The True Cost of Design Talent

Piotr Smietana
Director of Brand & Marketing Creative
Published12 Sep, 2022
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. 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 recruitment so far: $4,000

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: $84,000

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 the 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, top 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, HR software, 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 tech-enabled top design talent.

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.

Add Capabilities and Capacity Affordably
Add Capabilities and Capacity Affordably

Add Capabilities and Capacity Affordably

Whether you need a specific design skill, extra bandwidth or both, Superside can help. Learn how we can become an extension of your team.

Piotr Smietana
Piotr SmietanaDirector of Brand & Marketing Creative
Piotr is a Director of Brand & Marketing Creative at Superside, based in Cracow, Poland. He's a video marketing expert with over 11 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.
Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss anything!

Join our community of 50,000+ who receive the best in design and marketing content, weekly.


Why choose Creative-as-a-Service with Superside?

Book a demo
Improve your marketing performance

Improve your marketing performance

Get high-quality creative, ship campaigns faster and stand out from the competition.

Be more agile & responsive

Be more agile & responsive

Never say no to another project request. Get a hassle-free creative partner that can keep up.

Elevate your team

Elevate your team

Allow your in-house creatives to focus on more strategic projects. Get new ideas & continuous design inspiration.

Save time & be more cost-efficient

Save time & be more cost-efficient

Increase your design capacity without additional hiring and with fewer vendors to manage.

Superside is a revolutionary way for businesses to get good design done at scale.Trusted by 450+ ambitious companies, Superside makes design hassle-free for marketing and creative teams. By combining the top 1% of creative talent from around the world with purpose-built technology and the rigor of design ops, Superside helps ambitious brands grow faster. Since inception, Superside has been a fully remote company, with more than 700 team members working across 57 countries and 13 timezones.
© 2024 Superside. All rights reserved.