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The Ultimate Graphic Design Salary Guide

Unlock graphic design salary insights with our graphic design salary calculator. Explore graphic design salary averages based on skill, experience, and location.

6 min read

September 16, 2021

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graphic design salary

Graphic Designer Salary Calculator

Product Designer salary in the United States

Confidence HIGH

Product Designer salary in the United States

Confidence HIGH

$84,202 USD/Year

Expected Base Pay

The expected Product Designer salary in the United States is $84,202 /yr

A line chart of low, expected, and high salaries.
Low $66.6K
Expected $84,202
High $105K

A graphic design position tends to fall somewhere between rock star and accountant when it comes to salary. You can go into the design world as an entry-level employee and work your way up the corporate ladder or gain notoriety with a stellar design portfolio and skyrocket to the top of the food chain.

"Understanding what affects graphic designer salaries can help you calculate a reasonable salary estimate as someone entering the field or hiring a designer."

Understanding what affects how much graphic designers earn can help you calculate a reasonable salary estimate as someone interested in entering this career or as a business trying to hire a designer. This can also help designers already working in the field create strategies to increase their incomes.

This guide provides an overview of graphic design salaries to help you budget for a design professional or earn more as a graphic designer. 

What is the role of a graphic designer? 

Before learning how much you’ll have to pay a graphic designer — or make as one — it’s important to understand what a designer actually does. The graphic design umbrella covers a few specializations, each with its own set of roles.

  • Brand and Graphic Designer. This design specialization involves creating graphics like logos, stationary imprints, and other flat designs. A well-versed designer can fit these designs to your brand or create a custom branding package that complements a business’s mission and values. 
  • Illustrator. Illustration pushes the boundary between design and fine art. Illustrators are generally tasked with creating images, both digitally and traditionally, that can be used in designs.
  • Motion Graphics Designer. Animation, movies, and other moving 2-D images fall under motion graphics design. This specialization requires an understanding of the principles of design and how those principles work in motion.  
  • Mobile Designer. Mobile designers specialize in creating graphics intended to be used on phone or tablet screens. This can include everything from icons to app interfaces.
  • UI and Visual Designer. UI, or user interface design, is a design subset focused on creating aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-use interfaces. Websites, gas pump payment interfaces, and online forms are some examples. 
  • Product Designer. Product design is the multidisciplinary approach of identifying real users and their problems and designing a solution to those problems through human-centric design. Product designers focus on understanding the user and their goals, and then designing a solution through ideation and iteration that helps the user achieve their goals.
  • UX Designer. UX, also known as user experience design, focuses on the experience a user has with a product or interface. For example, UX designers ensure a website form is easy and enjoyable to fill out. This form of design is often more concerned with psychology than aesthetics.
  • Web Designer. Web designers create web pages and web apps. They’re proficient in computer programming and content management systems.

What is the average graphic designer salary?

Based on data from Dribbble's annual Design Industry Trends Report, the average salary for a graphic designer with 3-5 years of experience in the United States can range anywhere between $50,000 and $75,000. An entry-level graphic designer with little to no experience may make a bit under $50,000. A veteran designer with more than 9 years of experience could expect to be in the $80,000 range or above.

The graphic designer job title corresponds with a variety of job descriptions. That means any averages are a broad generalization and not necessarily accurate to what you can expect to pay or be paid. To get a more accurate salary estimate, try using the graphic design salary calculator above that factors location, design specialization, and experience level into the equation.

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How can designers boost their salary potential?

There’s an adage told in design communities in which a fan asks Picasso to draw them a sketch on a napkin. When Picasso prices the sketch at a million francs, the fan is shocked he would charge so much for something that took him 5 minutes. Picasso responds, “It took me 40 years to draw this in 5 minutes.”

"As a business trying to attract a high-level designer, you must understand how much a graphic designer's time is worth and why."

Graphic designers are skilled craftspeople, and they’re paid for their time as well as their skill level and the effort it took to get to that level — including education and hours or even years of practice. As a business trying to attract a high-level designer or someone trying to become a high-paid designer, you must understand how much a graphic designer's time is worth and why.

💼 Experience in the design field

With any job, more experience generally means more money. However, seniority isn’t the only — or even most important — factor in the design world. Many designers who have only been in the industry a few years are making more than seasoned vets.

Graphic design is a craft, and increasing your skill level is as important as adding lines to your resume. But that means you can boost your base salary faster as a graphic designer than in other careers. You just have to focus on improving your knowledge and skills while you’re gaining work experience. 

🎓 Education level

Higher education shows that you have the knowledge you need to be a designer and are committed to graphic design as a profession. More education almost always helps you get the highest design salary possible. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a traditional 4-year degree to boost your graphic designer salary. Design certifications and online degrees can be as beneficial, especially if you pair them with job experience. 

Designers also may be able to increase their current salaries by refreshing certifications on ever-evolving software such as Adobe Photoshop. Even seasoned designers risk becoming obsolete and taking a salary hit if they aren’t keeping up with the times.  

✏️ A strong design portfolio

Design is one of the few fields where you can overpower a lack of experience and education by simply being great at what you do. If you can put together an impressive design portfolio, you may be able to get high-paying design jobs even if you haven’t worked in the industry for years. 

That being said, if you come head-to-head with someone with a similarly stunning design portfolio but more experience and education, they may come out ahead. So it’s still important to build your resume —even if you're the Einstein of design. 

🎯 Specialization

While education, experience, and a portfolio are important, what gets designers hired (and paid better) is showing unity and direction in those three factors. Specialization means rarity, which in turn, means higher demand. 

Employers are willing to pay a designer more if they fit the exact role the company needs. Finding your niche and marketing it in your resumé and portfolio helps give you an edge over jack-of-all-trades designers — in the initial hiring process as well as salary potential. 

Which specialization you choose also has a significant effect on your salary. The average salary for web designer jobs differs from the salary for UX designer jobs, for example.

🌎 Geographical location

Sometimes you have to go where the gold is. If you’re committed to getting the highest pay as a designer, you may have to move to find the best job offer.

It’s important to take into account the cost of living, though. Even if a salary is numerically more, it may be relatively less when you consider expenses. Metropolitan areas with more high-paying job opportunities may also have high living expenses.

You also may want to look into location-independent jobs that let you work at home. Then, you can maximize your earnings even more by living in a cost-effective location.

graphic designers

Freelance graphic designer salaries

With the help of a computer, one designer can do what used to take an entire design agency. Freelance graphic design is a growing alternative to traditional graphic design jobs. It lets designers make more by cutting out the middlemen and enjoying the gig lifestyle.

Freelance design salaries are much more dependent on the current job market because they get new clients more regularly. But successful graphic designers ensure they make a reasonable salary by getting their portfolio on sites like Dribbble, where businesses can hire freelance designers. This helps freelancers keep a constant stream of work thanks to job alerts. 

Benefits and compensation

While freelancing might sound like the dream job, there’s one more factor to consider: benefits. Freelance graphic designers don’t get benefits and compensation from an employer, so they have to cover those expenses themselves. 

Businesses trying to hire a freelance designer should consider what benefits they can offer, because that’s one of the largest selling points for a traditional design position. Graphic designers trying to decide between freelance and traditional routes should consider benefits along with salary calculations to get a more accurate comparison. 

Hire a graphic designer today

Ready to hire your next creative professional? Use the graphic designer salary calculator above to determine the average salary range for the role you're hiring for. Then, post your job on Dribbble to start attracting top design talent today.

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