A designer’s market? How design compensation has changed in the last year

Product Design is getting harder to find

From product design to brand design, design is a foundational function for any early-stage company.

Building a design team looks different from other startup functions for a few reasons. 

First, many designers typically freelance for multiple companies before moving into a full-time role — and as the market for independent labor heats up, senior designers have no shortage of opportunities to choose from. 

At the same time, design tools and communities like Figma, Sketch, and Dribbble have made it easier to break into design, spurring an influx of new junior talent on the market looking for career-defining opportunities. 

How have these trends impacted design compensation in the last year? We looked at our data to find out. 

What the data reveals

We pulled compensation data for 1,500 startup design roles across all levels of seniority to uncover YoY trends. 



For junior designers, compensation hasn’t changed much. In fact, for P1, entry-level designers, compensation has decreased YoY. This isn’t surprising considering how much new talent looking to gain experience has entered the market in the last year. 

Senior-level roles, however, are experiencing massive salary inflation, with senior and staff-level designers earning up to $50K more YoY when changing jobs. 

There are two reasons why senior designers are commanding higher compensation. As a record-number of startups emerge, more companies are leaning on expert design as a key early hire. And with the Great Resignation in full swing, senior designers have more bargaining power when considering new roles.

The data also shows that demand is clearly higher for builders vs. managers: design manager salaries have grown by an average of $10K YoY, a modest jump in comparison to senior-level ICs. 

Building a high-performing design team in a competitive market

If you’re looking for junior designers to help take your design efforts from 0 to 1, you may not have to search too far or dig too deeply into your pockets to land great talent. 

But senior-level candidates are in much higher demand and can be more selective when it comes to their next moves. How you benchmark for these roles makes all the difference.

Keeping a close eye on compensation trends in this ever-changing market can help you stay competitive, not only when it comes to attracting new senior-level design talent but also retaining it.

What about design leadership?

In a future post, we will dig into YoY changes for design leadership roles including Directors, VPs and Chief Design Officers.