The salary calculator is an excellent resource for finding average salaries, by position, in the area. These no-nonsense numbers are so valuable for a small studio such as ours to use as a gauge for setting goals for both ourselves and future hires. Not surprisingly, Portland salaries appear quite a bit lower than other metro regions for similar jobs. For example, the Portland median salary for partners in a design firm is $60,000 while the national median is $95,000 – Portland is second to the very bottom of 25 metro areas reporting, above only Detroit. With the rise of the creative class here in Portland, how long will this trend continue? Are we too over-saturated as a city?

Looking at industry averages, though, our profession is steadily growing in worth. Cautionary signs exist – Employed designers reported high business activity during 2007, yet this did not translate into higher compensation as the budget for design projects were consistently characterized as extremely tight. Even with these signs, the AIGA remains confident in the important roles designers and design thinking play in creating value for both the corporate and civic sectors. Hence, [they] believe that the demand and compensation for design services will rise as the economy grows.

Salary is but one piece of the pie when it comes to design as a vocation; It is also worth noting that, as the essays in this publication articulate from a range of perspectives, compensation should be only one criterion in a young designer’s consideration of employment. We were just chatting here in the studio the other day about how lucky we are to be in the place we are, doing what we love. Often, when running off to photograph a client’s cafe or spending the day creating lovely mockups, we just don’t feel like we are actually working at all. And this benefit is priceless.