Pay rises and bonuses suggest better
times ahead for UK designers



News: a survey of UK design and digital agencies has revealed annual increases in salaries and bonuses that indicate a recovery from the financial crisis affecting the design industry, though unpaid internships and free pitches are still on the rise.

The survey compiled by branding specialist Fairley & Associates, recruitment agency Gabriele Skelton and marketing firm On Pointe Marketing examined working conditions in digital and design companies, with its key findings indicating that "UK digital and design agencies may be emerging from the economic difficulties of recent years".

According to the survey, 42.4 percent of employees received a pay rise in 2013 compared to 21 percent the previous year, while 27.7 percent received a bonus compared to 10.7 percent the previous year.

Pay increases are rising at a higher rate than inflation, with 73 percent of respondents who received a raise stating that it was more than 3 percent of their salary and more than a tenth enjoying pay rises of over 10 percent.

"This is the first evidence we have that the industry is in recovery, as despite the pressure from clients to do more for less money, agency leaders are awarding their staff pay rises and bonuses," said Rachel Fairley, MD of Fairley & Associates.

However, 42.5 percent of respondents agreed that "agencies are using more unpaid interns", though less than four percent of them judge fellowships and internships to be the best form of training. "This suggests that the perceived increase in the use of unpaid interns may be more about using cheap labour than developing the talents and skills of those entering the industry," said the report.

The survey also revealed that many clients still expect agencies to pitch ideas for free, with 36.2 percent of the agencies polled claiming the number of free creative pitches requested by existing clients has increased since 2007, and 49.3 percent saying that the number of free pitches they've submitted for prospective clients has risen.

The survey of of 576 people also found that 53.7 percent of staff plan to change jobs in the next year, which represents a drop from last year's result of 59 percent.

Attitudes towards training and development were also polled, with 40.5 percent of employees claiming they were disappointed with the support and opportunities for professional development provided by their agency.

The report is published annually by Design Industry Voices and is in its third year.

A recent survey by the Royal Institute of British Architects found that the annual workload of British architects increased for the first time since 2009.

Image of British currency is courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • Lucas

    I find it ridiculous that unpaid internships were introduced in the first place! It contradicts what most industries and companies should believe in, working against cheap labour and exploitation.

    It’s bad enough overseas but when creative industries expect us to pay between £3-9 thousand pounds a year studying and then enter a unpaid career is a disgrace. Qualified designers, part one/two architects, artists, performers etc. working in superstores and other deadened jobs, it’s not just reducing the employment rate for unqualified citizens, it’s also supporting and increasing the ‘who you know’ culture.

    Universities should do more to warn students of this but also encourage working for yourself! Many friends of mine have been through unpaid and paid internships but found more success being self employed including myself. The experiences gained are unparalleled and are highly sought after by future employers.

    • Hmm

      Universities educate far more students than the industry needs and many of them lack the skills necessary to survive in the commercial world, but like any other business they profit from this so can’t warn students that maybe the top 5% get jobs if they’re lucky, yes the “who you know” culture exists – it’s also called networking, but regardless of this, if you’re not skilled enough all the contacts in the world won’t get you a job.

  • Lucas Gill

    No matter the amount of students graduating, there are still young adults with outstanding portfolios and even a piece of paper declaring a 2:1 or 1st degree proving (in our universities eyes) they have the necessary skills to survive. One can only improve or develop specific skills for a commercial world once they have a job within it (self-employed or not).

    Unsurprisingly, I understand the concept of networking and there are plenty of ways to do this but I’m referring to family and close friends. Over 50% of my course had a member of family in the industry securing them a job and the rest could afford to print 200, 30 paged portfolios to post.

    A large majority of students may not come from a wealthy background nor have any born connections into their desired job, especially people that are forced to move from areas with very limited opportunities.

  • Twentyfourteen
  • frank n honest

    Free pitching is the way we remove all value from our creative thinking. It’s amazing how desperate we are that we give it all away for nothing.

    Brands use it to simply get free ideas. Even huge brands that can afford to pay for it. And they do it because they don’t have the confidence in themselves to search, choose and work with a consultancy that suits them. It’s a scatter gun approach.

    The DBA have tried to pledge consultancies to stop it, yet even the big boys like Fitch do it. This really hurts small agencies for whom a free pitch is a big investment and a loss can be devastating.

    It’s shameful really. But sadly, it will go on because there is always someone who will do it. We complain about it but take no decisive action against it. Now if EVERY agency decided not to do it….