The Creative Review Careers Survey

What motivates you? Pay? Opportunity? The chance to win awards? Are you happy in your work? We surveyed over 3,000 designers and creatives about their career. Here are the results

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Just before Christmas, along with our colleagues on Design Week, Marketing Week and Econsultancy, we carried out a major piece of research on careers in the marketing and design industries. Designers and creatives (as in copywriters and art directors working in advertising and in-house) filled out a survey tailored to them (thank you to everyone who took part) providing us with detailed data about our readers’ attitudes to a range of issues around their careers.

We asked data visualisation specialists IIB Studio to help us uncover and visualise the stories in our survey. IIB Studio took the data relating to designers and creatives and analysed it, looking for the most interesting relationships, patterns and conclusions that could be drawn. They then turned these findings into the visualisations you see here.

Graphics and branding were the most popular areas to work in (which aligns with the last Design Council census, published in 2010). Taking designers in isolation, 19% of you said you specialise in editorial design and 19% in packaging design. Looking at other sectors, 15% of you said you specialise in exhibition design, 14% in interiors, 14% in retail design and 5% in furniture design.

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It’s encouraging to see a near 50-50 split between the sexes, though important to remember that this is based on our survey respondents specifically (the Design Council census recorded a 60% male industry six years ago while ad industry creative departments, though improving, remain predominantly male).

In terms of ethnicity, designers and creatives are broadly reflective of the UK as a whole (87% white according to the 2011 census) but it’s worth remembering that the majority of our respondents (and the majority of design and creative businesses) are located in London and the South-East where there are much higher levels of diversity.

Among our design respondents, 71.3% described themselves as white British, 17.5% as white but not British, 2.4% as mixed race/multiple ethnic British, 4.3% as Asian British, 1.1% as Afro Caribbean/Black British, 1.7% chose ‘other ethnic group’ and the same number chose not to say. The figures were similar for creatives.

Was this seen as a major issue by our respondents? 30% of you felt that minority groups were under-represented at your place of work but people with disabilities were more of a concern to you. 48% thought they were under-represented.

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Our respondents had worked in the design/creative industries for eight years on average meaning that the group as a whole represented a good cross-section. You’re quite a restless lot, with 67% having been in their current role for three years or fewer. The average time in-post was 4.5 years, but that figure was skewed by a number of respondents who had been working at the same place for a very long time.

90% of our respondents were in full-time work – not surprising as the survey was very much targeted at them in terms of our questions around in-work benefits etc Other sources suggest a higher freelance population in the industry at large.

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Design teams and/or creative departments average out at nine people, which is a very similar figure to the 2010 Design Council census.

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And the good news is that only just over a quarter of you are unhappy in your current job.

A word of warning over salaries. It’s always difficult to draw conclusions about how much you should be paid when looking at survey results as pay may vary so much across regions, roles (and how they are defined), and the type of business people work in. Instead, we looked at the industry as a whole: nearly 50% earn under £30,000 per year, with just 12% earning over £55,000. But this compares well with, for example, journalism (ahem) where 75% earn £30,000 or less and the average for someone with 20 years experience is £40,000.

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There is a strong link between pay and experience among our readers: 65% of those earning under £20,000 have been in the industry under three years, 83% of those earning over 70k have ten or more years experience.

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Do you feel like you are doing too much overtime? Our survey suggest that high earners do the most and that the more you earn, the happier you are

The small size of most design businesses means that they have not always been the best when it comes to offering in-work benefits – but how much do you really care? We asked you to tell us which benefits you would like, which were offered where you work and which you took up. A large proportion of you didn’t take up any. There was a surprisingly low demand for healthcare, bonuses and pensions.

CR Salary Survey article image 13In order to explore the question of motivation and reward more deeply, we asked you what you wanted from your career and whether you felt you were currently getting it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a high disparity between your desire for fair pay and what you felt you received – less than 50% feeling that they get fair financial rewards for their work.

Training also comes out as a problem – less than half of you felt that your expectations were being met here. Perhaps again this is reflective of the small size of the average design studio and lack of resources to spend on staff development. Performance reviews were also not meeting expectations.

On a more positive note, most had their expectations of autonomy in their role exceeded and felt this was a good thing about their job.

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The attitude to awards is interesting. Less than 40% cited the chance to win awards as something they looked for in a job. When we asked what motivated you to look for a new job, only 8% cited an improved opportunity to win awards as a factor. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that we surveyed individuals – increasingly, awards are seen as being more valuable to businesses than individual designers or creatives.

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Pay, unsurprisingly, was the deciding factor when it came to changing jobs, but better challenges and opportunities were also important to you.

Our thanks to Ella Hollowood, Tiziana Alocci, Michael Brenner, Duncan Swain and Rebecca Conroy. For more on IIB Studio’s work, go to

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