I’m at the point where I could retire soon — maybe sooner than I really want to. I’ve never thought about retiring much until lately when things have slowed down due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. I’ve always enjoyed this whole field of work. I’ve been very lucky, and it’s treated me well.
All that considered, the whole profession of graphic design has become increasingly dysfunctional over the last 20 years. I was remembering back to when I first graduated with a design degree and began working full-time and picking up my own clients on the side. My very first freelance job was a logo design for a small business that built kitchen cabinets. I charged them $650 for the logo and the artwork (paste-up back then) for stationery and business cards.
When considering inflation (looked it up), that $650 would be the equivalent of about $1,500 today. This wasn’t an outrageous amount of money for a new designer to be charging for a logo back then (early 1980s). It was pretty much the going rate here in Salt Lake at the time. The metro area contained, maybe, a million people, but I personally knew, probably, half the graphic designers in town — there just weren’t that many of us. Today, the population is upwards of three times that big, but the number of people calling themselves graphic designers numbers in the thousands. It’s sort of ridiculous.
Since my freelance work has been slow recently, out of curiosity, I decided to check UpWork to see what one of the more reputable crowdsourcing sites had going on. The going rate for a logo there seems to be around $50 or, counting inflation, some 30 times cheaper than when I first graduated from college.
I was talking to a friend from a former employer a couple of months ago. He was working on the design of a relatively small WordPress website for a government agency. They were charging them a quarter of a million dollars for what was basically off-the-shelf software that involved a small amount of custom server-side scripting.
Fifty dollars for a logo. A quarter million for a fairly simple website. I mentioned in my second paragraph how dysfunctional this whole field has become, and this is a good example. There’s still good money to be made for the select few who graduate into the upper echelons of savvy (or foolish) clients with money. The other 95% of those studying to become designers will likely be selling shoes or waiting on tables for a living. Wannabe designers might as well set their sites on becoming professional basketball players — the chances are about the same.
Anyway, would I encourage anyone to go into this field? Nope, not unless they were so committed to the idea that they were willing to bet a big part of their life on the unlikely chance of succeeding.