA stimulates thinking about design, demonstrates the value of design and empowers the success of designers at each stage of their careers.

At its core, Aquent is about helping companies adapt to change, find new ways to work, and stay competitive. Aquent offers a broad range of services, including contract and contract-to-hire staffing to help global companies to add technical expertise to their team, increase the bandwidth of their in-house employees, and focus on solving their biggest digital, creative, and marketing challenges. With a notable client list, generous benefits and training opportunities, Aquent attracts and places thousands of in-demand talent on assignment worldwide. To learn more about Aquent's full range of services, please visit: aquent.com.

Methodology

This survey was administered exclusively via the Internet. The sampling frame included emailable individuals from a variety of list sources: AIGA’s current and past membership, recent AIGA contacts (from conference registrations, inquiries, etc.), lists of clients and talent supplied by Aquent, and domestic subscribers of Communication Arts magazine. These combined lists included a total of 73,132 unduplicated emailable individuals. All were invited to participate in the survey.

The survey instrument was designed jointly by AIGA and Readex Research. Respondent contact, data capture and tabulation were all handled by Readex.

Sample members were initially invited to participate via email from January 16-18, 2013, with followup emailings to nonrespondents around January 23 and January 29.

Responses were cut off for final editing, cleaning and tabulation on February 4, 2013, with a total of 10,912 usable returns (14.9% response rate). Most of the data presented in this report are based on the 10,435 individuals who confirmed in the survey that they are currently working in design.

Because the sample was developed from disparate sources, and because of the moderate response rate achieved, these data should not be viewed as derived from a nationally representative probability sample of all design professionals. They do, however, provide a current and specific reflection of what a significant share of those in the design profession are currently earning.

Total compensation is reported in terms of three statistics: the 25th percentile, the median (or 50th percentile), and the 75th percentile. The 25th percentile represents that value which is greater than 25% of all values, the median that value greater than 50% of all values, and so on. Where sufficient data are available, the median hourly rate for freelancers in each position (if employed) is also reported in the national recap.

Compensation data are reported split out by many variables: geographic region (defined by the nine standard U.S. Census divisions), metropolitan area (36 select Core Based Statistical areas), sector, organization type, organization size, client base, organizational design areas, benefits received, years experience, years in position, highest degree earned, age, gender, ethnicity/race. Note that individual-level questions (years experience, highest degree, etc.) were asked only of survey respondents themselves; when respondents also provided compensation data for those reporting to them, these variables are not available for the reports.

To improve statistical stability and preserve respondent confidentiality, results have been suppressed where fewer than 5 respondents answered, or answered for fewer than 10 in the position.

Insights from AIGA’s executive director

Ric Grefe

The AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries for 2013 reveals clearly the impact of both the general economy and the design economy on the compensation of design professionals.

Design salaries have remained relatively flat for several years. Anecdotally, we understand that many design firms consider themselves busy, although this may be the result of increasing business without replacing designers who had been released at the start of the recession. Generally, margins have been slimmer than a decade ago, which results in a hesitation on the part of managers in hiring new employees, even as business increases.

In-house design departments have been growing, as they replace designers who were released among the first down-sizings of 2008.

The availability of under-employed designers has held compensation increases in check, particularly in the traditional print and web design roles. In addition, approximately 12,000 students of communication design graduate from four-year programs each year—more than can be absorbed into the current workforce.

Design leaders are expressing optimism that the design economy is improving, with the possibility of increased hiring—as seen in the Design Leaders Confidence Index.

Changes in the nature of design practices account for the greatest competitive pressure within the design job market. The positions reflecting increasing compensation appear to be those that revolve around defining or managing the integration of design into business strategy: strategists, usability experience and operations management; or those roles that deal with web, motion and interactive design.

Some trends from last year continue: there does not seem to be a noticeable premium paid for higher levels of education; and it appears that young graduates’ familiarity with technology’s tools may trump experience, since increased experience does not correlate strongly with income growth.

Responding to the need of its members in this employment market, AIGA will focus on professional development programs; building programs that support the career development of women and mid-level designers; and creating even greater awareness of the value of design among business, government and the public.

The survey results reveal what is actually paid in the marketplace, not what AIGA recommends. The unfortunate truth is that design compensation has not increased substantially—nor even kept up with inflation—for many professionals.

For methodological reasons, results for solo designers are reported in a separate table and not in the salary calculator.

Richard Grefé

Position Descriptions

Account Manager
An account manager is responsible for client interactions and account management without supervisory responsibility.

Account Services Director
An account services director is responsible for client interactions and direction of a staff of project managers to ensure that design execution remains on strategy.

