The UK Design Council has released their findings of the state of the design economy in the UK during 2018. It has data and new evidence on design's impact and value. On one of the first pages, it reads:
Our role now as Design Council is to make life better by design. So as the country faces seismic economic challenges and change, it is time to once again turn to design.
One of our fabulous interns, Mary, has read through the Design Council's findings and created a short-list of key takeaways.
20 takeaways from the Design Council’s research into the state of design in the UK
1. Design is high value and growing: The design economy generated £85.2 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2016. This is equivalent to 7% of UK GVA and equivalent to the size of the distribution, transport, accommodation and food sectors. Between 2009 and 2016 the design economy grew by 52%.
2. The scale of the design economy is growing: In 2016, there were 1.69 million people employed in design roles, representing growth of 6% since our last report, equivalent to 99,604 new jobs (compared to a UK average of 4% since 2014). If the design economy were one sector, this would make it the ninth largest employment sector in the UK.
3. The design economy has many small firms compared to a few larger firms: These firms are largely driven by start-ups, the majority of which survive for more than three years, which is higher than the average for small and medium businesses in the UK.
4. Designers are highly productive: Designers were 29% more productive than the average UK worker, each delivering £50,328 in GVA per worker in 2016, compared to £39,111 across the rest of the economy.
5. Design is increasingly digital: In 2016, digital design accounted for just over one in three design roles and is the fastest growing part of the design economy.
6. Designers are highly qualified: 57.1% of design workers held a degree as their highest level of qualification in 2016 as compared with a UK average of 34%, indicating a growing expectation among employers for designers to be educated to this level.
7. Designers are well paid: The average weekly salary for designers in design industries was £609 per week compared with a UK average weekly wage of £548, indicating that designers have a high perceived value to firms.
8. Design has a diversity challenge: Ethnicity: The design economy employs a slightly higher proportion of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than are employed in the wider UK economy. However, BAME designers are least likely to be in senior roles, accounting for only 12% of all design managers. Gender: 78% of the UK’s design workforce is male, a figure higher than the percentage of men in the wider UK workforce (53%). This is despite women making up 63% of all students studying creative arts and design courses at university. Even when employed in design, women earn less, and are less likely than men to be in senior roles, with only 17% of design managers being female.
9. Design can generate significant value for local and regional economies: London remains the powerhouse of UK design, with almost 1 in 3 design firms now based in the capital, as well as 1 in 5 design workers. Yet this study also shows that over the past few years most UK regions have also experienced growth in the GVA generated by designers in more localized areas.
10. UK designed products and services are in-demand and recognized across the world: In 2015, the total value of exports where design had made a key contribution was £48.4 billion, representing 7% of total UK exports that year. This value is slowing down with only a 1.6% improvement since 2009 (compared to -3.1% for the UK economy as a whole during the same period).
11. A global UK needs to maintain its position as the destination of choice for design: UK design goods exports ranks 6th in the world behind France, Switzerland, USA, Hong Kong and Germany.
12. Protecting UK design: Designers need an intellectual property system that is flexible and easy to use. There was a 46% rise in design registrations by UK businesses with the Intellectual Property Office between 2015 and 2016. However, internationally this number is continuing to decrease.
13. Investment in design is growing: In 2015, UK firms invested £14.7billion in design. When firms invest in design, they are more likely to invest in other assets to generate new innovations.
14. Design-led firms lead the way: More than two-fifths of our survey respondents agreed that the use of design within their organisation has contributed to an increase in sales turnover, business competitiveness, and awareness and recognition of the brand.
15. Design is a resource for innovation: Our survey found that firms with any design functions are more likely than average to have developed completely new and original products, services or processes.
16. Design is a form of innovation: 60% of firms use design in some way. This ranged from using design to bring a final finish to a product, through to design being fundamental to their organisation’s strategy.
17. Design boosts long-term productivity: Analysis of the UK Innovation Survey shows engagement with design increases the probability that firms will undertake both product/service and process innovation.
18. There is room for improvement in the use of design by UK firms: 40% of UK firms perceive that design plays a small part in the operations of the business. Despite the positive evidence of the impact of design functions or facilities in-house on innovation, only a quarter of all firms employ staff whose role it is to undertake design functions. There is, therefore, room for improvement in the use of design by UK firms.
19. Demand for design skills is expected to grow: More than half of respondents (53%) expect the demand for design-related skills to increase in their sector or industry in the next three years. Such skills include originality and creative skills, as well as digital skills.
20. Design has the potential to play an even greater role in future economic growth: 59% of respondents believe that design will contribute substantially to any of a range of business improvement activities in the next three years. This includes efforts to increase sales in the UK, the development of new products or services, and marketing campaigns.