Design Talent & Skills Snapshot – SW 2023

Here, a Design sector, talent and skills overview, specifically for the South West, based on ADLIB internal data and knowledge covering traditional creative studio roles like graphic design and art direction to design related user experience roles like user research, service design and UX design.

Sector overview

The Bristol, Bath and surrounding area has long been a prime location for design-minded businesses to call home. Its location, paired with its reputation for being a creative and technology hub makes it a great destination for talent. It has a thriving design community fed by local, homegrown talent as well as London and regional relocators moving to the area.

The pandemic brought with it more flexibility and accelerated the already steady flow of designers relocating to the area in search of more greenery and a lower cost of living, without having to sacrifice a career. The geographical spread of talent has expanded, with more designers living and working in the counties and countryside around the hubs of Bristol and Bath, working remote or hybrid and travelling into the city a few times a week.

Talent overview

The region has a strong representation across lot’s of design skills, including creative and graphic design, industrial design, motion graphics, 3D, digital, user experience, research and service design talent. The breadth of businesses local to the area and growth over the years in in-house design teams means real diversity in design thinking. Businesses will find experience from all corners of industry whether start-ups, SMEs, multinational corporates, agencies, ethical and sustainable brands, charities and public sector teams.

With a large SME scene, design teams often reflect this. There are many designers (across UX and more traditional creative studio roles too) that are ‘T-shaped’ with broad multidisciplinary skillsets. The role of the specialist does exist in the Southwest but is found in more sizeable and often mature design teams or with businesses that have the need (and financial backing) to build design teams at scale.

The role and remit of a designer (in particular when looking at UX) can change quite drastically in responsibility and reach depending on the business and maturity of design.

Skills in demand

The demand for UX talent reached an all-time high in 2022 not just for the region but across the country. This brought with it a big hike in salaries across all UX roles including UX Design, Digital Product Design, User Research and Service Design. Salaries increased in some cases 15-20% on previous figures. Though the market peaked in 2022, salaries remain high and competition for talent too.

When it comes to creative roles conceptual ability is in high demand as it always has been. Due to the size of a typical creative team in the Southwest, finding those with good concept and craft skills is often important from mid to senior in design, art direction and copywriting roles.

Good Digital Designers, especially those with agency experience are highly sought after and hard to find. Motion graphics remains an in demand skillset and can be trickier to find on perm with a strong contract market.

Written by

Head of Design Recruitment

User Experience & Design Recruitment

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Sam Firth