AIGA’s Latest Design POV Installment Explores the Intrinsic Value of Design in the Marketplace


July 29, 2021

Media Contact

Michelle Koenigsknecht

(212) 710-3138

Data Breaks Down Market Trends in Income and Career Trajectories 

New York, NY—Today, AIGA, the professional association for design, released the fourth installment of its 2021 AIGA Design POV Research Initiative: Being a Designer, Design Pathways, and Market Intelligence. This installment examines designer career trajectories alongside market trends in income.  

Survey respondents demonstrate that designers think about what it means to be a designer in three ways: 1) as a skillset—a visual problem solver, experience creator, and communicator/storyteller; 2) a mindset—more a way of thinking than doing; and 3) impactset—a force for change, progress, and good. We also noted the importance of  continuing to diversify skills and business acumen to best position themselves throughout their career arc, which highlights the continued importance of designer adaptability.

Highlights from this report:

Being a Designer

  • When we asked the question, what does it mean to be a designer, top three responses:
    • Being a visual problem solver, experience creator, and communicator and storyteller (45%)
    • Creative problem solver focused on effective communication (38%)
    • Creative problem solver that prioritizes both form and function (24%)

Design Pathways

  • Artistic appreciation, creative spirit, and perceived talent are often the most common sources of inspiration for individuals to become designers. 
  • Networking and relationship building are key to advancing in the design field; 42% of respondents said that building relationships helped them land their first design job.

Market Intelligence

  • AIGA found that designers are often self-employed and do not receive benefits. For those who do, healthcare insurance is the top choice. Many designers take on other work, and for those who do, they tend to raise their annual income on average by 26%. 
  • Three professions within design are expected to grow in employment in the next decade: software design (up 22%), web design (up 8%), and special effects artists/animators (up 8%). This shift in job trends will require designers to remain adaptable and ready to sharpen skills to stay competitive. 

As noted in a previous installment of AIGA’s Design POV, Design Leads and Value of Design, it is important for workplaces to foster cultures of respect. What is also clear is that income is complex and impacted by numerous factors including location which may be an interesting challenge for the professional as the future of work may mean it is no longer connected to a physical location. Research also found that industry opportunity often comes through networking, persistence, and mentorship, with early-life designers also emphasizing the importance of internships.  

Additionally, we found, using the AIGA Better Workplaces for DesignersTM assessment, that the top ways to create better workplaces for designers is to build cultures where people: 

  • feel valued/respected/heard
  • receive fair pay/benefits 
  • encouraged to have a healthy work-life balance
  • presented with opportunities to grow, use existing skills/abilities, and learn new skills
  • feel safe to be their true selves 
  • empowered to make decisions

As with all the AIGA Design POV installments, this chapter helps designers hone their visions for their careers with interactive visioning worksheets.  

Additional information about the report can be found here. To request a copy of the report, which is available free to members of the media, please email us.

The AIGA Design POV was made possible thanks to the support of PepsiCo.

Media Contact

Michelle Koenigsknecht

(212) 710-3138


AIGA, the professional association for design, advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage, and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, AIGA brings together practitioners, enthusiasts, and patrons to amplify the voice of design and creates the vision for a collective future. AIGA defines global standards and ethical practices, guides design education, inspires designers and the public, enhances professional development, and makes powerful tools and resources accessible to all.