It seems like everybody (especially Hollywood) has some pretty funny ideas about what it means to be a graphic designer. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it’s a snap to pick out the freelance graphic designer in any crowd, anywhere in the world. Just look for somebody young, hip and single, chugging a bottomless mug of coffee, pounding furiously on their MacBook Pro.


Except it’s not like that at all. If you really want a laugh, go ask the average person on the street, “What does a graphic designer do?” When you’re done having a LOL, show them this blog.

Today, 99designs is celebrating an awesome milestone: $150 million in payouts to our designers. In honor of this big day, here are the results of a worldwide survey that went out to thousands of graphic designers in 192 countries.

The goal was to discover what their lives are really like and what they love best about their carefully designed careers. The answers may surprise you:

Freelance graphic designer stereotypes infographic
by sundayrain, istatik and TURQ for 99designs.

Surprise #1: They’re (mostly) not hyper-caffeinated

When the waitress asks if they want a refill, most graphic designers say “no” after one cup. At least, that’s what they say in North America, Southeast Asia, the U.K. and Brazil. To hang with the real coffee hounds out there, you’ll need to move to Australia, Germany or Mexico.

In fact, most graphic designers rarely even talk to a waitress because they’re working from their homes, not in cafes. Across Europe, graphic designers prefer to burn off their extra energy doing outdoor sports and other activities.

Surprise #2: They want their kids to be graphic designers

Popular wisdom says that artists want their kids to be anything but artists, after seeing how hard it really is to live that way. Not so. Graphic designers saw business boom in 2015 and they projected lots more work coming in the future.

The outlook is so positive that most graphic designers said they would encourage their kids to pursue their own freelance careers. Perhaps the real surprise inside this surprise is this: graphic designers have kids! Who knew?

Surprise #3: Sorry, they’re taken

Looking for a nerdy graphic design type (but with a total stud body) to have a little fun with? Sorry, he (or she) is already spoken for. That’s right, most graphic designers are married and settled in to a routine with 10 years of graphic design experience behind them.

And while our survey didn’t establish a standard measure of hip-ness, it’s worth noting that the average graphic designer wasn’t hanging out at happy hour, looking for love or logo design work.

Surprise #4: Designers love creative freedom more than flex hours

Whenever someone asks you, “Should I be a graphic designer, too?” You can answer, “It depends. Do you love creative projects and being your own boss?” Those two reasons tied for first place in the “Best Part of Being a Graphic Designer” category.

For creative types with practical concerns, there’s no better job on Earth. Reason two was the flex schedule and reason three was the lack of commute. All these add up to meaningful work and a whole new level of independence that truly lives up to their dreams.

Stones in the Grand Mosaic

Obviously, there are countless ways to be a successful graphic designer, so this list is really just a fun way of looking at the big picture. Every new designer adds a splash of individual color, though. What will you bring to the grand mosaic?