Graphic designers use visual elements to convey brand messages and ideas to influence customer decisions, thoughts and actions.
They achieve this through effective use of design elements such as good typography, attractive colors, illustrations and high-quality imagery.
Combining these skills with effective communication and collaboration, they design the overall layout and structure of the design to then be displayed to the audience.
Graphic designers that make the most money are UX Directors with an average salary of $139,173. The factor that contributes most to the high pay is usually a high level of experience.
Directors, creative individuals in charge of overlooking and managing a team of designers, tend to make the most amount of money due to their enhanced knowledge, skills, years of experience and number of tasks.
In this article, we’ll discuss why you should pursue a graphic design career, the 11 highest paying jobs and the factors that influence salary.
Why Pursue a Career in Graphic Design
A career in graphic designing offers a variety of benefits. As a graphic designer you have the ability to express your creativity. Businesses are always open to new ideas and solutions to their problems and graphic designers can creatively tackle different problems in a variety of ways.
As the use of technology is growing the demand for graphic designers is high. Graphic designers are needed now more than ever to create highly visual content for digital platforms.
Many graphic designers are being paid higher salaries because of the specialized nature of their work. As design is subjective and ever evolving the industry keeps on innovating and moving forward and graphic designers catch up on their skills.
For a more detailed insight on choosing a career in graphic design, checkout this article.
1. 3D Designer
Average annual salary: $53,386
Responsibilities: A 3D designer is responsible for 3D rendering of projects such as landscapes, vehicles and buildings.
They are needed to give a presentation or demo of a final piece when a prototype might not be possible to build, such as cars and buildings.
Nowadays, the 3D design industry is expanding with multiple options for3D designers such as working on 3D animations and video games. They design landscapes, characters and assets for these projects.
2. Video Game Designer
Average annual salary: $57,335
Responsibilities: Video game designers are responsible for designing the visual and interactive elements that a user interacts with. They design it with usability and professional quality in mind to deliver a user-friendly experience.
These designers usually extend to other fields and collaborate with the writers and producers to help create the overall storyline and dialogues of the game as well.
Since video games, like applications, are made on code they would require knowledge of some programming languages or some knowledge related to the game engine’s mechanics.
3. Visual Designer
Average annual salary: $69,810
Responsibilities: A visual designer manages all the visual aspects of a brand which means they carry out a lot of activities. This can be anything from establishing the visuals of an interface to designing the brand identity of the company which includes logos, infographics, flyers etc.
Visual designers that are invaluable among employers are the ones that have great collaboration and communication skills.
Visual designers have to be able to collaborate and brainstorm ideas with every department that contributes to the final design of the brand to ensure brand guidelines are being followed and everyone is on the same path.
Since a visual designer is responsible for so many tasks they also tend to get paid generously, around $70,000 to $80,000 per year.
4. Multimedia Designers
Average annual salary: $72,520
Responsibilities: Multimedia designers create engaging visuals for various forms of media such as Web, Television, Movies and Video Games.
Multimedia design is a broad field of study so the salary and career opportunities for these designers may depend on the field they choose to specialize in.
Multimedia designers are commonly required to have a strong background in fine arts as they will be expected to be good at drawing, sculpting and photography.
Good news is they have several choices; you can choose to specialize in animation, presentations, web design, 3d design and motion graphics.
No matter which field you choose you can expect to be working hard as it is common for these designers to work overtime to complete projects on tight deadlines.
Multimedia has a promising future. The Federal Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that overall employment for multimedia artists and animators will grow by 16 percent from 2020 to 2030 (much faster than average).
The competition is also tough as most multimedia designers work in highly-competitive, big firms and 60% of them are self-employed these tend to make the most money.
5. Senior Designer
Average annual salary: $78,583
Responsibilities: A senior designer leads a team of graphic designers by setting goals and guidelines to follow.
A senior designer is a highly-skilled and experienced designer who usually overlooks graphic designers but they may also do some designing themselves.
You might be thinking “what’s the difference between a senior designer and a creative director?”
A senior designer is only responsible for a team of graphic designers whereas a creative director is responsible for all departments contributing to the overall design. They have to collaborate with programmers, research and development (R&D), accountants and designers.
Senior designers usually require 3+ years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in a design-related field. Masters or any further education isn’t usually required but is a plus.
6. Concept Artist
Average annual salary: 82,009$
Responsibilities: A concept artist is a designer who is responsible for creating the rough drafts to give a strong idea of the final visual piece.
Concept artists have various opportunities in the design field because businesses require concepts for many digital products as it reduces the risk and time taken for a visual design.
