How much can you expect to earn as a designer in Sweden?

Wondering about a career as a designer in Sweden, or are you already working in the area and want to know how your salary matches up to the average? We've broken down the numbers to look at what you could expect to earn as a designer, both before and after tax, depending on your situation.

How much can you expect to earn as a designer in Sweden?
Knowing the average salaries for your sector can help inform your job-hunt and pay negotiations. Photo: Lena Granefelt/

The field of design covers a range of industries and companies, and many factors affect your compensation, such as your experience and level of responsibility. But it's always helpful to have an overall picture of the salary levels in your industry. 

Graphic designers earn an average of 35,200 kronor ($3,700) before tax each month, according to the latest national statistics. For comparison, the average salary in Sweden across all sectors was 34,600 kronor before tax in 2018, and the figure for 2019 is not yet available.

Women, on average, earned 34,200 per month as graphic designers while for men the figure was 35,800 kronor. The age group earning the most as graphic designers was the 45-55-year category, with an average monthly salary of 38,100 kronor. That compared to 32,300 kronor per month for those aged 25-34, 35,500 kronor for those aged 35-44, and 34,800 for those aged 55-64. 

Within the field of graphic design, workers with post-secondary education of under three years earned the most, 37,700 kronor per month on average. That was more than the average for those with upper secondary education of two years or less (32,100 kronor), upper secondary education of three years (34,500 kronor) and post-secondary education of more than three years (34,400 kronor).

For designers in the field of gaming and digital media, the overall average salary is 36,200 kronor per month before tax. There is a slight gender imbalance, so women earn 36,100 kronor on average while for men it's 36,300 kronor.

Salaries also differed depending on age, with the age group 35-44 bringing home the most each month at 39,100 kronor. That compared to 34,300 kronor for the age group 25-34, while average salary ranges for other individual age groups were not available at Statistics Sweden. 

And what about fashion? The average monthly pay for a fashion designer (and related professionals) was 40,500 kronor, although women received an average of only 38,000 kronor compared to 45,500 kronor for men.

For interior designers, a category that also included interior decorators and scenographers, average monthly pay was 31,900 kronor. And industrial product designers earned an average of 45,700 kronor per month.

As for how much of this salary you would actually take home, we looked into the numbers using Swedish tax office Skatteverket's calculator.

Your tax rate depends on a few factors, including where you live, so first we looked at the figures for a 35-year-old living in Stockholm. To calculate the rates, we also assumed that most of our readers who grew up outside of Sweden will not be paying members of the Swedish Church, so would not pay towards Sweden's church tax.

Other factors may play a role in your tax bill, so these calculations can be used as a guide but may not be exact.

Based on this, a 35-year-old graphic designer earning 35,200 kronor a month would take home 27,178 kronor after tax in 2020. For a gaming designer earning 36,200 kronor, the take-home sum would be 27,878 kronor, while an interior designer earning the average salary of 31,900 kronor a month in Stockholm could expect a net paycheck of 24,838 kronor per month in 2020.

For geographic comparison, in Malmö those average monthly take-home pay figures would be 26,397 kronor for the graphic designer, 27,067 kronor for the gaming designer, and 24,153 kronor for the interior designer. And in Umeå they would be 26,137 kronor, 26,797 kronor, and 23,925 kronor respectively. Again, these figures are approximate and based on the average monthly salary across all genders.

We used Statistics Sweden and Skatteverket as sources for this article. Did you find it useful? Please email [email protected] to let us know what you think or what industry you want us to look at next.

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INTERVIEW: Does Sweden have a distinct management style?

The Local's Paul O'Mahony interviewed Pernilla Petrelius Karlberg, lecturer at Stockholm School of Economics and researcher at the Center for Responsible Leadership about the Swedish style of leadership.

INTERVIEW: Does Sweden have a distinct management style?

Does Sweden have a distinctive management style?

The Swedish style of leadership is often said to be characterised by so-called flat hierarchies, where everyone is able to – and expected to – contribute their ideas and input to tasks, regardless of whether they are in a leadership role or not.

Pernilla Petrelius Karlberg told The Local that there are a number of different aspects which can influence management style, although Sweden does have a distinct style.

“I think that there’s definitely an idea that there is a specific Swedish or Scandinavian management style,” she said. “But I think from a research perspective, it’s much more complex, because we tend to generalise or stereotype.”

“It’s got a lot to do with the company culture and the culture of the country,” Karlberg said, “There’s definitely an idea of Scandinavian leadership, I think we have a common idea of what that is, but then, is it actually practiced everywhere in Scandinavia or in Sweden? That’s another issue.”

“In many of our organisations we talk about Scandinavian leadership where the leadership is very international, it’s a mix of different people from different cultures.”

