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With insights on diversity, The Great Agency Exodus and increasing work-life balance for freelancers in the design industry, the survey shows that creatives are “looking for purpose, not just a pay check”.
Surveying more than 10,000 freelance designers from 144 countries, 99designs by Vista has launched a report revealing that designers are putting purpose over profit; 40 per cent said that they turned down work this year because of a client’s stance on a social issue they care about. With its tagline “creativity with a conscience”, the report, titled Design Without Borders 2022: A fresh perspective on freelance sheds light on the scores of creatives that are rethinking their place within traditional agency structures and aligning their work with causes they believe in.
One of the most far-reaching surveys of its kind to date, the report tells us that 97 per cent of the 10,000 creatives that took part believed that they have the power to make a “real social impact”. Continuing this thread, 85 per cent of freelancers want to work for clients who share their values and almost a third confirmed that they also worked with a social justice organisation.
Taking a lens on post-pandemic attitudes within brands and agencies and their willingness to hire freelancers, the report revealed that 68 per cent are more open to working with freelance talent than before the pandemic. However, it would seem that this statistic isn’t just a symptom of increasing goodwill towards freelancers in the industry. With an “exodus” of designers (30 per cent) choosing to leave agency jobs within the past 12 months, it appears that larger organisations are going to have to adapt to new patterns whether they like it or not. With almost a third having already quit, another 30 per cent have considered leaving in the past year and only 15 per cent want to be working within an agency in the next five years.
99designs by Vista: The Great Agency Exodus infographic (Copyright © 99designs by Vista, 2022)
But if these statistics suggest a declining appeal for creatives to head for big agencies, it also predicts an upsurge of smaller studios and collectives, with a healthy percentage (48 per cent) saying they’d like to start up their own studio or agency in the next five years.
The report’s findings on diversity confirmed that there’s still a lot of work to be done in the industry. The gender imbalance persists with male-identifying designers (66 per cent) heavily outweighing those that identified as female (33 per cent) and non-binary (only 1 per cent of participants). Turning to ethnic diversity in the industry, the report had more insights: a fifth of participants (20 per cent) identified as a minority, 11 per cent said they had held refugee status at some point in their lives and 8 per cent were second generation immigrants.
Concluding on a high note, a whopping 83 per cent of designers confirmed that they were optimistic about the future of the industry. For those that have already gone freelance, a clear majority (60 per cent) revealed that their overall work-life balance has improved in the past twelve months, and a hefty 71 per cent expect their annual income from freelance work to increase in 2022. Whilst acknowledging that this has been another “challenging year” for creatives in the industry, 99designs by Vista CEO Patrick Llewellyn states in a release: “It’s inspiring to see freelance designers harness their creative power for good, taking purposeful action and making real social impact, while also building more successful and fulfilling careers.”
99designs by Vista: Creativity with a conscience infographic (Copyright © 99designs by Vista, 2022)
99designs.co.uk/design-without-borders
Elfie Thomas

Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.
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