How are you doing financially as a designer

It’s good to hear that it’s not as rough as I’m perceiving it to be! Thanks for sharing a different viewpoint. :slight_smile:

I struggle with what youre asking…

With ANY job, including Design… as long as you live within your means and are smart you will be financially fine.

Someone freelancing making 15,000$ living in Colorado snowboarding 5 days a week may have a better quality of life than someone making 100,000 a year living in NYC working 8am-9pm…obviously financially they are making a mere fraction of the designer in NYC,

The question shouldnt be about finances… I know plenty of people who live awesome lives that make little to nothing … its about doing what you love… Once you figure that out, the money wont matter as much.

Good point Kershaw.

How I’m doing financially right now has nothing to do with my career choices, and everything to do with decisions I’ve made in life. Buying a house, getting married, having children. All of those things affect your income significantly.

that says it pretty plainly, which is to say it all depends on one’s situation…

hope this isn’t too off topic, but how does/should/would one think about this? according to accomplishments? goals? pay? responsibilities?

Seems to me that is for you to decide. Only you can determine what defines your “successful” career. Worrying about how others measure themselves is a waste of time.

But if you must, when I compare myself to other designers, it is usually by height.

But OP… to answer your question.

I am able to buy the toys I want, live where I want, and enjoy my time outside of work.

yea, that might have been unclear…I was referring to the ‘design’ of ones’s career, like creating a plan for what you will be doing/where you will be in some amount of time in the future. is really a good way to approach a ‘career?’

At the end of every year I try to take some time to assess what I’ve done, what I’m doing, where I want to be. In terms of where I want to be I think of it 20 years out (end game), then I try to backtrack where I think I would need to be in 10 years, in 5 years, in 2 years. This usually helps me to pinpoint some gaps in my skillset, knowledge, or experience set to work on that year. The only way to coast is down, if your not getting better, your getting worse.

In terms of measuring my success, it’s pretty personal to me I think. At the end of the day money, and cars, and Noguchi coffee tables or whatever floats your boat are nice, but what I go by is asking myself am I doing the kind of projects I want to be doing. That answer is probably different for each designer, but working on what you want to work on is success form me.

How much you make as a designer is no different than any job. It depends on where you work, skill level, and what you are contributing to your company and doing to better your skill sets. There are so many places you can work that you shouldn’t even worry about how much you will make before even looking for jobs. I’ve seen the gamut of designers busting their butt at small firms for high 20’s and other designers at cushy do nothing jobs making 100+.

It’s really up to you and what you want to do. Every company has its ups and downs, one that might pay well may not have the most exciting projects and vice versa.

Once piece of advice is if you are always up to date on your skill level and industry and you are always looking for ways to increase your visibility within the field and at your company you will be fine. If you can show you are invaluable you will be paid accordingly.

“I don’t have digital
I don’t have diddly squat
It’s not having what you want
It’s wanting what you’ve got”
> - Sheryl Crow, > Soak Up the Sun

I’m an experienced Industrial Designer, with more than a decade in the business. I’ve worked for consulting firms, corporations, and I’ve taught at 2 colleges, and I’ve not yet ever been unemployed. That being said - for the amount of work and effort we put in - Nobody does this for the money. You’d get paid better money by playing in the San Francisco symphony (they make $145,000.00 + bennies, to blow on a freakin flute).

Product design is like Logan’s Run ( movie) : It’s a pretty kick-ass mid-level job, but when you hit 40 years old, you’re either prepared to run quickly to another career, or you end up getting caught by the age-police. My teacher warned us, and I’ve always remembered: “Design is for the young. Plan an exit strategy”. If you start to feel old at any age, or if you’re approaching 40 - pick a different direction and be ready to run. I’ve just hit 40, and thankfully locked in a new retirement career that’ll make real money.

There ARE exceptions to everything! Undoubtedly some old-fart designers will come on here proclaiming they’re doing well. Just because George Carlin was able to smoke cigarettes and weed his whole life, and still die of old age - doesn’t mean we’ll all be so lucky. For most, design careers fall apart by age 40. You’ve been warned.

Undoubtedly some old-fart designers will come on here proclaiming they’re doing well. For most, design careers fall apart by age 40.

