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Brief Published: 31 Jul 2020

US Consensus Reveals Inequalities in the Design Industry

Design Consensus 2019

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), its editorial platform Eye on Design and Google have revealed the results of their Design Consensus 2019, which fields information from 9,429 US participants to unearth gender and race inequalities in the industry.

It appears that there is increasing access to the design industry through non-traditional means. Thirty-two per cent of respondents entered the industry with a bachelor’s degree, 17% through online learning, and 12% without any formal training. However, this acceptance does not translate into greater diversity, with 71% identifying as white, 9% Asian, 8% Latinx and only 3% Black. 

Gender likewise emerges as a key area for improvement, with women dominating at 61% and men at 36%. And gender is likely to guide their category of work. Women are more likely to be involved in social impact design or illustration, while men tend to work in tech-based industries, such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence or game development. It also translates into pay disparity, with women making up only 11% of leadership roles – filling up all salary brackets to $100,000 before being overtaken by their male peers.

The report pinpoints a 5% increase in the number of surveyed LGBTQ+ participants (sitting at 15%) compared to the last survey in 2017. Despite this, there is vast inequality in how these individuals are paid. The average salary of $50,000-75,000 drops to $35,000-49,000 for an LGBTQ+ designer. And for the 3% who are outside the gender binary, their average pay is less than $25,000 (although this might be due to the high proportion of LGBTQ+ individuals in the student population).

Lastly, even pre-pandemic, there appeared to be a growing sense of anxiety and discontent within the industry. Over half (56%) of designers worry about job security, triple the figure recorded in 2017. There is also a growing need for development and educational opportunities, with only 65% describing themselves as satisfied in their job (down from 82% in 2017), and 26% reporting that they’re learning very little.

To see how education and company roles are having to adapt in preparation for the dynamic future of work, see New Rules, New Roles.