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The True Cost of Design Talent

Piotr Smietana
Piotr Smietana6 min read
The True Cost of Design Talent - Superside

Talent. It’s difficult to define, but you know when you’ve got it, especially when it’s on your team.

In design, talent translates to cutting-edge imagery that tantalizes viewers and draws them into your brand. Employing talented designers is absolutely essential for gluing customer eyeballs to your business, and bringing the purchasing power attached to them.

In fact, according to a study conducted by McKinsey, businesses that strive for quality design generated 32% more revenue and 56% more shareholder returns than industry competitors over five years. Investing in talent that can make value-creating designs is a clear business advantage.

There’s just one problem–design talent ain’t cheap.

Between the cost of hiring, retaining, delighting and supporting them, top-tier designers are a lot of money. How much money? Let’s break down true cost of design talent that your brand deserves:

First, You Have to Recruit ‘em

Before you consider the cost of employing talent you need to, well, recruit them. This means starting the recruitment process, which involves writing the job description, filtering through candidates, running multiple rounds of interviews, and pulling in experts on your team to evaluate the work, in other words, money, and lots of it. According to a Glassdoor study conducted in the US, it costs an average of $4,000 USD to actually hire someone, when you account for recruitment technology, in-house resources, and marketing. Not to mention the time it takes to recruit–valuable productive hours that could be spent elsewhere.

$4k is just the average though.


If you’re looking for a talented design lead, you’re competing against other companies trying to court their favor. And armed with a portfolio that plainly demonstrates their skill, talented designers are in hot demand—which could drive up the cost (and time) it takes to recruit them. But, without getting too specific, let's go with the average.

Total cost for talent so far: $4k

Top Design Talent Wants a Serious Salary

Employing your brother-in-law’s niece who took a $25 InDesign course is probably pretty affordable — if you’re aiming to make your resume look cute. But if you’re looking for imagery to dazzle your audience and ultimately realize a business-impact, you need to take design seriously.

If you’re picking from the middle-of-the-pack in terms of talent for the Design Lead role, on average you’re looking at salaries around $65,000 USD. But if you want someone who understands how to organize 1,783 layers in Figma without the PC catching fire, expect to pay no less than $80,000. And yes–it does go up from there.

Total cost for top talent so far: $84k

Learn From the Top Design Talent

We spoke with the best and brightest creative leaders, and captured their wisdom in our new guide.

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Does Your Talent Have the Tech They Need?

Great design isn’t made with paper and crayons (but don’t tell that to your toddlers). It’s created with design tools and professional technology that don’t come cheap. For a start, you’re going to want an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, that offers access to apps like Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. For the comprehensive package, that’s about $1,200 USD/year. But wait–there’s more.

With the ubiquity of remote work these days, Figma has become an essential tool for creative collaboration and interface design. For an Enterprise subscription for a single editor, expect to pay $900/year.

You’ll also need file sharing and cloud storage— go with Google Drive, as an example, and a business subscription might set you back around $240 annually (depending on amount of storage and high-rez graphics eating up space). If you really want to delight your designers, adding a Miro subscription (for whiteboard and project management) to the stack is a good idea for around $190.

Total cost for tech-equipped talent so far: $86,530

(assuming you’re already using communication tools like Slack)


Prepare to Grow Your Team

If you’re looking to scale, run large campaigns, or even just prevent your newly hired lead designer from burning out, you're going to need to support them with a team. Let's say you hire two other designers to lift some of the burden, and to learn and develop under your talented lead. The average graphic designer salary is about $40,000 USD, so double that to $80k.

And what about specializations? When you hire one person you usually get one skillset. You might get an absolutely incredible illustrator…who can’t do animation. So you need an animator too, and don’t forget about your UX. When it comes to design it can be a real rabbit hole.

But of course, that’s just the salary. You have to go through the costly recruitment process, buy them seats to your new tech stack, and offer them incentives to stay with your company in a competitive market–or face the dread of repeating the entire process again. At this point you might be wondering is great design created by talent really worth all this?

Total cost for a design team: $1, no 2, carry the 9 and…??!?🤯

Here’s the good news: There is a better way to access top design talent.

Access the World's Top Design Talent

With Superside, you can tap into the top design talent in the world. Don't let the cost of in-house talent hold your brand back, talk to us today.

Let's chat

Superside – Top Talent, at an Affordable Rate

Don’t compromise on choosing the best design talent or blowing out your bank. At Superside, we employ the top 1% talent from around the globe, and make them available to you at a fraction of the price it would cost to maintain them internally.

Or, if you’ve found that absolute gem of a design lead, and want to support them with a cadre of designers who can add capacity to your overburdened team, offer capabilities you didn’t know you needed, or provide fresh perspectives with a global team, Superside is here for that too.

Don’t let cost keep you from the talent your brand deserves. Get in touch with us today.

Published: Sep 12, 2022
Piotr Smietana
Written by
Piotr Smietana
Piotr is a Marketing Creative Director at Superside, based in Cracow, Poland. He's a video marketing expert with over 9 years of experience in digital marketing, advertising, gaming and the film industry. When not at work, you can find him flying his drone on an epic adventure, jamming on the electric guitar, or hitting up a nearby music festival.

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