Agency Creative or Design Director
A creative or design director is responsible for communicating strategic goals into actionable design solutions, establishing the conceptual and stylistic direction for design staff and orchestrating their work, as well as the work of production professionals. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, industrial, interaction, motion, video, research/strategic, 3-D design, prototyping, interior design, environmental design or for print media or use on the web. Creative/design directors typically engage in a good deal of supervisory and administrative work. The role ensures the right resources are in place, from designers to developers to copywriters and more, so that the interactive produced is visually compelling and able to drive revenues.

Art Director
The art director establishes the conceptual and stylistic direction for design staff and orchestrates their work, as well as the work of production artists, photographers, illustrators, prepress technicians, printers and anyone else who is involved in the development of a project. The art director generally selects vendors and, if there isn’t a creative director on staff, has final creative authority.

Chief Design Officer
A chief design officer is a member of a company’s executive-level team who sets the overall strategy, vision and direction of the design capability; is responsible for multiple categories of products and disciplines of design; is responsible for organizational development of design including innovation and design sourcing strategies; and ensures that design objectives are matched to strategic corporate intent. This role also includes vendor and talent recruiting, development and leadership.

Design Manager
A design manager is a manager of people and processes necessary in the development of design projects for a business unit or product category. The role involves design organization responsibility including staff coaching; managing internal and external design resources; project and budget management; and ensuring customer requirements are met.

Designer, primarily print
A designer, primarily print is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with the print medium. They are responsible for creating and executing design concepts as well as maintaining visual appearance, usability and brand continuity. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, research/strategic, environmental design primarily for print media.

Designer, primarily web/interactive
A designer, primarily web/interactive is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for creating and executing design concepts as well as maintaining visual appearance, usability and brand continuity. Areas of work include digital, interaction and motion design.

Designer, print and web/interactive
A designer, print and web/interactive is a designer whose work is about equally split between print and web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for creating and executing design concepts as well as maintaining visual appearance, usability and brand continuity. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, interaction, research/strategic, or environmental design for print media or digital delivery.

Executive Producer
An executive producer is a manager responsible for running an entire motion design studio, developing executive-level client relationships, and identifying and expanding strategic development of new business.

Head of Production
A head of production is responsible for managing and coordinating an entire production department.

In-House Creative or Design Director
An in-house or design director is the head of design for a business unit or company, responsible for strategy, integration and execution of design activities. Duties typically include design research, interaction with the end-user and clients, design organization and design sourcing responsibility, oversight, and setting and management of an operational and organizational budget. This role also includes being a member of a strategic planning team and talent recruiting and development.

Information Architect
An information architect is a designer who applies user-centered research concepts and techniques to organize websites and applications to best support the needs of users, through the development of navigation, labeling and searching systems that make it easy for users to find what they are looking for.

Junior Designer, primarily print
A junior designer, primarily print is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with the print medium. They are a designer up to three years out of school who needs supervision in all aspects of design conception and implementation. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, research/strategic, environmental design primarily for print media.

Junior Designer, primarily web/interactive
A junior designer, primarily web/interactive is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with web/interactive mediums. They are a designer up to three years out of school who needs supervision in all aspects of design conception and implementation. Areas of work include digital, interaction and motion design.

Junior Designer, print and web/interactive
A junior designer, print and web/interactive is a designer whose work is about equally split between print and web/interactive mediums. They are a designer up to three years out of school who needs supervision in all aspects of design conception and implementation. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, interaction, research/strategic, or environmental design for print media or digital delivery.

Marketing or New Business Manager/Director
A marketing or new business manager or director is responsible for seeking business opportunities, developing proposals and/or marketing the firm’s practices.

Mobile App Developer
A mobile app developer specializes in designing interactive experiences for an increasing variety of mobile platforms utilizing emerging technologies including Java, Objective-C, C++ and HTML/CSS.

Mobile Interface Designer
A mobile interface designer is a designer responsible for designing mobile web solutions, from icons to sitemaps and navigational models, for a range of devices.

Motion Graphics Designer/Animator
A motion graphics designer/animator is a designer who creates moving imagery for immersive experiences across digital platforms; possible expertise in Adobe Flash, ActionScript or Flex, illustration or 3-D modeling.

Motion/Video Editor
A motion/video editor is an editor responsible for organizing and executing post-production of motion-based imagery and design projects and for finalizing the presentation of material to clients.

Operations Director
An operations director works for a mid-sized or larger firm and is responsible for issues related to financial management, human resources, contracts and legal matters, technology resources and facilities. The operations director oversees project management and makes sure there is a very close connection between project-level finances and the overall performance of the company. All financial and administrative staff report directly to the operations director.

Owner, Partner or Principal
An owner, partner or principal holds an equity position and has major business responsibility for a firm having employees.

