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How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?

How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?

Graphic design is an exciting and creative field that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. Graphic designers use colour, images, fonts, and layouts to create designs for publications, websites, packaging, and more. But many wonder—how lucrative can a career in graphic design be? How much do those visually artistic people make?

What is a Graphic Designer?

Before diving into salaries and pay scales, let's define what a graphic designer is and does.

Designer Project Management

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Meet with clients or art directors to understand the goals, requirements, and target audience for designs.
  • When creating or updating designs, research and analyse past style guides, trends, colour schemes, or brand history.
  • Brainstorm creative ways to communicate the desired messages visually
  • Develop rough drafts, layouts, and prototypes for feedback from clients and art directors
  • Select colours, images, fonts, page layouts, and other visual elements
  • Create graphics and visuals to be used in media like websites, books, magazines, product packaging, exhibitions, and more
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publication
  • Lead or collaborate with artists, website developers, animators, and other creative professionals

Skills and Knowledge

  • Creativity and visual problem-solving
  • Proficiency with design software like Adobe Creative Suite
  • Drawing and illustration
  • Colour theory
  • Typography
  • Layout principles
  • Printing processes
  • Branding techniques
  • Coding languages like HTML and CSS
  • Communication and teamwork

This wide range of skills allows a graphic designer to bring ideas to life visually. But how much does this talent and expertise pay?

Salary Overview for Graphic Designers

Many factors determine pay for graphic designers: location, education, years of experience, company size, industry, and more all impact salaries. However, looking at average wages gives a general idea of what graphic design pays.

United States National Averages

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data on average pay for graphic designers nationwide.

  • National Average Pay: $58,370 per year / $28.06 per hour
  • 10th Percentile Pay: $36,460 per year / $17.53 per hour
  • 25th Percentile Pay: $44,500 per year / $21.40 per hour
  • 50th Percentile Pay (Median): $52,110 per year / $25.06 per hour
  • 75th Percentile Pay: $69,460 per year / $33.42 per hour
  • 90th Percentile Pay: $82,020 per year / $39.44 per hour

So, while the average graphic designer makes around $58,000 annually, there is significant variation around that number. The middle 50% of designers made between $44,500 and $69,500. The top 10% highest paid designers earned $82,000 or more.

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Average Salaries by State and City

Salaries can fluctuate based on location. Graphic designers in significant cities and design hubs typically earn higher wages.

Highest Paying States for Graphic Designers

StateAverage Salary
New York$62,030

Highest Paying Cities for Graphic Designers

Metro AreaAverage Salary
San Jose, CA$92,610
Washington, DC$74,100
Boston, MA$72,960
New York, NY$68,950
Seattle, WA$68,740

Experience and seniority impact salaries significantly regardless of location. Entry-level designers earn much less than senior-level creative or art directors who make six figures.

Salary Factors and Influences

Graphic designer pay varies based on personal factors like education, experience, expertise, and employers.

Average Graphic Designer Salary

Education and Training

Most graphic design jobs require a bachelor's degree. Common majors include graphics, visual arts, communication, illustration, animation, and interactive design. Coursework covers principles of design, colour, typography, printing techniques, graphics software, marketing, and project management.

Many designers supplement a degree with specialised certificates like web design, user experience (UX) design, or branding.

Here is how more education and training impact pay:

  • No degree: $42,920 avg.
  • Associate degree: $46,640 avg.
  • Bachelor’s degree: $52,400 avg.
  • Master’s degree: $71,760 avg.

Years of Experience

Experience strongly correlates with higher pay in graphic design. Entry-level designers can expect around $33,000 on average. Mid-level designers with 3-9 years of experience average about $45,000-65,000. Creative director and art director positions with 10+ years of experience pay over $90,000 on average.

Here are average salaries based on years on the job:

  • Entry-level (<1 year): $33,000
  • Junior (1-3 years): $39,000
  • Mid-level (3-9 years): $45,000 – $65,000
  • Senior (10-20 years): $68,000 – $90,000
  • Executive (20+ years): $90,000+

Expertise and Specialisation

Specific skills, software knowledge, and niche design expertise also impact designer salaries:

  • Print publication design: magazines, books, catalogues, and brochures. Average salary is around $50,000.
  • Packaging design: food, retail, and product packaging. Average around $58,000.
  • UX/UI design: user experience and user interface design. Average around $75,000.
  • Motion graphics: animation, visual effects, video editing. Average around $67,000.
  • Web design: websites, apps, banners. Average around $63,000.
  • Creative direction: guide overall brand imaging and styling. Average around $95,000.

Employer Type

Salaries can also vary depending on:

  • Company size: Small firms pay around $50,000 on average. Large corporations pay over $65,000 for senior creative roles.
  • Industry: Technology, finance, healthcare, and agencies pay more. Government and nonprofits pay less.
  • Full-time vs. freelance: Freelancers average around $42/hour. Full-time salaries average higher overall.

