Over the past few months, the UK economy has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. But despite this, there is still room for optimism, at least in the creative sectors.
A report published by The Design Council in August shows that the design economy grew at twice the rate of the wider UK economy between 2010 and 2019. It also found that the sector delivered a staggering £97.4 billion of gross value added (GVA) in 2019 alone.
It’s certainly an impressive figure, but what exactly makes design such an invaluable part of the UK economy?
Design is a vital part of every business, product, and service, but sometimes its role in creating economic prosperity can be overlooked.
In its report Design Economy: People, Places, and Economic Value, the Design Council sought to shed light on the invaluable contributions of designers not only on the economy, but also on social and environmental challenges.
The design economy is defined by the council as including:
The report found that 1 in 20 UK workers are employed in the design economy, and that 1 in 7 rely on design skills, such as use of design methods, creative problem-solving, or visualisation, to complete their work. Additionally, 77% of all design roles work in a non-design-related sector, demonstrating just how integral design is to all areas of the economy.
So, even if your business or your job isn’t part of the design economy, the chances are you heavily rely on someone who is.
According to the Design Council’s report, design accounted for over £70 billion in exports in 2019, which amounts to £1 in every £10 of all UK exports.
These statistics demonstrate just how vital our design economy really is, but sadly this value is at risk.
Certain sectors of the design economy have noticed a reduction in exports since the UK left the EU, most notably product and industrial design, which saw a contraction of 85% between 2017 and 2019.
To reduce the risk of further contractions, the Design Council has suggested more supportive international trade agreements and intellectual property frameworks.
Productivity and job creation is a further benefit that the design economy contributes to society. The report found that, on average, a digital design job generates £66,823 per annum, 15% more than the average UK role.
Additionally, the digital design sector grew by 138% between 2010 and 2019, three times the rate of the wider digital economy.
Design work doesn’t just benefit the wider UK economy – it also adds value to the local communities they are part of. Above average concentrations of design roles and businesses create more jobs and encourage business growth in their local area.
As demonstrated by the statistics above, the design economy contributes significantly to the wider UK economy and will play an important role in tackling major challenges such as the climate crisis and inequality. But it also faces challenges of its own that need to be addressed if we are going to make progress as a society.
Lack of diversity
Research shows that 85% of those working in the digital design sector are male. Unless diversity is improved and more voices can be heard in the work that will solve major societal issues, there could be serious implications on the safety and inclusivity of the solutions created.
Declining skills pipeline
More and more designers across the design economy have a degree (62% in 2021 compared to 58% in 2016). Meanwhile, there has been a 68% drop in entries to design and technology GCSEs.
The Design Council has called for diversified career pathways and curriculum reform to ensure that the future of design in the UK is protected.
Support for design outside of London and the south-east is low
The north-east and the east Midlands experienced a 2% decline in employment of design roles between 2017 and 2020, and Yorkshire and the Humber saw an 8% decline in its design GVA during the same period.
Investment in design-related jobs and businesses in these areas is needed to make sure the UK design economy reaches its potential.
If your design business is growing and you’d like to make sure you have taken out the right kinds of protection to support this growth, we can help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact form to request a callback from our team.