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Graphic Designer Salaries


Name: David Grey
Job Title: Graphic Designer
Where: Troy, NY
Employer: Self-Employed  
Years of Experience: 8
Education: BA – Psychology, Tufts University, MFA – Graphic Design, California Institute of Art
Salary: See PayScale's Research Center for median graphic designer salaries.

Graphic Designer Salaries

What is a graphic designer? What is the average yearly income of a graphic designer? These are questions we hear quite a bit at Salary Stories. Thus, we turned to graphic designer David Grey to give us a clear picture on what is required to become a graphic designer, factors that affect graphic designer salaries, the life of a freelance designer and more!

He filled us in on the education needed to become a graphic designer, how he built his graphic designer resume, and the differences in the average yearly income of a graphic designer per location.

David explained that working as a graphic designer allows him to be creative on a daily basis. When asked what he likes best about his job, exercising his creativity and working for a variety of clients were at the top of his list. For anyone interested in learning more about this creative position, plus graphic designer salaries and benefits, this interview is a must-read!

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Graphic Designer Job Description:

As a freelance graphic designer, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with a range of clients and industries. Although most of my commissions are for the art/music/fashion arena, I design a variety of projects for local businesses and non-profits as well. Previous projects include album covers, posters, event invites, ads, booklets, catalogs, logos, identity design, t-shirts, and even skateboards. My clients range from people who are starting a new business and have $50 to spend on design to large international companies with very deep pockets.

Some are non-profit and information-based while others are artists who need a visual component to represent their own work. I enjoy working for friends. The majority of my time is spent working with repeat clients, who, more often than not, are close friends. By developing a close relationship with my clients I am able to earn their trust. This presents the opportunity to both meet their needs and create fulfilling artistic design work.

What kind of experience is on your graphic designer resume?

My career in graphic design began after college while working in a marketing firm. I was asked to make a 1 page flyer for a new corporate product. It was the most fun I had at that job. My first thought after finishing the project was, “I think there are people who do this everyday as a living.” So I bought a Mac and began taking local evening classes at Mass. Art in Boston. I soon quit my job for a position in a print house doing very simple design work for clients who needed business cards and banners. Growing bored of this, I found a new job designing websites.

But after 2 years, I realized that my knowledge of design was very surface. I knew nothing about the history or theory or contemporary discourse. So I moved cross country to California and spent 2 years in an MFA program. This cultivated a very strong foundation for the present version of my career. Since graduating in 2001, I have art-directed a sneaker company, worked on numerous freelance projects for small start-ups to medium sized non-profits such as LA Freewaves to larger corporations like Nike, and become a full-time professor of graphic design in upstate NY.

Aside from the responsibilities of a graphic designer, what do you enjoy most about your job?

Without a doubt, I love being creative. And if I can get paid to do this then I can do it more often. As a designer, I am given the opportunity to use my own voice to visualize a client’s needs. I can play the role of “supporting cast.” It’s a place where I can weave my own visual agenda into someone else’s message. As a graphic designer, I enjoy making visual spaces that engage a viewer. I attempt to craft worlds and landscapes and environments that are a hybrid of the space we live in and my own imagination. I hope the subtle surprises in my design work wake others up to the beauty of our planet.

During your time as a graphic designer, have you experienced any funny or memorable moments?

I remember getting the opportunity to work with Warner Brothers on a CD cover and thought, “Now I’ve made it to the big leagues.” But the project was not only one of the least creative projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on, it never lead to any other gigs with them. Oh well.

What can you tell us about graphic designer salaries?

If you are working with an hourly wage rate, a junior designer might make $25 per hour and a more senior designer might make $50 per hour. But this hourly wage rate varies depending on where you are located (i.e. you’ll get paid more in NYC than Small Town, USA).

How does your salary measure up? Check our salary calculator to find out.

Matt Schneider
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