Producer, primarily print
A producer, primarily print is a producer for whom a majority of their work is with the print medium. They are responsible for overseeing the planning, management and delivery of projects from concept through completion by working externally, interfacing with clients and helping them navigate key milestones; and internally, with creative directors, designers and animators through all project phases.

Producer, primarily web/interactive
A producer, primarily web/interactive is a producer for whom a majority of their work is with web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for overseeing the planning, management and delivery of projects from concept through completion by working externally, interfacing with clients and helping them navigate key milestones; and internally, with creative directors, designers and animators through all project phases.

Producer, print and web/interactive
A producer, print and web/interactive is a producer whose work is about equally split between print and web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for overseeing the planning, management and delivery of projects from concept through completion by working externally, interfacing with clients and helping them navigate key milestones; and internally, with creative directors, designers and animators through all project phases.

Production Manager
A production manager is responsible for running the process of producing design projects, overseeing bids, production schedules and delivery.

Project Manager, primarily print
A project manager, primarily print is a manager whom a majority of their work is with the print medium. They are responsible for coordination and administration of individual print projects which may include: scheduling, developing budgets, procurement and acting as liaison between the client and the design team. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, research/strategic, environmental design primarily for print media.

Project Manager, primarily web/interactive
A project manager, primarily web/interactive is a manager for whom a majority of their work is with web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for coordination and administration of individual web and interactive projects which may include: scheduling, developing budgets, procurement and acting as liaison between the client and the design team. Areas of work include digital, interaction and motion design.

Senior Designer, primarily print
A senior designer, primarily print is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with the print medium. They are responsible for conceptualization and design of solutions to their completion. In some firms, a senior designer directs the work of one or more junior designers. In some cases, senior designers do not manage staff but are designated “senior” because of their authority in design decision making. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, research/strategic, environmental design primarily for print media.

Senior Designer, primarily web/interactive
A senior designer, primarily web/interactive is a designer for whom a majority of their work is with the web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for conceptualization and design of solutions to their completion. In some firms, a senior designer directs the work of one or more junior designers. In some cases, senior designers do not manage staff but are designated “senior” because of their authority in design decision making. Areas of work include digital, interaction and motion design.

Senior Designer, print and web/interactive
A senior designer, print and web/interactive is a designer whose work is about equally split between print and web/interactive mediums. They are responsible for conceptualization and design of solutions to their completion. In some firms, a senior designer directs the work of one or more junior designers. In some cases, senior designers do not manage staff but are designated “senior” because of their authority in design decision making. Areas of work may include: branding, graphics, communications, interaction, research/strategic, or environmental design for print media or digital delivery.

Social Media or Online Community Manager
A social media or online community manager is a professional responsible for developing and executing a clearly defined social media strategy, and for evaluating, planning, organizing, managing and contributing to all social media channels.

Solo Designer
A solo designer is a freelance or self-employed design professional who works independently of a company and has no employees.

Strategy Director or Design Strategist
A strategy director or design strategist is responsible for the overall strategic direction of client initiatives through the research and development phase, in which a clear understanding of end user’s or target audience’s needs is gained, to the execution phase, where findings are applied to create solutions. This position would include design or account planning.

Usability Analyst/Researcher/Engineer
A usability analyst/researcher/engineer informs business strategy and design approach by applying user-centered research concepts and techniques to understand the needs of users and how those needs can be best satisfied.

User Experience Designer
A user experience designer is a designer with expertise in human factors that impact interactive experiences. Skills include: user analysis, wireframing, prototyping, architecture and interaction modeling, persona development, writing and graphic illustration.

Web Content Strategist
A web content strategist is responsible for planning content creation, delivery and governance. Tasks may include: web editorial strategies, guidelines, content analysis including metadata, taxonomy and search engine optimization. Often works with a writer.

Web Developer (front-end/interface systems)
A web developer (front-end/interface systems) is a software engineer responsible for utilizing any number of web technologies and scripting languages to create sites based on illustrations, wireframes, HTML markup and CSS provided by the design team.

Web Programmer/Developer (back-end systems)
A web programmer/developer (back-end systems) is a back-end developer/programmer responsible for working with web server systems, databases, web applications and APIs.

Web-based Rich Media and Motion Graphics Developer
A web-based rich media and motion graphics developer is a designer/developer working in scripting languages (such as ActionScript or JavaScript) to develop rich, immersive experiences such as online advertising, games, landing pages and dynamic websites.

Writer/Copywriter
A writer/copywriter is responsible for writing, editing and proofing message and story copy for print or interactive projects. Writers may also be responsible for strategic and conceptual development of messages and stories.