The Creative Boom 2023 Survey was packed with insights into what the creative profession is thinking at the start of a new year. We share some of the more surprising results with you below.
How is the creative community feeling right now? Every year, we carry out the Creative Boom survey to find out. That way, we can tailor our content to better meet your needs and match the things you've been thinking (and maybe worrying) about.
At the start of 2023, it seems like there's never been a better time to do so. After three years of the pandemic, war, recession, inflation and a shakeout of jobs throughout the tech and design industries, the creative community certainly isn't short of thoughts and feelings to share. So we were intrigued to see the results of our 2023 survey, and we figured you might be too.
In the following article, we'll share some of the more eye-opening insights from our survey to help you figure out where you fit in the scale of things and how the community as a whole is reacting to a tumultuous time in world history.
"Battered but surviving."
We won't mince words: over half (52.3%) of the community feels a little battered right now. In response to the question, "How have the events of 2022 impacted you as a creative professional" 16.5% answered, "it's been a very difficult year", while 35.8% replied: "fairly bad, but I've survived".
That said, it's not all been bad news, and 47.7% of you have managed to weather the storm on a personal level. That breaks down to 23.7% saying "it's been fairly positive", 17.9% saying "it's not impacted me at all", and 6.1% even reporting "it's been really positive".
To get more specific, we also asked about earnings, and again 2022 has been more of a mixed picture than you might have expected. Because although 22.3% of you said your income's "significantly dropped", a more encouraging 47.7% say it's stayed the same, and for 30%, it's actually gone up.
Plus, when we asked, "how optimistic do you feel about your profession in the next 12 months?" the average rating was 6.8/10, so most respondents clearly feel that in 2023, things will get better. And more broadly, most creatives appear happy in their current profession. When asked, "Will you consider changing your career in the next 12 months?" over two-thirds said no, and only 38% said yes.
"There are more opportunities out there."
These findings are consistent with the response to another question on our survey: "Do you feel the creative industry has changed in the last 12 months?" A plurality of respondents (33.9%) replied, "Yes, for the better", while 17.7% felt it had stayed the same, and 30.8% didn't know. Only 17.6% felt that things had got worse.
On the positive side, one respondent felt that "Studios and the brands they work with are prioritising ethics, sustainability and inclusion more in their projects. This also creates more opportunities for minorities to find work in the industry." Another cited, "More informality, more female acceptance, more alternative lifestyle/fashion acceptance, more thoughtfulness towards outcomes – especially if they carry ignorance to certain groups."
A lot remains to be changed, though. So we also heard calls for "more transparency around salary/pricing/charging in the design industry" and "more support for mental health and work-life balance; maybe a four-day work week" and "better contracts for illustrators" among your responses.
"Still working at home."
Outside of China, it's been a while now since lockdowns ceased to be a thing. So you might have expected most of us to have returned to the studio by now. However, our survey paints a slightly different picture.
When asked, "Are you, or the company you work for, back in an office environment?" the most popular answer (30%) was: "No, my work is now fully remote". A further 26.2% of you replied, "Yes, but part-time", and only 29.2% said you were back at the office full time, with 14.6% choosing 'Other' (the workplace equivalent of 'It's complicated').
Will we ever return to seeing the 9-5 physical workplace as the norm? Some feel that's the direction we should be heading in. "Collaboration doesn't happen in isolation," noted one respondent. "We need to ensure somehow that the next generation of talent gets the opportunities to learn from those around them and above them. There are no longer any water cooler moments for interns or informal learning by sitting next to someone more senior." (For more on this, read our article on going back to the office after remote working.)
Awards give us access
Turning to a more evergreen topic, our survey also asked: "Do you feel it's important to enter awards and competitions?". Perhaps surprisingly, given the flack they get on social media, almost half of you (47.7%) replied in the positive; 21.5% of you didn't know, and only 30.8% replied 'No'.
As one respondent said, "Awards and competitions challenge people to do their absolute best within a theme typically. We grow the most when we push our limits. Plus, they're fun!" In the words of another: "Competition spurs creative solutions. Individuals are often more driven when they know their work will be compared to or viewed by others."
That doesn't necessarily mean everyone is crazy about them, though. One respondent wrote: "I don't know if they actually help with getting jobs. I have three awards, and they don't seem to have an impact."
Others, though, had specific reasons for entering. "I am from the UK, and my visa to live in Los Angeles is partly based on awards I've won," wrote one. Another said: "Because I haven't landed a job yet and don't have the current confidence to go freelance, things like D&AD allow me to work to a structured brief and essentially compare my work to other people for the same brief similar to a uni environment. It helps me when I feel creatively stuck and suffer from imposter syndrome."
"We, as an agency and personally, prefer to continue to do good work without any material recognition," said another respondent. "However, with awards, it gives us access to a network of similar minds and a chance to advertise ourselves. So it's more about the by-products of the award."
One contributor perhaps summed up the mixed mood around the topic: "It depends on what rewards or competitions. I like participating in collaborative projects like design hackathons to learn more, meet new people and contribute to a good cause. However, awards just for splendour do not mean much to me."
Adobe still dominates, but not everywhere
What sort of software are creatives using these days? In 2023, it's clear that there are many cheaper alternatives to Adobe's expensive subscriptions. But according to our survey, they don't appear to have made a substantial impact yet.
When asked 'which creative software tools do you use?', more than nine out of 10 (91%) cited the Creative Cloud, with the next most popular package, Procreate, trailing at 29.1%. Serif's Affinity range was chosen by 6.2%, Pixlr had 4.2%, and Corel had 3.5%, with 19.4% choosing 'Other'.
Adobe's monopoly, though, doesn't extend to premium stock photography, where just 40.4% selected Adobe Stock as their go-to site. That was exceeded by the 44.3% who use Shutterstock, while Getty Images garnered 27%, iStock had 22.8%, and 27.2% went for 'Other'.
As for hardware, you may be surprised to learn that 35.8% of you don't actually own a camera. Amongst those that do, Canon was the most popular brand (31.9%), while the rest were divided among Nikon (15.9%), Sony (13%), Fujifilm (10.5%), Olympus (4.6%), Panasonic (2.7%), Samsung (2.4%) and 'Other' (5.2%).
Nowadays, of course, many of us use our phones for photography, and perhaps that's why 63.7% of you have an iPhone. The rest of you have a phone made by Samsung (16.3%), Google (7.1%), Huawei (4.9%), Sony (2.2%), Nokia (1.3%) or 'Other' (11%).