compensation for design consultants

Can we create a list of non-monetary kinds of compensation that are important when working within a design consultancy?

Also, let’s put a percentage on how important salary is; 30% 80 % 100%?

I am not sure what you mean by the question you pose. A list of non-monetary issues realted to working in a design firm? My approach to the topic is that the services design firms provide are way under valued. That translates down stream to not being able to provide more for employees.

I’m guessing you’re referring to things like creative freedom, opportunity for advancement within the firm, client base, free snacks in the kitchen, flex time, etc…

And to follow Brian’s train of thought I think that a lot of designers tend to think that they are undervalued within their own firms. And with that come the thoughts that they might be “let go” at any moment. I’m not sure why this is, but I think a lot of the bigger firms don’t do enough to make their employees feel as though they are valuable assets to the company. There’s a psychological power struggle in their somewhere…

if they’re willing to invest in some equipment (laser, cnc, injection molding, etc) that would always be great. i don’t understand why you have to travel to china to do a simple cut, mill, mold,etc! when the company who sells you the equipment also trains you how to use/maintain.

maybe rent and insurance is a good excuse but not in my turf.

salary is %50 important.

a. flexible hours
b. 3 day weekends
3. lots of paid vacation

Comp time would be great if a firm actually would offer it, and follow through with it. If you work an 80hr. work week on a big project, there should be some sort of standard formula that would allow you to gain some of that time back in the form of added vacation days/comp time. All too often though, it’s business as usual come Monday morning, and on to the next big project.

Consulting or corporate, salary matters…I’d say 75%

Having a wood shop on the premises has got to be worth something, right? I spent last weekend working on some shelves for my two monkies, which is something I could not have done at home…since I don’t have the room or the tools. Plus, I get to play with all the yellow foam my heart desires!

Come again?

Monkies = kids, but in hindsight I guess I just realized that the plural for “monkeys” isn’t “monkies.” Doesn’t a wood shop on the premises qualify as compensation-of-sorts?



The last firm I worked for had comp time in a 1 to 1 ratio for every hour worked over 40. In other words, evey hour you put in over 40 in a week, you got an additional hour of vacation time. Your overtime had to be approved though.

Also if you worked past 8, you got $25 toward dinner.

There was a holiday weekend every year up at Killington Vermont, all expenses paid including open bar. A designer had to redesign the graphics on the “shot ski” every year for the event… good times.

IDSA membership was paid, and they would pay for a lot of magazine subscriptions which was cool.

Things like that go a long way.

There are tons of things that can make a design firm a desirable place to be. I would put salary at about 70-80%.

Things like vacation and health insurance are really money based items. It’s my general belief, however, that the American standard of two weeks vacation is terrible. Minimum should be three weeks. Most companies make you wait three to five years for that. This is well below the European standard. (rant over)

Comp time or overtime is critical. Though it has to be well regulated, so people don’t take advantage of it.

then there are important things that cost the company money, but don’t put any money into the employees pocket such as up to date technology, software, shop facilities. It’s important to know the company will provide the tools necessary to help you produce your best work.

Physical environment is important as well. We have an open floor plan in an hsitoric building, and it is a really nice office. The place is comfortable, and I don’t mind spending extra hours here. The open floor plan keeps us all connected. Cube-ville is unaccable

Non-money stuff: Positive, cumminicative environment. Company’s openess to exploring new ideas, methods, software, education. Verbal acknowledgement of a job well done. These are all things that encourage hard work and creativity.

Sorry about the long-winded reply. :slight_smile:

It’s funny, because, as you stated, these things don’t cost the company any money, and while they don’t put anything tangabile in the employees pocket, they do make the workplace way more productive. So why are so few places like this?

I have found the presence of support staff such as model makers to be valuable. Whether they are skilled craftsmen or not. Mainly it’s a time saver that frees you up to work on more projects at once. But I also don’t miss breathing the bondo dust. Also a company that isn’t stingy with the 3D printer is a plus.

money = 75%

It has been my experience that as a company grows, less emphasis is placed on the personal interaction. It is sad.

