UX & Design Talent & Skills Snapshot SW

Here is a Design sector, talent and skills overview, based on ADLIB internal data and knowledge in the South West.


Sector overview

Much like other sectors, Design has undergone huge change in the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic meant many design teams adapting their ways of working overnight, learning new ways to facilitate, co-create and solve problems remotely.

It’s clear 2 years on that distributed teams are here to stay and whilst we’ve gradually seen more people return to the office, all of the design teams we worked with in 2023 have offered some form of hybrid working. Flexibility remains a top priority for many designers in the market today and a major consideration when choosing an employer.

In 2022, demand for digital products and services soared and UX and design teams grew rapidly to meet it. Design teams all across the UK scaled up and securing talent became hugely competitive. Many job seekers had their pick of roles and multiple offers when applying, this was most pronounced in user experience and digital design where demand swelled.

In 2023 many businesses took a much more cautious approach to hiring; fewer job opportunities and more job seekers from ongoing market instability meant a much more competitive market for candidates than 2022, particularly in user experience and digital.

Despite a tighter job market overall, demand for design talent continues. *In the past decade, the creative industries have outperformed other UK industries, growing at more than 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy and this is expected to continue. Identified as a priority sector for economic growth, the government plans to grow the industry by a further £50bn, supporting a million more jobs by 2030.


Talent overview

The region is home to a wide variety of design talent, including creative and graphic design, industrial design, motion graphics, 3D, digital and user experience. The breadth of businesses local to the area and growth over the years in in-house design teams means diversity in design thinking and experience across the Southwest. Along with the usual flow of people, the rise in remote working meant a surge of designers relocating out of London to more rural areas or smaller cities which further added to the design talent in the South West.

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.

The growth of in-house design and UX capability has meant a rise in more specialised and distinct roles in the South West over the years. Employers will find creatives that specialise in packaging, branding, digital, 3D, motion just as they will UX practitioners that specialise in User Research, UX Design, UI and Content Design.

However, with a large SME scene, design teams can often reflect this so there are still many designers that are ‘T-shaped’ with broad multidisciplinary skillsets. More specialist roles are often found within more established design teams, where design maturity has gone beyond the first few hires or design leadership is driving hiring decisions.


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 increase in salaries across most UX roles and disciplines. Salaries increased in some cases 15-20% on previous figures. In 2023 salary growth slowed and although a lot of roles remain higher than they were before the pandemic, they have stabilised as the job market has tightened.

UX skills in demand varies across the industry and is often driven by design maturity with more specialised roles in demand by bigger teams or those with backing at the leadership level for user centred design.

When it comes to creative roles, salaries have remained similar to pre-pandemic levels without as much growth as digital and UX. Conceptual ability is highly sought after as it always has been, as well as digital expertise.

Due to the size of a typical creative team in the Southwest, finding those with good concept and craft skills is often important, with purely conceptual roles being harder to find outside of advertising agencies in the South West or at senior levels within a creative studio.

Good Digital Designers (especially those with agency experience) are highly sought after and harder to find. Motion graphics remains an in-demand skillset and can be trickier to find on perm with many motion designers choosing to freelance.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ambitious-plans-to-grow-the-economy-and-boost-creative-industries

Written by

Head of Design Recruitment

User Experience & Design Recruitment

View profile

Sam Firth