Survey Results: What are Designers Really Thinking?

In a recent survey, over two-thousand designers gave some interesting insight into the frequently wondered-about what motivates them, biggest client challenges, do they insist on contracts, how they deal with client disagreements, the best and worst industries when it comes to design, where most clients are found and other questions. The answers might surprise you.

The survey, by 99designs, which compiled the results from  their members as well as designers not affiliated with 99designs, it’s of great interest to see how other designers think about our industry and even with the differences in cultures and locations, how we all do think along the same lines. Here’s the feedback, followed by a handy infographic…

Know what you want before you hire a designer

Clients who know what they’re looking for at the outset of their design project score points with designers – 51% of designers surveyed consider that one of the most important characteristics in a client. 47% of designers say responsiveness is key, and 46% want clients who give them creative freedom. 36% of respondents put tremendous weight on getting paid on time, though the actual dollar signs themselves don’t appear to carry much weight – just 5% say the most important client characteristic is an unlimited budget.

Creative challenges motivate designers more than big paychecks

The opportunity to be creative and design something cool motivates 62% of designers to take on a project, compared to 48% who are swayed by fat paychecks and just 6% who consider a clients’ prominence key.

Designers crave your input

48% of designers say lack of helpful feedback is among their biggest challenges in working with clients, while 42% point to clients’ lack of direction and 25% indicate unrealistic expectations as major obstacles. Most clients seem to be coming through with their wallets, though – just 16% of respondents say getting paid what they’re owed is a problem.

Expect your designer to have – a voice – an opinion

The majority of designers say they speak up when clients disagree with them on a design decision – 44% will do what they’re asked but make their disapproval clear, while 18% try to convince clients their idea is better. 30% of designers report they just do whatever clients ask. Another 5% do what the client wants but figure out a way to ultimately charge more, while only 2% outright refuse to complete the project.

Designers are not overpaid – or clueless about business

31% of designers say the biggest misconception business owners have about designers is that they’re overpaid, while 30% say clients think designers are clueless about the business world. 12% are tired of being labeled “too sensitive” and 10% give the business world a thumbs down for thinking designers are, to be blunt, not very smart.

Designers are an entrepreneurial bunch (who don’t necessarily want to work at your company)

41% of designers indicate that in 10 years they plan to be running their own companies, while 29% plan to be freelancing, 12% expect they’ll be working in-house at a company and 9% think they’ll be in agency jobs. Only 8% indicate they will no longer be working as graphic designers 10 years from now.

Designers love art and entertainment clients, are less psyched about religious and legal projects

Given a list of 22 common industries, 43% of designers say Art and Design is one of their favorite to design for, followed by Entertainment and The Arts at 24%. Three industries share a third-place ranking at 22%: Business and Consulting, Internet/Technology, and Food and Drink products. Designers’ least favorite industries include Travel & Hotel, Automotive, Retail, Religion and Legal.

Designers find new clients virtually everywhere (bowling, anyone?)

In order of popularity, the most interesting places designers have sourced new clients are: community group meetings, restaurants, vacations, family gatherings, bars, weddings, public transportation, parks, gyms, beaches, online dating sites, airplanes, religious services, grocery stores, hospitals, post offices, funerals and bowling alleys.

Contracts optional?

39% of designers don’t require clients to sign on the dotted – or any – line to do a project. *Note from Speider: 100% of designers should use contracts 100% of the time! You can find free contracts at

Hey, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Pepsi and Coca Cola – how about a new logo?

If given the chance to redesign the logo of any major company, these are the top five designers would choose. The rest of the top ten includes IBM, eBay, Samsung, Nike and Wal-Mart.

Designers want gigs at Apple, Google, Coca Cola, Nike and Microsoft

If they could work for any major company, these are the top five designers would pick. The rest of the top 10 includes Pixar, Adidas, Adobe, Disney and Facebook.

For a beefed-up version of the infographic that includes interactive commentary showcasing the best and worst things a clients can tell a designer – straight from the mouths of designers themselves, CLICK HERE!

Source information and infographic provided by 99designs PR manager, Lauren Gard. Infographic ©99designs

Top image ©GL Stock Images

Speider Schneider

Speider Schneider is a former member of The Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine and has designed products for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, ESPN, Mattel, DC and Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon among other notable companies. Speider is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild, co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee and a former board member of the Society of Illustrators. Follow him on Twitter @speider

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