Concept artists usually design complex landscapes and characters for video games and animations. They can also contribute to web design by designing the wireframes and structure on which the foundation of a website will be made.
7. Application Developer
Average annual salary: $90,119
Responsibilities: An application developer creates, designs and tests apps for computers and mobile devices. Application developers usually choose to specialize in a specific field such as, mobile apps.
Graphic designers may specialize in designing the interface or front-end of applications as it is more applicable to their field of study. Since applications are coded, some appropriate programming languages might be a major requirement for most positions.
8. Creative Director
Average annual salary: $102,969
Responsibilities: Creative directors are responsible for overlooking and managing all the design projects for the brand. They tend to have a strong grasp on leadership, creativity, communication and time-management.
Creative directors collaborate and manage every department related to designing; they brainstorm ideas and keep projects up to standard ensuring deadlines are met and there is no fault in the final design.
Creative directors represent the whole brand and are expected to meet and communicate with clients going through the whole design process and presenting the ideas, concepts and final designs to them.
These directors usually work with magazine and media publications.
Creative directors typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a design-related field and 5-10 years of experience working as a graphic designer, artist or photographer before considering the position of creative director.
Nowadays due to rise in competition creative directors might also attend courses and seminars to further their knowledge and skills to be a valuable candidate.
9. Product Designer
Average annual salary: $104,138
Responsibilities: A product designer is responsible for designing the visual aspects and user experience for a company’s product.
These product designers need to have a strong grasp on branding psychology and marketing to influence customer decisions. They design with usability in mind such as a user-friendly design, easy-to-understand and interactive.
Product designers typically require a bachelor’s degree and experience working with 3d modeling and technology such as, CAD, CAM and engineering.
10. Front-end Developer
Average annual salary: $109,407
These developers may not seem directly related to graphic design but most of them require some experience in graphic design.
This is because front-end developers use visual elements such as typography, color, layout, animations and images to create a pleasurable user experience.
Front-end developers are in high demand as user experience tends to be an ever-growing need since most businesses are going online. A front-end developer usually works in collaboration with web designers and is not a direct graphic design field (though that is up for debate.)
If you want to learn more about Coding and its relation with Graphic design you can check out these articles I wrote; which would give you a better insight on the subject:
11. User Experience (UX) Director
Average annual salary: $139,173
Responsibilities: A UX director is responsible for managing the user experience design for a project ensuring the design is as user-friendly as possible.
They do this by overlooking and providing feedback on the designs and testing it in different scenarios.
As a UX director you will be spending most of your time on product strategy and product design.
In order to become a UX director you need at least 5-10 years of experience in a relative field working with other UX designers and a bachelor’s degree in management or a design-related field.
Factors That Influence a Graphic Designer’s Salary
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the salaries of graphic designers vary on a set of factors. These include:
- Company size
- Field of Study
Let’s discuss these in further detail below;
The size of the company can help you identify how much salary you can expect to make.
Big companies such as Facebook and Dropbox are ready to give product designers around $200,000 where as a small business may be hesitant to give that amount as they have a smaller budget.
These large corporations manage to give a higher salary as they have a bigger budget and are not heavily impacted by the costs.
Graphic designers’ salary can vary widely based on the location they are working in.
For example, a 3D designer working in Santa Monica, CA can earn somewhere around $132,884 whereas in New York you may be paid an average of $39,005.
For someone who just got out of college and is still developing their portfolio you can expect a low salary.
Senior designers or Art directors with 5+ years of experience usually have a firmer grasp on their skills. They can give the clients more value, a deeper outlook and deliver faster and more consistent results.
This allows them to get paid higher than beginners.
As discussed above in the article, many companies only require a bachelor’s degree rather than a master’s degree or certifications.
Graphic designers who want to increase their competitiveness could opt for additional courses, degrees or certifications to ensure a better chance of enhancing their skills and knowledge in the field.
Field of Study
Graphic designers who usually specialize in a chosen field rather than juggling multiple positions tend to get paid more.
However, this depends on the field that they chose. From the above fields discussed, we know that UX directors get paid the most however it depends on which types of field within that broader field you specialize in.
Graphic design is a broad field with multiple salary and career opportunities.
The highest paid graphic designers tend to be the most experienced in their field with a bachelor’s degree, a strong portfolio and working in a competitive environment. At the time this article was written, the highest paid graphic designer is a UX director however the pay is dependent on a various number of factors.
Ibrahim Ahmed is the founder and CEO of Mediacaterer – an Art & Design blog covering the latest news, tips, guides, and product reviews for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. He’s a self-taught graphic designer and writer hoping to help aspiring artists and designers make it big in the industry