Salary Over Time

Historical and projected salary growth provides insight into future earning potential.

Graphic Designer Salary Growth

YearAverage SalaryGrowth %
Projected 2032$71,76023%

Strong web, mobile, and digital content demand will drive 23% average salary growth over the next decade. Specialised skills like UI, UX, AR, VR, and 3D design will be in demand.

Design Salaries Compared to Other Jobs

It helps to compare graphic design pay to similar creative roles:

JobAverage Salary
Graphic Designer$58,370
Technical Writer$57,920
Art Director$114,500
Interior Designer$61,120

So graphic designers earn a solid middle-class income versus other common artistic careers. With added seniority, skillsets like art direction and creative leadership can provide upper-class wages.

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Steps to Increase Your Graphic Design Salary

Designer Job Interview Tips

While salaries vary widely, these steps can grow your earning potential:

  • Get a bachelor's degree or higher – Formal training provides more incredible opportunities and earning power
  • Master design software – Become an expert in Adobe Creative Suite and animation tools
  • Specialise in print, packaging web, UI/UX, or other high-demand skills
  • Gain work experience through internships and junior roles early on
  • Build a portfolio showcasing your best work and abilities
  • Learn business and communication skills – Work closely with clients and lead projects
  • Freelance on the side to supplement income and gain clients
  • Move to significant cities – Large metro areas pay 20-30% more on average

Negotiating Your Salary

Knowing your worth and negotiating well can help maximise your graphic design income. Here are some tips:

Research Typical Salaries

Use salary sites like and to compare your role, skills, and location pay rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides wage data. Understanding salary ranges gives you credibility and context during negotiations.

Benchmark Your Experience

Catalogue your years of experience, education, software and skill expertise, and project examples. Compare your background to job requirements and typical pay by experience level. This benchmarks your value.

Convey Your Value

Quantify achievements like awards won, client retention rates, website traffic increases, or revenue generated from your work. Highlight any specialised skills in short supply or high demand. This evidence builds negotiation leverage.

Start Higher

Anchor expectations by being the first to suggest a number. Experts recommend asking for 5-10% above your goal. If you want $60K, ask for $63-$66K.

Get It In Writing

Carefully review all job offers and employment contracts before accepting. Ensure salary, bonuses, raises, stock options, or other forms of compensation are included.

Think Long Term

When comparing offers, weigh salary, benefits, work-life balance, and advancement potential. Consider negotiating non-monetary perks like remote work options, flex schedules, or professional development stipends.

Job Outlook for Graphic Designers

Art Director Job Description

Beyond competitive salaries, graphic design also offers excellent job stability and growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that graphic design employment will grow 3% from 2022 to 2032. That matches the average rate across all occupations. Openings will result from economic expansion and the need for visual communication in nearly all industries.

Specifically, opportunities for digital, interactive, and motion graphic designers will grow faster at around 13%. The continued importance of websites, apps, online media, AR/VR, and video will drive demand. Print publishing should see declines.

Conclusion and Key Takeaways

So, how much do graphic designers make? Well, it depends on many factors like:

  • Location – Major cities and design hubs pay 20-30% above average
  • Education – Degrees and certifications boost pay significantly
  • Experience – 10+ years can lead to $90K+ creative direction roles
  • Specialisation – Print, digital, UI/UX, packaging, and leadership pay more
  • Employer – Large corporations pay better for top talent

Overall, graphic design provides median pay of around $59,000 in the U.S. as of 2024. But top performers can certainly earn over six figures, especially in high-cost-of-living metro regions.

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The continued importance of design in business, paired with salary growth projections, paints an optimistic picture of the career and compensation outlook.

So, while creative passion drives most designers, rest assured the profession offers ample earning potential, too.

How Much Do Graphic Designers Make? FAQs

What education do you need to be a graphic designer?

Most graphic design jobs require a bachelor's degree in graphic design, visual arts, interactive design, animation, or a related field. Some positions accept associate degrees or certificates.

How much does a graphic designer make starting?

On average, entry-level graphic designers with less than one year of experience make around $33,000. Starting salaries typically range from $26,000 to $45,000 based on skills, location, employer, responsibilities, etc.

Do graphic designers make more than animators?

On average, no. Animators make around $77,700 annually nationally, about 33% higher than the $58,370 for graphic designers. However, art directors and creative leadership roles can pay graphic designers over $100,000 annually.

Can you be a freelance graphic designer?

Yes definitely. Many graphic designers work freelance, serving various clients across different industries. Hourly freelance rates average around $20-50 based on skills and demand. Freelance income may be less predictable than full-time salaried roles, though.

What design jobs pay the most?

Creative direction and art direction roles pay graphic designers the highest salaries. These senior-level management positions guide visual styling across companies and campaigns. On average, they spend over $90,000 but can reach $150,000 annually at global brands and large agencies.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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