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The Center for a Competitive Workforce (CCW) hosted a virtual Regional Program Advisory Meeting on the future of Graphic Arts & Design workforce needs on Friday, October 29, 2021, in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Directors of Employer Engagement and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).  

Key Data Points Presented by the Institute of Applied Economics, LAEDC 

  • The graphic design industry is a small and specific industry in Los Angeles County and as of 2020 has 4,360 jobs which exists within the larger professional scientific and technical services sector. 
  • The annual average wage in the graphic design industry in Los Angeles County was quite high reaching over $88,500 in 2020. 
  • Wage growth adjusted for inflation allows us to see that real wages have grown by roughly $7,000 in the last decade and reached a peak in 2014 and 2015 before dropping off a bit in the past few years. However, 2020 did show some signs of resurgent wage growth in graphic design. 
  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic graphic design had been growing in the county adding close to 900 jobs between 2010 and 2019. In 2020, the number of jobs in the industry declined quickly due to the employment impact of the pandemic. Looking ahead it is forecasted that the industry will resume growth over the next five years as the recovery process continues in Los Angeles County and will reach just under 5,000 jobs in 2025 and by 2024 employment is expected to be above the pre-pandemic level in 2019. 
  • Based off the industry demographics data, workers tend to be younger, have greater educational attainment and skew more heavily towards being white than the overall workforce of the county. 
  • 17% of workers in graphic design are older than 55 while 57% are between 25 and 44 years of age. Meanwhile over 60% of employees have some college experience, with 37% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and half of all workers in the industry are white which is a much higher proportion that we see normally in the county. There are much lower proportions of Hispanic and Black workers in Los Angeles County and an even split between female and male workers in graphic design. 
  • Workforce characteristics specific to graphic design, multimedia arts and animators and, commercial and industrial designer occupations are as follows: 
    • Both graphic designers and multimedia artists and animators have extremely high concentrations of workers with high levels of educational attainment. Just under 8% of graphic designers have just a high school education and below while 70% of multimedia artists and animators have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 
    • 50% of the workforce is between 25 to 39 years old so these two jobs are dominated by younger workers and this demographic is where most of the hiring is currently happening. 
    • There is a high degree of white employees in these occupations and they’re less diverse than the county’s overall current workforce. 

Key Community College Talent Supply Data Points Presented by Center of Excellence (COE) 

  • On the supply side (educational side) there are several primary programs training students for careers in graphic design: 
    • Graphic Art and Design (1030.00) 
    • Digital Media (0614.00) 
    • Multimedia (0614.10) 
    • Website Design and Development (0614.30) 
    • Animation (0614.40) 
    • Desktop Publishing (0614.50) 
    • Computer Graphics and Digital Imagery (0614.60) 
    • Commercial Art (1013.00) There were just over 10,200 enrollments in graphic design programs in the most recent year data was available which is 2019-2020. 
  • The three-year award average was 378 awards issued in career education programs combined. 
  • Variety of awards offered from 17 out of the 19 community colleges for graphic design which include: Cerritos, Citrus, ELAC, El Camino, Glendale, LA City, LA Mission, LA Pierce, LA Southwest, LATTC, LA Valley, Long Beach, Mt. SAC, Pasadena, Rio Hondo, Santa Monica and, WLAC). 
  • Out of all career education programs that enroll over 235,000 students in LA County, roughly 4% of this number is enrolled in graphic design related programs. 
  • Half of all the students enrolled identify as female, while 83% identify as nonwhite and just over half of all the students are over the age of 24 which tells us there is a very young cohort in a lot of these programs. 
  • Based off a self-report job title survey from students, those that completed a graphic design program in LA County during the past three academic years have landed jobs as: graphic designers, sign artists, user experience designers, freelance designers, junior graphic designers, web graphic designers, art directors, graphic artists, lead graphic designers, special effects designers, motion graphics designers and rotoscoping designers. 

Industry Representation 

  • Adam Lyons, Founder at Pop the Pixel 
  • Danielle “Danimoe” Mosher, Executive Director of Southern California at Audacy 
  • Danny Bittker, Director of Production at CreatorUp 
  • Hamish McCollester, SVP, Group Creative Director at RAPP 
  • James Whale, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Commune 
  • Jonathan Lo, Creative Director at Virgin Orbit 
  • Maureen Gibbs, Brand, Packaging & Marketplace Excellence at Xbox 
  • Sean Lee, Design Lead at Snapchat 
  • Tim Ryder, General Manager, Manufacturing at Microsoft 
  • Victor Kowalski, Designer and Animator at Snapchat 


 For full comment, click here to see the Graphic Arts & Design Regional Program Advisory Los Angeles Community College Program Look Book 

What trends are you and your industry experiencing overall and specifically with COVID-19 this year? 

  • The virtual world has allowed LA talent to work from anywhere in the world and vice versa. 
  • It’s a competitive market now also, we must work harder to find the right talent now because the remote work opportunities have afforded a lot of choice to people. 

What workforce trends do you see that our community colleges should be aware of in order to prepare a more competitive workforce? 

  • When it comes down to a choosing between a candidate, we tend to go for the one that can do a bit more than just graphic design. 
  • We’re always for new graduate candidates to arrive with some consulting experience or some other extracurricular that allows for them to solve real-world business problems during their tertiary education. 
  • In terms of looking for this level of broad skill set that falls outside would be remote world communication skills. Can you communicate ideas effectively in a remote environment and present ideas relatively well to your clients or when doing pitches? 

How do students get their foot in the door and land an entry-level job? What is your advice to boost the competitive edge for them? 

  • The good news is in our industry it is all about the work, specifically the work that you’re showing in your portfolio to try to get a job. Whether or not you did that work at Art Center, some A-list art school, on your own, took classes online or you did it through a community college, if the work is good and the person behind the work is good, we aren’t concerned about a college degree. 
  • Leveraging your relationships with employers is important and gives your students an edge. We’ll always take a referral from a faculty around a standout candidate that they may have. 
  • Online representation of self and the duration of time, looking at their LinkedIn profiles and how they’re representing themselves is important. It is the first-place people go, having a class on this in undergraduate studies should be embedded. 
  • Mentorship is very important. My observation and experience are it felt as though I was taking random classes and then working to get enough credits to transfer. When I think about mentorship, I think about how it will allow for another person to be along for the ride and watch them grow, course correct if needed so they can be better. 
  • We try to hire folks with more of a diverse background and for the long run. From a hiring perspective we look for candidates that have initiative, the ability to learn and are a team player. 
  • Teaching a course in business communication for design professionals may benefit students in this industry. 

How would you describe the future of the field in terms of evolving workforce needs? 

  • The designers, producers or web developers who work here are all multidisciplinary artists, so they have become creatives that have a leg up on talent in my opinion. 
  • We don’t foresee the need for creative assets going away especially in Los Angeles as it the entertainment capital of the world and now that so many businesses are or have moved to either a fully remote or hybrid model many of the team members are demonstrating a preference for any asynchronous design and production greater autonomy in general. 

 For questions, please contact Isabel Duran, To view the Graphic Arts & Design Community College look book, click here. To view the recently released Careers in Graphic Arts & Design report, supported by the California Community Colleges, click here. 

 The Center for a Competitive Workforce is funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office under the Strong Workforce Program (SWP) as a Los Angeles Regional Project. 

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