Sweden is a very individualist society, which is also reflected in Swedish business.

“I think the core of what we talk about when we talk about Swedish leadership is the fact that leaders and managers also call on co-workers to take ownership on the task and individualism comes into business,” Karlberg said.

“It’s even expected, and co-workers take that ownership, and they engage and they take responsibility for the outcome and the result. So it’s the total opposite of micro-management in that sense.”

This culture of ownership and engagement also applies to managers, Karlberg explained.

“To generalise, in a Swedish setting, if there’s a meeting with the boss, the co-workers will expect to be listened to, and to be involved in a conversation and give their opinion on things. And that’s also a way to motivate people, in a Swedish sense.”


Can lead to cultural clashes

This expectation in Swedish workplaces can lead to clashes if employees from other countries are used to a different system, Karlberg said.

“In another culture, say Finland, for example – I’m just generalising – you go to a meeting with your boss and you expect the boss to motivate you and to tell you what to do. So if you had a Finnish manager in a Swedish context, Swedish co-workers would probably feel neglected or frustrated for not being involved. ‘No-one asked my opinion, I want to share my opinion, my opinion matters'”.

This can also happen in situations where a Swedish manager is managing a group of employees from a different culture or country.

“A Finnish crowd with a Swedish manager might be very frustrated if the manager just asks questions and doesn’t seem to have a direction of their own. There’s just different expectations”.

However, there is also a collective aspect to Swedish workplaces, which foreigners working in the country often pick up on.

“When I work with international crowds, they tend to notice that Swedish co-workers and managers are very collective, they want to have consensus, they have to discuss everything, and it takes forever and it can be very frustrating.”

Swedish co-workers aren’t afraid to speak up though, if they feel that the decision their manager is making is wrong.

“But there are a lot of behaviours where Swedish co-workers will not accept a decision. For example, if they feel that the idea that their manager is bringing is wrong, it will actually be their duty to speak up, not in a confrontational way, but to say ‘Hmm, you know, this idea about doing it this way, it’s probably not a good idea.'”

“And non-Swedish managers might not always appreciate that kind of reaction. And if it continues, and the manager says that this is the way we’re gonna do it, the typical Swedish coworker will insist that this is the best way, and then there is a clash – again, they expect to be listened to and taken into consideration.”

How do you know when a decision has been taken in a Swedish workplace?

This need to feel informed and included in decision-making can in some cases make it difficult to understand at exactly what point a decision has been taken in a Swedish workplace.

“It’s a different process,” Karlberg said. “It often involves a calculated plan for taking the time to introduce the decision, discuss it, and make people feel that they have been informed.”

This aspect of the Swedish workplace culture caused issues during the pandemic, when many employees began to work from home.

“Decisions are taken in a much more informal way, and it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when something was decided. And we also saw that during the pandemic, that the typical Swedish organisation – which is very non-hierarchical – suffered a lot, because a lot of leadership is practiced in an informal work environment.”

“So when people were taken away from that environment – because suddenly they were working from home – it was sort of, you know, ‘how do we practice leadership now?’, whereas in an organisation with a much clearer hierarchy, it was never an issue where decisions were made or how leadership was practiced, because it was done in a different way.”

“And in the more informal, flatter organisations, we had to find a different way to do that, to translate into the virtual room.”

Despite this, Karlberg does believe that Sweden’s leadership style is effective.

“I would say that it is, yes. We stand out pretty well as a nation when it comes to different types of national measurements of competitiveness. We score quite high on that. Of course, there’s also a drawback, if people don’t want to take that responsibility and ownership, because then it’s not typical that the manager would step up and change the leadership style. So it depends on whether you actually share the same expectation.”

Where does the Swedish leadership style come from?

Sweden’s collaborative leadership style is perhaps a product of Sweden’s history, Karlberg said.

“We have always been a small country, very dependent on export. And that means that we had to adapt to the rest of the world and to other markets, but also having to collaborate – we’re too small to quarrel or fight.”

“This has been a way to bring people together in the same direction – it’s a little bit like how we work with the unions with much more of a collaborative focus instead of being confrontative, because it’s simply not rational for a small country like us.”

There’s also a strong tradition of independence in Sweden, Karlberg explained.

“There’s a genuine tradition of independence in the sense of mutual respect. And of course, a lot happened during the 20th century with the development of equality and the whole idea of individualist thinking. Where we’re individualistic with regard to family, with regard to gender, with regard to our roles in society.”

“I think that plays a part as well, with equality and also that everyone matters in that sense.”

You can hear Paul O’Mahony’s interview with Karlberg in our Sweden in Focus podcast where we discuss all aspects of life in Sweden and shed light on the latest Swedish news. Listen and subscribe.