The State of Design — Swedish Edition 2021 basic report

This is the result of the survey, The State of Design — Swedish Edition 2021.

We collected answers during March and September 2021 and 641 people answered this year (hey, we got a record 🚀)


Many things have positive direction!

A few insights for this year

  • Popular topics and trends this year are like last year: Design Thinking and Design Leadership. Why is Design Thinking so popular? We think that the topic unites all designers around a common process and mindset. Design Leadership, Coaching, Design Systems and Design Operations has probably increased as there are more design leaders who have answered this year. Business Design has also increased this year. Are we seeing a movement for senior designers to involve more in the business aspects of products and services? 
  • More design leaders have answered compared to last year. Hopefully, this is because there are more tactical and strategic roles within the design area, but it might also be that just more design leaders have decided to answer this year. We can’t be certain. 
  • We see a higher degree of ownership of design, and this might be connected to an increase in design maturity in organizations. The general trend is that design maturity is going up.  
  • Design is often placed in the tech organization. This might be because the biggest group who answered are UX Designers, which have a background of often designing digital products, and it seems natural to be placed in the tech organization.  
  • Covid-19 has had some impact on work-life balance. Many people have experienced a better work-life balance, with more time for their family or for activities such as exercise. But on the other hand, many have missed the social aspect of their work meeting colleagues and customers.
  • Good qualities for designers are being empathic, humble, curious, and open-minded. Good qualities as a design leader are being good at communication, coaching, setting a direction, having knowledge of design and being able to grow design in your organization.
  • Bad leadership, possibility to grow and develop, better salary, more sayings and explanations of the value of design seem to be the biggest pain why people are looking for a new position or job. How do you address this in your organization?
  • The median salary for all responses are rising since last year (this is probably because more design leaders and managers have answered this year)
  • There is still a gap between salaries for men and women, especially in Malmö. Let’s make 2022 the year when this is not an issue, OK?
  • There is a significant salary gap for women working in Stockholm compared to other cities.
  • The price for design consultants are the same as last year
  • We see that many designers get most inspiration and knowledge from blogs and articles. This year we can’t really say anything about conferences, because of Covid-19, as many have been cancelled, or been done remotely. Furthermore, we see that offline training also has declined this year, probably because of the same reason.
  • Two thirds of designers and leaders think that their education has helped them in their work situation.
  • We see that more designers have the possibility to meet customers and users more often.
  • We see a small increase in that designers are working both in the problem and solution space — with a decrease in people only working in the solution space.
  • Probably because of Covid-19, the use of online tools have increased from last year. Tools like Figma, Miro, and Mural are popular. Miro is also much more popular than Mural. Figma is more popular than Sketch.

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What do you love?

There is not a big difference from last year. The majority of designers loves to create solutions based on customer- and user needs. Problem-solving, collaboration, curiosity, and the possibility to create a better world are common ways of expressing what they love with their work. As well as craftsmanship of design, the business perspective of design, as well as leading change, developing others as well as one self. Here and there we have the appreciation of working with great teams. 

Some examples of quotes. 

  • Creating value for users
  • The privilege and responsibility that I have is shaping the future of organizations and products, delivering solutions that delight and ultimately facilitate improvements in the day-to-day work of thousands of people.
  • Because I get to work with different clients in different areas. Because I have great colleagues and that I learn something new every day
  • I get to be creative, see my work come to use and in the best case see how it makes people smile, work with and learn from other designers, always new problems to solve and new things to learn, everyday is not the same, freedom
  • Identifying and selling exciting projects for our designers
  • The people I work with, the constant learning and problems to be solved.

So what is less fun?

We don’t see any significant change from last year. Most designers fight for about the same things. A seat at the table, focus on creating value, respect, understanding, and time for crafting great products and services. Designers often have to explain and convince other people in the organization about the work and value they bring. Designers often have to cope with numerous meetings, administration, organizational politics, and having a hard time to meet the real customer.

What Leaders and managers answer

  • Conflicts
  • Financial follow up
  • Administration
  • Planning meetings
  • Time and budget constraints that prevent us from doing as good of a job as possible
  • Too fast with little structure
  • Politics, lack of flexibility and willingness to grow

What Designers answer

  • Dealing with organizations that are immature in design, having to fight for basic design things, being seen as something extra and not part of the core product development
  • Forced decision-making without the time to do user research
  • Managing the team to the extent so that the broad UX vision gets put to the side
  • I think it can be challenging to bring my perspective to the table in top management. Business and tech is usually prioritized, where experience is secondary.
  • Handling the ever-increasing customer expectations vs scope. Over the past years customer expectations and requirements deliverables have increased considerably whilst we have less time, budget, and resources to fulfil our duties. The balance scale is becoming more misaligned
  • Juggling numerous things at the same time. Particularly, being expected to “produce and deliver” design on a detailed level at the same time as you’re supposed to work with high-level needs and expectation management
  • Opinions that aren’t well-grounded, people find it easy to have opinions on things they see but not the things they don’t see, which could be even more important
  • Political discussions about not being able to contact users. I work in a very slow company that says they work agile and that we build a product, but the truth is that we are working in a waterfall methodology and our customers decide what we should do and how. And it is not decided in a good way unfortunately, so I feel like a consultant  not being able to do my job
  • We have too many meetings, e.g., developer sprint planning meetings, that I often feel I don’t have much to contribute to. Occasionally, I do, but it feels like too much of my time goes to meetings right now. Furthermore, sending emails to people trying to schedule interviews/workshops takes time.
  • Documentation. Handovers in a siloed waterfall way of working. Confronting organizational politics and conflicts. Working without a clear shared understanding of desired business outcomes. Needing to convince someone that UX research or discovery and continuous learning is key to successful products.