It’s been discussed before. And that’s one of the great aspects of the international CORE community; everyone benefits from the experiences of our members of all ages groups.

Senior Level Career, Where Does One Go?

Confessions of a 30-Something Industrial Designer

"Too Much Experience", “Not a good fit” at 40

Am I too Old to Start an I.D. degree program?

Creativity Crisis

Looking For a Design Job and Over 40

There are others.

You’ve been warned.

Not for the first time.

BTW, welcome to the boards Dan.


Maybe then I made the right move getting into design management at 32, but I don’t always feel that way. Over the past few years I am seeing what I’ve given up, and for me the reality is that in my position it is difficult for me to be able to take on the kinds of design projects that I enjoy and manage a team, do administrative work, project qualification, etc. I was really apprehensive about getting into a management position because I felt that I had a lot more development to do as a designer. What I am now finding is that I have even more development to do in a leadership role, it can be tough. To be fair the money isn’t that much better than what I could be making as a staff/senior level designer in another company or consultancy. I live within my means and have the money to do lots of the things I enjoy, but I have never been very materialistic by nature so how am I doing financially as a designer? I would say that I am comfortable financially, but uneasy about where to go, what to do next. I’m not lacking in opportunities inside and outside of where I work, for which I’m thankful, but I have some work to do when it comes to motivation and risk taking right now in my career. People logically assume that my next step would be into a Creative Director position, but I don’t think that’s the right move for me.

Thanks Lew,

I hadn’t spent enough time on the boards to view your previous posts (This was a re-direct from the main page). Hopefully schools will start teaching “design career life-cycle design” to design students, so they’ll have a plan in place when the music stops.


Hey those links from the front page really work!

Welcome Dan. Great points. Career life cycle design would be a very beneficial class at the university level. A dose of reality before you’re in reality.

I’m paying the mortgage in a good suburban neighborhood, supporting a family (wife plus kid), getting my three squares plus a fancy coffee drink in the morning, and have a good automobile. At the end of the month there is sometimes a little left over which gets saved. I contribute some to my 401K, take the bus whenever possible (or ride my bike) vs driving and paying for gas and parking.

Sometimes I have some dough left to blow on new bike parts or computer gadgets. Its tight sometimes but we have not had to really, really struggle.

Unemployment in Seattle just went under 6% so I’m not as worried about my next job as perhaps I should be, but its kind of taking shape in my head.

So - we are doing OK, but it feels like sprinting, sprinting, sprinting… :unamused:

I kind of had that in mind which is why I started this thread: Does a degree in ID open many doors?

As interested as I’am about being a designer, I do think about the alternatives I can have whether its because my age is too old to play a certain role in a company as a designer or whatever. The main thing I know is that design is something I want to do more than anything else, but if somehow my degree puts me in another path to a career which I can have until retirement then I don`t mind that either.

To be fair, I don’t think I’d want the same exact job till I’m 60.

There are plenty of old boys in the ID industry, just look at any IDSA conference and there’s no shortage of gray hair. Do people expect you to be pumping CAD for consulting clients at that point? Not really. There’s going to be kids coming out of school who can do that same level of work for half the price, so it’s not appropriate to expect that you can sit in the same task for 40 years.

Most of the people you see who are older are running their own businesses, directors in design departments, getting paid to sit on patent litigation, or offering high end consulting services.

It doesn’t mean it’s a dead end career, it just means where it ends is up to you. If I’m still pumping CAD in 20 years put a bullet in my head.

Looking at UX/UI design it surprises me how they make a lot of money and no one mentioned them here. And I mean a lot like 80-100k

Though not too focused on salary, since I’m already more than comfortable with ID it doesnt hurt to also be comfortable with the salary too. I mean I know of lawyers that hate their jobs to death and continue to question themselves why theyre doing it, so I’m glad I’m not stuck like that.

Doctors also make a lot of money, but this is primarily an Industrial design board (even though many UI/UX designers come from ID backgrounds).

UX is a great career option as well, and involves much of the same thinking.

Good ID jobs will pay just as well. Most UX positions are also centralized in big metro areas like NYC or San Fran, which like was mentioned earlier means you’ll be making $100k, but you will also be paying $2000 in rent for a studio apartment - so keep in mind cost of living when you are trying to look at salaries.