2009 Motion Graphic Census: Who, What, Why and How


Do you ever wonder how many people actually work in the Motion Graphic Design business? Do you ever think about where they might live and work? Do you ever wonder what kind of salaries they make? How they charge their clients? How many projects they do a year? If they do work in advertising, short films, visual effects, or music videos? And what kind of software they use?

We do.

That’s why we’ve created the 2009 Motion Graphic Design Census, the first-ever salary survey for professionals in Motion Graphic Design, Animation, Visual Effects and Film-making. This survey is designed to count everyone in the industry—from owners to interns, producers, designers and animators. The online survey will be hosted at Motionographer for the month of December. We’ll then publish the results in 2010.

We plan on continuing the survey as a yearly effort in order to track salary, rates, and other relevant issues. We’d love to get the entire Motion Design community to participate, to give us a full and realistic overview of the entire profession.

Please follow the link and fill out your information, which will remain completely anonymous. Then sign up for our mailing list to get the results of the survey in 2010.

If you’re wondering why you should spend 10 minutes or less filling this survey out, here are some reasons:

• The AIGA has never truly identified and defined our field of work in its annual salary surveys. It has always classified positions as entry level designer, designer, senior designer, art director, creative/design director, owner/partner/principal and solo designer – positions geared towards its base of print designers. This leaves out producers, animators, CG artists, storyboard artists, and quite a few other job types related to our industry. Other membership-based organizations like BDA/Promax or AICP also leave out whole segments of our colleagues and do not make their information accessible to the public.

• We should no longer be seen as a “young” industry. Some of the leading companies in our field have been in business for 10 years or more now. A salary survey is long overdue in our industry to gauge year-by-year the value companies place on full-time and freelance talent that they hire.

• By conducting this first-ever salary survey tailored to our industry, important data will be gathered that will give insight to individuals as to where they fit in this complex and always-changing industry and hopefully help them see more clearly the path they wish to take with their careers

• There are other relevant issues in our industry like unpaid pitches, spec work, work-for-hire agreements and other labor practices that we’d like to bring up as issues of concern to our community. Seeing who is affected by these issues is one of the first steps in addressing them.

• We’d simply like to quantify and count all the people who do what we do, and eventually help all of our colleagues explain to their parents what they actually do for a living.

The Motion Graphic Design Census was written and will be published by Bran Dougherty-Johnson and Jake Sargeant, two Motionographer authors who have worked several years in staff positions and now currently freelance within the industry.


About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.


Brian Gossett

Awesome job Bran & Jake!


Just finished. Great idea!

Brandon Lori

You’ve just done the industry a huge favor. Great job guys.


Perfect closing for the year guys!
Im sure it will help a lot the industry and the professionals!
Can’t wait to see the results!


In the question
Please choose the application you use the MOST often:
The list is missing: Other

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Thanks, please add what your application is in the Suggestion section. I will add it to the survey as well.


I can appreciate this survey. However, employers don’t give a damn about these kinds of salary surveys, which are suppose to help people recognize what the current-going compensation should be! It is very disheartening.


I’m more concerned with clients finding out how grossly overpaid I am.
I kid, I kid!

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Thanks for all the response so far, and for all of the suggestions as well. Keep ’em coming. We’ve got over 900 responses now, about 10 hours after the Survey went live. I’ll keep tweeting response numbers and may share some suggestions or rough totals in the coming days. Follow here: https://twitter.com/psst3

Marc B.

Nice graphic. Kinda DesignersRepublic vibe.


That’s a good idea. Usually most people in the business do not like to share their rates.
I am glad you asked for the experience level here. That’s for sure influence someone’s rate.
The interesting thing will be to realize you either charging too little or too much. I hope the results come with a breakdown of level of expertise, years in the industry and geographic location.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

Thanks Gugy,
Yes, we are planning on correlating experience levels, locations, and job titles in regards to all the salary and rate information. The survey is anonymous so no one’s rate will be published. It’s more to get an overview of the entire industry, so that everyone can see the range within the field and to assess other work-related factors.


I know this is a little different, but I think possibly in the future it would be cool to get some budget info as well.

