Business Insurance

Best Places for Graphic Designers 2021

According to the Office for National Statistics there are around 46,000 working graphic designers across the UK. But from a monetary point of view, which is the best region of the UK to live and work as a graphic designer? We've crunched the numbers on pay and cost of living to find out.

Graphics design is a popular occupation in the UK, combining artistic, technical and people skills into one exciting career. Graphic designers have stimulating jobs where they use their IT, drawing and communications skills to create visual concepts through logos, advertisements, brochures, magazines, websites, reports and more. They work with a wide range of stakeholders and clients to communicate ideas that inform, inspire, and captivate.

Graphic designing is also popular for entrepreneurial spirits, as an experienced designer can kick start their own business with little more than their software and some freelance business insurance.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were close to 46,000 graphic design jobs in the United Kingdom at the end of 2020. While pay dropped around 4% from 2019 due to COVID-19, the industry has fared well compared to many occupations since many graphic designers can work remotely. But where are the best opportunities for graphics designers now? We ranked UK regions to determine the best areas for graphics designers to live and work based on average salaries and the cost of living in different areas. Here's what we found.

Best Places in Great Britain for Graphic Designers

Wales is the best region in the UK for graphic designers, combining high pay and relatively low costs of living. This region has the highest Pay to Cost of Living ratio for graphic designers, making it the most affordable area to work and live. The North West ranked second place, with Scotland coming in third.

The areas where graphic designers will have the toughest time financially are the South East, East Midlands and London. These areas have the lowest Pay to Cost of Living ratio, which means graphic designers will have a harder time paying for their expenses on a typical wage.

Infographic showing the best regions in Great Britain for Graphic Designers

Graphic Designer Pay by Region

According to the Office for National Statistics, graphic designers earn an average of £511.9 per week or £26,619 a year in the UK, but wages vary significantly from one area to another. Perhaps surprisingly, graphic designers in Wales earn the most—£30,924 a year on average. Graphic designers in the South West earn the second highest wages at £29,453 per year, with London ranking third in terms of mean pay (£29,370 per year).

Graphic designers in the East Midlands earn the least, just £21,590 a year (30% less than in Wales).

However, pay isn't everything.

Pay adjusted by cost of living

How expensive an area is determines how far that pay will go. Finding the best area from an economic point of view means considering both pay and cost of living. For example, while London ranked 3rd in terms of average graphic designer wages, it's the most expensive region to live in. The typical London household spends £34,232 per year, which is 16% higher than the UK average. That makes London less desirable than many other areas for a graphics designer to live and work.

If you adjust pay by the cost of living, then Wales is arguably the best place to work and live as a graphic designer. In Wales, the average graphic designer earns £30,924 a year, which is the highest average pay in the UK. But the average household spends just £24,461 a year to live in Wales, which is the second cheapest behind the North East. This makes the Cost-of-Living Ratio in Wales 1.26, which is 40% better than the Cost-of-Living Ratio across the UK for graphic designers (0.91).

The South East is least affordable for graphic designers. Average annual wages of £26,083 in the region are not enough to cover the high £34,190 average household spend in the South East. These figures translate into a Cost-of-Living Ratio of just 0.76, the worst in Great Britain.


Overall RankRegionAverage Weekly Pay of Graphic designersAverage Annual Pay of Graphic designersAverage Weekly Household SpendingAverage Annual Household SpendingPay/Cost of Living Metric
2North West£547£28,439£501£26,0621.09
4South West£566£29,453£572£29,7650.99
5West Midlands£466£24,237£485£25,1940.96
6North East£428£22,272£458£23,7900.94
7Yorkshire and The Humber£482£25,085£521£27,0870.93
10East Midlands£415£21,590£534£27,7520.78
11South East£502£26,083£658£34,1900.76
United Kingdom£512£26,619£565£29,3850.91


NimbleFins' study assessed three key factors to determine the best places in Great Britain for graphic designers to pursue their careers.

1. Average annual gross pay for graphic designers

While the average graphic designer earns £26,619 per year, gross pay varies widely depending on the region where you live. As part of this study we considered the average weekly gross pay for graphic designers in 11 regions of Great Britain. We multiplied this weekly pay by 52 weeks/year to arrive an an annual figure.

2. Pay/Cost of living index per region

In determining the best places for graphic designers to live and work, it's important to see how easily someone could afford essential household expenses like housing, transportation, food and entertainment, and more. Affordability plays a large role in quality of life, so comparing wages to living expenses is a key factor in comparing regions. To capture this we adjusted local average wages by the average household spending in each region. Regions with a lower cost of living rank higher, as they are more desirable. The Pay/Cost of Living metric reflects the average gross pay divided by the average household expenditure.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.