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Survey reveals British designers feel underpaid, overworked and worried about job security

Neil Bennett | Jan. 8, 2013
The Design Industry Voices 2012 report is out and it appears that the design industry is even more unhappy than it was in 2011.

The Design Industry Voices 2012 report is out and it appears from this year's survey that the design industry is even more unhappy than it was in 2011. We're still being asked to produce more work for less money and pitch for free - and we believe that safe full-time positions are disappearing in favour of freelance jobs and unpaid interns.

The one bright light is that we still seem proud of what we do: fewer of us believe that the standard of our work's declining than in 2011 (down to 28% from 31%).

The report is based on a survey of 459 people in October from a variety of positions in design companies - not all creative - including owners, designers, planners and account managers. The full report can be downloaded from It was written by Rachel Fairley, MD of brand consultancy Fairley & Associates - along with Karina Beasley, MD of design and digital recruitment agency Gabriele Skelton and Stef Brown, MD of On Pointe Marketing.

Interestingly, when respondents were asked about how they feel about the demands of their jobs and clients, they were asked to compare them to the pre-recession days of 2007 rather than last year. This makes it easier to draw conclusions from how their opinions have changed, as respondents are comparing themselves to a fixed point.

While the top three complaints - clients expect more work for less money, budgets have been reduced, and they expect more work in pitches for free - haven't changed, it's the first of these that's increased by 2.5% while the others have barely varied.

Clients who know better

Regular followers of the Clients From Hell blog won't be surprised that some of the blame for this is being laid at clients who think that design is easy - and that they should be art directing every project.

"In their incessant search for lower costs," says one respondent, "clients have become yet more deluded in the misplaced faith they have in their own design ability. Not content with doing their own job - rarely with any convincing skill or aptitude - they insist on doing mine too. I am heartily sick of artworking ill-conceived, surface executions which never solve the communication problem they think they have."

"Unless clients give the design professionals the respect they deserve they will never get the best result for their produce or brand," said another.

However, it's impossible to tell whether this is arrogance on the part of clients, or designers who can't take criticism. I'd say we all know both types, but we are all both to a greater or lesser degree in our professional and personal lives.


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