Like how much are the studios we work for billing their clients?

What types of projects cost the most: commercial, broadcast, film vfx, pharma, web etc.?

Are they billing per project or per day?

Transparency Baby!


ok, and when we get the results?

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

2010. We’ll update the mailing list when the survey is compiled and getting ready to publish …




Bran Dougherty-Johnson

xpez2000: This survey will not set anyone’s rate, so padding your rate will not affect anything, it’ll just distort the results of the survey. We want to find out what people are making now and how they are charging for their work, not what they’d ‘like’ to be making.


I am sure the intentions of this survey are good. But if industry veterans were making 2 times as much as they were a year ago. Why would anyone want to inscribe in stone a horrible rate based on today’s economy. Only to find out when you publish the results that all type of professionals will be using this as a guide… I can hear a some producer’s voice right now arguing…”Well according to he Motionographer’s review a typical freelance rate is this..blah blah blah”..

This has nothing to do with what I would “like” to be making but more about making sure I am able to continue to EARN what I have already EARNED in the past and trying to protect our market share collectively!



Bran Dougherty-Johnson

I see your point, but I don’t agree.

Justin Cone


This survey is not the right mechanism for “returning your rate to its formal glory.” Please don’t encourage others to distort the survey results. We need to create a data set that is as accurate as possible so we can see (both now and over the long term) where the industry stands.

Claims about former rates are unsubstantiated without data backing them up. If you (and others) skew this survey, you’re cutting yourself off at the knees, making it impossible for anyone to say for certain if backsliding has occurred (or will occur in the future).

So, to borrow your obnoxious but decidedly effective approach:




First of all, the fact that youre telling people to pad their rates, is enough to nullify this whole survey.

If rates have gone down, wouldnt you like to know by how much etc? (you could be undercharging because of the bad economy)

xpez2000, did your earnings actually decrease by half from a year ago due to the economy? I think you need to re-examine your business model.

Your counter to the hypothetical producers argument can be that this survey represents rates from a bad economy.

Personally my rate has not gone down that much. I could potentially use this data to justify raising my rate when the economy gets better…

Accurate data is a better way to go.

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

I wanted to mention that we do have questions that ask if individuals raised their rate in 2009, when the last time they updated their rate was, and what the amount of the previous rate was. I put those in to account for the crappy economy and to see if there was any general decline in rates in 2009 as well. FYI.


I totally agree that accurate data is far more important than fake data intended to “get us better rates”.
However, do be careful in the phrasing of your questions in the survey. Asking if artists “raised their rates” in 2009 is just begging to get you the erroneous data you are looking to avoid. More appropriate would be to ask if artists “changed” their rates in 2009. I fall into the category of artists with 10+ years of experience, and I have never had to drop my (already quite fair) rate so consistently as in ’09, essentially “accepting” a lower amount than what my rate is. When 2010 hits, and my rate goes back up to what it was, I don’t consider that a “raising” of my rate, since it’s simply correcting to what it should have been all the time.


I think its a good idea and I am interested to see the results.
Its a step in the right direction.

My only concern is that the amount of data could not be enough from countries outside of the U.S. to actually get a decent impression.

Justin Cone

That’s why we need people like you to help us spread the word! :-)


I was wondering what happens to the email addresses used in the Motion Graphic Sensus?
I have a brand new email address and the first time I am sharing this email address online is at the end of the survey. Suddenly I receive (American, SF) spam in my inbox. Is that a coincidence?

James Wignall

I think it must be a coincidence, I’ve not received any spam through the email I registered with :)

Bran Dougherty-Johnson

It’s certainly not from us. All the addresses are in a Google Docs database. We haven’t done ANYTHING with them yet. And we won’t do anything with them until we send out news about the results of the survey in early 2010. Thanks!


I think this is valuable and healthy, perception in agencies and marketing companies is motion work/projects are too expensive, so a realistic view of world might stimulate trade.


So as an industry we should lower are rates even more?
Perhaps everyone besides the owners of the companies should become unpaid/minimum wage interns as well. Seeing the job posts, that trend seems to be growing.


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Who invited this guy !?!?!?


Any updates on releasing for this?

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