I was in a company that went from less than 100 to greater than 300. Once it hit ~150 a weird transition started occuring. People with severe personality disorders started gaining traction and politics started kicking in much stronger. The corporate culture changed significantly.

Not saying these problems don’t exist in smaller companies, but it seems to be easier to diffuse, for some reason.

Once it hit ~150 a weird transition started occuring. People with severe personality disorders started gaining traction and politics started kicking in much stronger. The corporate culture changed significantly.

Kind of off-topic, but in the book The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), there is some evidence that this phenomenon happens in any sort of organization. Some study quoted in the book put the number at something just over 100 people. A few successful and powerful corporations have apparently been known to open new offices when one office reaches that critical point so that there are no groups that large.

…end of off-topic post…

I think interaction and in house investments (better equipment, supplies - ex. cintiq’s etc. etc. ) is a good way of investing in the company and keeping moral up in the company.

I think however - salary is a critical and probably more important.

The work of designers are extremely undervalued as Brian Matt pointed out. I’ve come across a number of estimates for jobs and compared them to the actual out of pocket expenses within the company. I’ve seen little of that profit trickle down to the design staff. Esp. those involved with the production.

You would think…

With all that is required in managing a budget/time for each project on top of the easily 50hr+ workweek - designers SHOULD be better paid. Sadly this isn’t the case.

I think Worrell has come across an appropriate method:( from what I’ve been told) to offer more incentive - they offer a % of the overall profit their product designers after it has reached production.

Something like this is ideal for startup companies.


Re the previous post, I’m not clear on the model you are profiling. The consulting firm offers employees a percentage of profit? Of the product’s sucess or the pojects success/profitability?

I must apologize for referencing something a co-worker had mentioned to me.

What happened at Worrell is… They had a project that offered a percentage of the overall profit - depending on its market success. I believe it was on the sled project they worked on - but don’t quote me on it…

It was a one time thing only… As I later found out… . but still - having a project where employees can benefit - royalities or other possibilities is a great incentive for designers and the company.

I have forgotten the consulting life. To be honest I think I don’t miss it and the stories I still hear are actually a horrible reflection on the design profession. There are many comments about Walmart on this site but I can think of no worse examples of employee overuse and underpayment as in the consulting gig…never mind lack of health care and wages in major cities that are lower than the night managers at Taco Bell.

That said there are some great firms but I feel the vast majority just burn through people, working them far too much to have balanced lives and paying too little and expecting way too much in the emotional investment category. -From my experience it is the sort of thing that builds some sort of consultant blood bond. …you have done it and proved yourself…and then you meet many of them and they are divorced, single at 40 and look really old from too many late nights. It is unfortunate. Maybe you could offer employees dates or rent-a-life vacations where they get to go out and be normal. I really find the “hardcore” consulting thing to be a poor reflection on a business that prides itself on users and quality of life.

Now, I would love to go back to consulting because the work is interesting due to change/projects but equally I find that having a life, rest, the ability to actually plan a vacation are quite wonderful.

Sorry if I sound bitter about this but I know at least 20 people in chicago who have been burned through, probably 10 in the northwest, a couple from Worrell and I just keep meeting them…it seems it is a big issue but people are afraid to say anything because then they won’t be a part of the “hardcore” club. that is just crap.

Last thing, on salary, for goodness sakes can someone explain to me why a mechanical engineer and an industrial designer make such a difference in salary…averages are almost 30percent more for engineers than designers of the same experience. for some reason most of them go home at 5pm???

happily corporate but still working hard and found balance in my life -velodesigner

Damn VeloD., that sounds pretty bleak for consultancy life…

I’ve been with corporate design groups my whole career, with a few stints at smaller consultancies, and I’ve always wanted to have a go with a bigge consultancy like Lunar,HLB, etc… if I could get in

With what you your saying, it seems like lots of the consultants use the experience as a stepping stone, not a permanent home… cause the conditions are soo bad.

Is this really how it works at consultancies? Is it possible for a long term careers at one?