What is important for you right now? 

This is a question we introduced two years ago, just to get an understanding of what trends and topics that influence and are important for designers and leaders.

The big surprise last year was that Design Thinking was at the top. To our surprise, Design Thinking is still at the top. Design Thinking has been around for a while, and we can’t really tell why it is trending. Can it be that it has been popularized by books like the Design Sprint, Service Design Doing or other process books? We also see that Design Thinking is used more by other roles than designers, like business people and on other levels, than just operational design work. 

The trend from the last few years that more and more designers work in product- and service companies and governments is continuing. This probably means that more and more companies and governments have started to strengthen their own design capability, which is really great! This is also visible in the fact that Design Leadership is getting higher ranked in trends and there is a need to structure the design work. Design Systems and Design Operations are important topics, probably because of more design in the enterprise and the need to operationalize design in the delivery organization. 

Inclusive-, Ethical- and Circular Design are still important for many in the design industry. We see this as a natural part of the general macro trends in society. 

Other topics that was mentioned was: Behavioural design, Brand portfolio strategy, Brand systems, Brand leadership, Branding architecture, CX Governance and ROI, Cognitive ergonomics & design, Design Maturity Levels, Design Strategy, Design organization, Emotional design, Futures Design, Games & Gamification, High fidelity prototyping, Higher Education Online (instead of Uni), Interaction design, Material Design, Mixed methods behavioural economics, No code, Research Ops, Service design, Sustainability, UX in game design, Value sensitive design

How do you learn new things?

Most designers still learn by reading blogs and articles online, working with interesting projects and products, as well as learning from friends and colleagues. They are the three largest sources of learning. The most significant difference from last year is the decline of offline training. Not surprising because of the pandemic situation. Intriguing to notice is that conferences haven’t declined. Is it because we still have the perception of learning from physical conferences, or is it well performed online conferences?

What work related book have you read recently?

The number one book this year is Sprint by Jake Knapp. In second place we have Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro (fourth place last year), followed by Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (second place last year) and This is Service Design Doing. Other popular books are Don’t make me think, Just enough research and Beteendedesign among others. Note that all book titles are not included. This year’s biggest drop is Escaping the build trap

Which design conferences are most popular?

So, where do designers go to learn new things, network and have fun? From Business to Buttons and IXDA, NN/g UX Conference, and Design Matters and many others.

Salary statistics in Sweden 2021

First some information about the data (the disclaimer). Be careful to draw too certain conclusions, use this data as a starting point and remember, the salary is just one part of the job.

For those of you who do not live in Sweden, 1 Swedish Krona (SEK) equals about 0.12 U.S. dollars or 0.10 Euros. In Sweden, salary is often written per month and before income tax (the income tax in Sweden is roughly around 23–36% depending on your salary level, see more about our tax system in Sweden). The salaries below do not include perks and benefits. The median salary in Sweden 2020 was 32,400 SEK (3,761 USD) according to SCB.

Description: The numbers on top of the columns in the graph are the median salary, and how many who answered the question. 

631 answered the question about salary this year. 218 answered the questions about hourly price rate for consultants. The question about monthly salary has a fixed range of salary from 0 to 200.000 SEK. The hourly price rate had a fixed range from 100 to 3500 SEK excluding tax

  • Median salary for all responses (631 responses): 47.000 (44.000 last year — up 6,8%)
  • Median salary for women (321 responses): 45.000 (42.000 last year — up 7,1%)
  • Median salary for men (310 responses): 48.000 (47.000 last year — up 2,1%)

Median salary per gender

Photo by Nika

Median hourly rate as consultant or working in an agency 

Consultants or freelancers often have an hourly rate (excluding tax means that the price does not include VAT). There is still a wide range in the price, from 100(!) to 2700(!) with a median of 1.000 excl. tax, which is the same as last year. The largest group is between 900 and 1200.

Thanks to

  • To everyone who has answered, shared and liked the survey
  • To everyone who helped to check and re-check the survey
  • and all photographers for photos
  • Tableau public for free data analytics

Next year

Please leave your name and email if you are interested in being part of next years survey.

Please join Design Leadership Sweden

👉🏾 The survey is part of the non-profit community Design Leadership Sweden (please join our community) 👈🏾

Previous years

Here are the result from 2020 (eng), 2019 (eng), 2018 (eng), 2017 (swe), 2016 (swe) & 2015 (swe).


Please have look at the data and numbers, if you have any feedback and questions, let us know at [email protected]

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