Welcome - I am new too - That is a bit negative rob.Hello Lara, I graduated in 1988 and at that time the back pages of Design Week was thick with jobs in Graphic Design, look now!
The average salary at that time for a Creative Director (the job to which all of us aspired) was about £50,000 which should translate today in average earnings as £128,000. My recent search on average salaries in the UK for the graphic design industry shows an upper end of about £50,000, creative director salaries start at about £30,000.
This means that the value of the highest ranking individual in the industry has more than halved in my career! Yes I did become a Creative Director in 1997, salary £40,000.
There are very few large graphic design businesses sufficient to provide such things as employment rights. Theoretically you have rights as an employee in law but since most of the industry is made up of very small firms (less than 50 employees) you will live or die at the whim of the business owner with no practical legal recourse.
You will not enjoy a non-contributory pension, an HR manager or be able to do more with your salary than pay your way; it is unlikely that you will afford a mortgage, be able to save or pay into a private pension.
The trend for value in graphic design is downward. Technologies such as the Apple Mac and Adobe have seen the extinction of pre-press reprographics and almost the entire destruction of the litho industry. Graphic designers now do their job, the job of the visualiser, art-worker, paste-up artist, finishing artist, typesetter and now thanks to the internet a software engineer, film producer and content manager as well.
And yes they were all once separate jobs in one studio. This represents a ratio of 9:1 so what happened to specialism and the expert specialist? 8 more jobs for less money than in 1988!!
I know secretaries in law firms that earn more than all but the highest paid graphic designers not including their company benefits.
As technology and templates come to do more and more of what we as experts used to do our differentiation deserts us and margin reduces for all but the few at the top of the competitive pyramid (Wolff-Olins etc) this puts graphic design companies in price competition, which only ever goes down. Add to this the ubiquity of availability of graphic design services and you see what I mean.
Unless your heart is truly set on it don't do it.
Rob - I dont want to argue as a newcomer - but I still think you are being too negative.Hello "Graphic Design Studios"
There will always be a living for graphic designers, I point out only the statistics; it is hard for me to reconcile the word lucrative with Graphic Design unless you are one of the elite firms such as I have mentioned previously.
I have friends and clients still in the industry with very established businesses, all of whom dismayed with the decline in value of both their margins and the esteem in which graphic designers used to be held; you perhaps may not have been trading pre 1990.
For the best example I know of how internet based business will wither in margin over the coming years read "The Long Tail" and also "The Economics of Free" both by Chris Anderson. They point out and explain that the internet provides an almost limitless supply of services to an almost limitless demand for internet based services. This equation is visualised as the tail of the Bell Curve and occurs at the point of services being very nearly and almost free.
I often think that it is the curse of the graphic designer that we should think we are unique in our abilities in problem solving for our clients, simply because our solutions derive from our individual processes and only we can express them as individuals ie. my idea belongs to me and you'll have to pay me to have it!
Sadly as any search and read through of most graphic design company websites will prove, we are all the same, these companies pretty much are all the same. Thanks to the Mac and PC all conceptual solutions look highly finished and professional to clients and therefore acceptable; how are you going to compete in this marketplace? Its going to be price, cheaper begetting cheaper.
That's nothing to do with the decline of print but I suspect you are conflating global service provision and global outsourcing and at the same time underestimating the impact, remember the long tail you don't have local competitors now you have global competitors.
Still the world is full of optimists and what else is a person with a yen for graphic design supposed to do, ignore their instinct? The good news for young new professional entrants into the market is that their lifestyle and cost demands are lower than their more mature competitors and so can undercut on price quite easily both in employment salaries and project quotes. The bad news is that when they mature and see the feel for savings, a mortgage and a pension they aren't going to be able to afford it, never mind the better things in life like school fees for the kids.
Once again the use of "good money" and "lucrative" are meaningless and entirely subjective until you add a provable value reference from a reliable source. I suspect you are using anecdotal evidence, unfortunately that doesn't stack up next to actual statistics and intellectual rigour.
My advice remains the same in that the economic, technical and competitive pressures on the graphic design industry are so profound that it remains a risky way of using the precious years of one's life that one can never get back and these are great years: 18-21 wow!
Do something else.