ISSUE 22  News & opinion | June 2001 | updated 7/11/01   

  Are you paid what you're worth?

It's always interesting to compare your salary to that of others doing the same job—sometimes reassuring, sometimes irritating. This month lets look at two good sources, the 2001 AIGA/Aquent Survey of Design Salaries, conducted annually by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and sponsored by Aquent, a talent agency for designers, and Salary.com, a comprehensive and easy to use website which lists salaries for jobs of all types.

Each uses a different method of arriving at their figures and the results vary somewhat. The AIGA/Aquent survey is based on a yearly mail and internet survey of professional designers. Salary.com uses compensation information provided by employers, and claims that the information is constantly reviewed and updated.

I checked each for the median salary of an designer and of a web designer working in my area, Cleveland, Ohio. The AIGA did not list results for Cleveland, so I used the geographic area "East North Central." Salary.com allowed me to specify Cleveland, but the results were "based on national averages adjusted by geographic salary differentials." Here's what I found:

Designer: AIGA/Aquent: $37,000, Salary.com ("Graphic Design Specialist"): $37,880.

Web designer: AIGA/Aquent: $40,000, Salary.com: $50,232 ("Designer I-Web"), $67,247 ("Designer II-Web").

Pretty big difference for the web designer position—why? A closer study of the AIGA/Aquent results helps explain: salaries are broken down by size and type of organization. At a "large" (1000+ employees) or an "international" (as opposed to "Local/regional only") organization the median figure jumps to $50,000.

Then too, maybe employees understate their salaries a bit, and employers overstate them, meaning that the actual figure should fall somewhere in the middle.

So, are you being paid what your worth? See for yourself:

[ AIGA survey ] [ Salary.com ]

Web storytelling
We've talked a lot about web usability in past issues; I'm a firm believer that design should put user needs at the top of the list. Yet usability is only one aspect of good design.

Jakob Nielsen's website, informative though it may be, doesn't exactly fire your imagination. Other sites filled with eyecandy and animation may look cool, but are quickly forgotten. They don't have much to say beyond what's on the surface, like a Hollywood action flic. What's missing here?

Storytelling. Narrative. What humans do best (except when you put them to work designing a website). A recent A List Apart article puts it this way: we've learned an awful lot about how to write (good handwriting) without learning how to write (an interesting story).

As with any new technology, we're spending a whole lot of time learning to use the tools. It's time to move past that: we've got to learn to use the medium to communicate.

[ Web Storytelling article ]   [ Related links ]

Walk with me
It started with a haircut, and was only a walk around the neighborhood. It turned into the first installment of my new personal website. More to come. Tell me what you think.

Encourage conservation, not consumption
A couple of days ago I received an email about energy policy that made sense. Much more sense than the policy of the Bush administration has proposed: continuing to consume energy literally as if there's no tomorrow. The simple act described below is of course only symbolic. So? As designers we should understand and appreciate the value of symbolism.

As an alternative to George W. Bush's energy policies and lack of emphasis on efficiency, conservation and alternative fuels, there will be a voluntary rolling blackout on the first day of summer, June 21 from 7 PM - 10 PM in all time zones (this will roll it across the planet).

It's a simple protest and a symbolic act. Turn out your lights from 7pm-10pm on June 21. Unplug whatever you can unplug in your house. Light a candle, kiss and tell (or not), take a walk in the dark, make love, tell your kids a story, anything that's not electronic: have fun in the dark.

Let your legislators know we want global education, participation and funding in conservation, efficiency and alternative fuel efforts, and an end to over-exploitation and misuse of the earth's resources.

Please share this information with as many people as you can. The United States, which consumes much more than its fair share of the world's energy, must take the lead in encouraging conservation, not consumption.

[ Roll your own blackout website ]   [ News report ]

Design competitions
If our listings in the Education section don't satisfy your competitive urges, try the Graphic Competitions website. The site lists a diverse (to put it mildly) collection of competitions, many of them ongoing and online.

Font sale this month at P22
Digital type foundry P22 is selling fonts on floppies (remember those?) for half-price. The limited selection includes fonts based on the handwriting of Cezanne, Escher, Frank Lloyd Wright, Josef Albers, and other oddities like insects & hieroglyphics. Take advantage of this deal before June 30.

-Al Wasco, June 11, 2001


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