Graphic Designer Salary: 4 Key Questions Answered

What’s the average graphic designer salary? As you might expect, it often hinges on your experience… and your specialized skills.

Graphic designers are integral players within many technology teams, especially those tasked with building consumer products. For starters, they help decide the direction of a product’s UI and UX (either handling those tasks themselves, or working in conjunction with a dedicated UI/UX designer); their decisions also impact whether customers find the product welcoming and “fun.”

If you want an example of the importance of graphic designer jobs to the tech stack, look no further than the battle over “flat” vs. skeuomorphic design that gripped Apple, Microsoft, and other companies during the past decade. Put simply, skeuomorphism drags real-world elements into digital designs—icons in the early versions of Apple’s iOS, for instance, included a yellow notepad for the Notes app, a book for the iBooks app, and so on. Flat design strips away as many of those real-world elements as possible, along with shading and lighting effects, in favor of flat colors and total minimalism.

If you were paying attention to tech during that period, you’ll remember the fevered battles that erupted online as technologists debated whether flat design was truly superior to skeuomorphism. Meanwhile, graphic designers within some of the biggest names in tech were busy imposing their vision across entire suites of products—Google launched its Material Design language in 2014, for instance, with the goal of visually unifying its disparate apps and services. 

Graphic designers are key to how a product looks and feels—and given the crowds of products out there, that can prove the key differentiator in a company’s success. One key thing to keep in mind as you apply for positions: Because firms’ needs from graphic designers are so varied, you’ll also need to take care to tailor your graphic designer application, resume, and interview answers to the specifics of a particular job. 

What Is a Graphic Designer’s Starting Salary?

To answer that question, we turn to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Here’s how they broke down graphic designer salaries:

As you can see, the median is $51,029, which is quite a bit lower than the technology-industry average of $94,000 (according to the 2020 edition of the Dice Salary Report). 

For beginners, breaking into the graphic design field can sometimes prove challenging. Emphasizing your studies and your independent projects can often prove a huge help; a strong graphic designer portfolio will show off your dedication and skills, even if you haven’t racked up an enormous amount of experience. 

What Is a Graphic Designer’s Average Salary?

Fortunately, the average graphic designer salary also increases with experience—after eight years in the industry, as the following graph shows, a graphic designer may earn $15,000 to $20,000 more than when they entered:

The quickest way for any professional (not just graphic designers) to boost their salaries is to adopt marketable skills. As the following chart shows, many “specialized skills” for graphic designers tend to involve Adobe products such as Photoshop and InDesign; if you’re on the hunt for a graphic design job, your proficiency with these tools will often determine whether you land a position:

It’s also important for graphic designers to possess effective “soft skills,” as they’ll spend a lot of time communicating with people throughout an organization. “More so than any hard skill like Photoshop proficiency, basic communication is the most important part of being a designer,” Erica Gorochow, founder of PepRally and a Brooklyn-based director, designer and illustrator, told Dice. “At the end of the day, most graphic design responds to some defined problem. Your ability to articulate that problem is often the first step in finding a visual solution.”

It’s also important to know design theory, especially if you’re just starting out. “It can be really exciting and just plain fun to jump into designing based on intuition right away,” said Julianna Carbonare, a graphic designer and education advisor at Discover Praxis. “But the truth is that behind every high-level design is a large level of complex thought and reasoning for every angle, space, placement, color choice, and so on.”

For graphic designers who’ve already embarked on their careers, writing skills, soft skills, a working knowledge of design theory, and knowing your way around popular platforms are all key when it comes to negotiating for a higher graphic designer salary. They allow you to fully demonstrate your utility to an organization.  

Is Graphic Designer a Dying Career?

Graphic designer is not a dying career. Simply put, products will always need graphic designers to craft the look. Even enterprise software has become more “consumerized” in recent years, with businesses demanding apps and platforms that are “fun” and inviting. 

Burning Glass predicts that the graphic designer profession will grow 4.2 percent over the next decade. That’s not quite as robust a rate as some other professions, but it’s clear that graphic designers with the right combinations of skills and experience will be able to find work. 

Are Graphic Designers in Demand?

In short, yes. The average time-to-fill for an open graphic designer job is 33 days, which is a relatively high rate. Fortunately for those graphic designers hunting for a position, open positions tend not to list certifications as a requirement, and many ask for a Bachelor’s degree (as opposed to a more advanced degree). As for the average graphic designer salary—if you happen to find yourself across from a hiring manager, you nearly always have a chance to negotiate your compensation

First be prepared by knowing how to answer the most common web developer interview questions.