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.