State of Design – Results 1: Income


February 9th 2023

In December 2022, Design denmark ran an online survey asking designers about everything from where they find inspiration and what they love to what they are paid and which type of clients they work for. We call it the State of Design.

We will release the findings in a series of articles, starting with this first post, where we dive into the topic of income. We are very thankful that almost all of the 285 participants chose to share how much they earn. This makes it possible to highlight various perspectives on how pay, gender, experience, and field of work play together. However, we start from the top with the most basic of all of the results the data show.

Average Monthly Salary in DKK (excluding pension and benefits)


Hidden behind this number is quite a hefty spread, which is not surprising given that we include everything from startups to directors and owners of very successful businesses. More than 25 % earn less than 35.000, while just shy of 10 % are averaging more than 80.000 DKK a month.

Spread: Average Income in %

Gender & Income

One of the most anticipated results was whether there was an income gap between men and women.

Average Income Gender: Across Categories

Looking at the average income per gender, we see quite a large difference where men are paid 13 %more. But this is not telling the full story. Take a look at the gender % in the different work-type categories below.

Gender per Category %

The numbers are striking. Data reveals that about half of the income gap comes from a disproportionate rate of men at the top paid positions. If we adjusted for this the average income per gender would look like the graph below.

Adjusted Average Income: Across Categories

Another influencing factor is that men in our survey had slightly longer work experience. It is difficult from our data sets to quantify the effect of this, but it is unlikely that it accounts for the remaining difference.

Average Years of Experience

The conclusion is, therefore, that there is a significant gender income gap. It predominantly stems from a skewed distribution of the type of jobs women and men have – and to a smaller, albeit noticeable, extent, a result of bias or other factors not accounted for in this survey.

Income Across Various Categories

We also examined how the average income was distributed across the categories of being “Self-employed”, “Employee”, “Team Leaders”, and “Directors, Owners, Founders and Such.”

Average Income Across the Various Categories

Below we have shown the spread in income within each category.

Spread Director, Owner, Founder, and Such %
Spread Team Leaders %
Spread Employee %
Spread Self-Employed %

The “Director, Owner, Founder, and Such” category is a bit spotty, which we attribute to a somewhat limited data set and a quite high variance category. But grouped together with “Team Leaders”, personnel responsibility forms a normal distribution curve averaging just around 65.000 DKK in income per month.

“Self-employed” is another high variance category, but with a clear tendency towards the bottom part of the income spectrum. Freedom comes with a price, as the average reported payout is only two-thirds of that of the “Employee” category! A note of caution here: The data shows how much the self-employed pay themselves, so, in principle, they could have accumulated a lot of money in their companies not reported in the data of this survey. But looking at the data from self-employed spanning whole careers, nothing indicates that this is the case.

Income – Years of Experience: Employee vs. Self-Employed

We also income-mapped ”Employees” and “Self-Employed” based on years of experience. And this is again a woeful tale for the self-employed.

Finally we took a look at the numbers adjusted per work hours, but again the story remains the same.

Hourly Income DKK

That is it for this first part of our State of Design Survey results. In the next part, we will dive more into income numbers and match them against the various design fields.

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