2017 Design Census: Participation

An introductory look at AIGA and Google’s newly released data-set surveying designers in 2017.


For a six-week period during November and December 2017, AIGA, the professional association for design, and Google partnered to survey the US Design Industry in their second annual Design Census. Just over 13,000 people participated, and the information they gathered is now freely available for all to explore at https://designcensus.org/

Participation Breakdown

  • The ‘West Pacific’ region represents 20.5% of the data set, with ‘Northeast Middle Atlantic’ close behind with 18.1%. Conclusions drawn from the data are statistically weighted in favor of these regions.
  • Both the ‘Midwest East North Central’ and ‘South South Atlantic’ received 1500+ participants. This helps spread some (but not all) of the data’s weight. To illustrate: In 2016 there was a 10.3% difference in participation between the first and fourth most subscribed regions. In 2017, that same difference is only 5.5%.
  • A total of 24 states each collected fewer than 100 participants (and 18 of those states had fewer than 50 participants).

Average Salary Breakdown

  • CA, WA, and NY States boast the highest average annual salaries, ranging between $81k — $95k. We know that CA and NY represent a substantial portion of the data set, which affirms that these numbers aren’t unbelievable.
  • There is no correlation between average annual salary and participation levels. This is a good thing. If participation was perfectly correlated across all census categories it would prove the data unreliable.

Breakdown of Non-White Participants

It does a disservice to the topic of racial diversity to be so binary, but the term ‘non-white’ is suitably descriptive of what data is being visualized in Figure 3.

  • At a state level, 18 states have 27% or more non-white designers in their communities, but 33 states have fewer than 27%. This is partially correlated with census participation levels.
  • Of States with 100+ participants, FL has a noticeably high 44% of its total participants identifying as non-white Designers. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s an example of possible stories in the data that warrant further investigation.

Breakdown of LGBTQ Participants

  • 1197 LGBTQ participants makes for a fairly small sample size. As social discussions around representation and inclusion continue it will be important to identify the ways this data should be developed and grown.

Conclusion: Just the Beginning

Speaking personally, as a designer and AIGA chapter President, it’s easy to notice the changing landscape that the design industry and its communities experience every day. This growing Design Census data is a compelling catalyst for important dialogues and questions Designers should be having.

Data Cleaning Methodology

  1. Creating location heat-maps is dependent on participants answering the optional census question to provide their zip-code. Of the 13,158 who participated 2,382 (18%) chose not to share their location.
  2. Of the 306 entries missing annual salary information, only 1 claimed to be currently employed. The remaining 305 data points were given an annual salary of $0.
  3. To help remove outliers, all participants who fell into the 1st ($0) and 99th ($216,000 and above) percentiles of annual income were cleaned from the data — a total of 518 people.
  4. After cleaning, the final data-set contained 10,257 entries.

Sr. Experience Designer ML/AI at Adobe. President Emeritus, AIGA Orange County