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The value of the UK design industry

updated
March 19, 2021
Published on:
September 23, 2019
January 24, 2021

Design Economy 2021

A project to develop new evaluation and research methods to capture the contribution design is making to the UK has been launched by Design Council.

The research – which will be carried out on behalf of Design Council by the University of Arts London’s (UAL’s) Social Design Institute and BOP Consulting – will for the first time explore design’s social and environmental value, as well as its economic impact.

Findings from the project will shape the direction of ‘Design Economy 2021’ the latest in Design Council’s flagship ‘Design Economy’ series, and part of pioneering evidence-based research on the value of design.

Marking a further change to the series, Design Council will this year be presenting ‘Design Economy 2021’ through a new online platform – rather than as a single publication – giving people access to a host of events, thought leadership, case studies and key publications.

The design economy refers to value created by those employed in design roles in a wide variety of industries - from design intensive sectors such as web design or animation, to designers and design-engineers in automotive or aerospace companies.

More on the Design Council website.

The UK Design sector - economic snapshot

  • The design sector (encompassing design and designer fashion) was directly responsible for an estimated £3.949 bn of Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2017 - an increase of 7.7 per cent on the previous year. Between 2010 and 2017, GVA rose by about 100 per cent.
  • There are 163,000 UK design and designer fashion jobs in the creative industries. The largest concentrations are in London, South East and North West of England. It is esimated that about 50 per cent of design employees are educated to degree level.
  • The Design Council has estimated that the total contribution of the design economy - which includes everyone employed in design roles - is £71.7bn as measured by GVA, productivity, turnover and employment. It calculates that workers with a design element were 41 per cent more product than the average.
  • According to the official government data, the value of exported design services from UK was estimated at £461m in 2017. This represents an increase of 278 per cent since 2010. However, the Design Council's report on 'The Design Economy'  believes the contribution of design to the total export of goods and services from the UK is £34bn, equivalent to 7.3 per cent of total UK exports in 2013.

Sources: DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates, DCMS, January 2019;  DCMS Sector Estimates: Employment, June 2019; The Design Economy

The value of the UK design industry

  • Design is highly valued by UK business, with an estimated £33.5bn spent annually on design.
  • Research conducted by the Design Council shows that despite the recession, the UK industry grew by 29 per cent between 2005 and 2010.
  • Design increases turnover: In the UK, for every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £20 in increased revenues
  • Design is linked to profit: For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £4 increase in net operating profit
  • Design boosts exports: For every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect a return of over £5 in increased exports
  • UK firms cite design as increasingly important when combating the effects of recession. In 2008, 80 per cent of UK businesses believed that design would help them stay competitive. This figure rose to 97 per cent among rapidly growing companies
  • Around 35 per cent of UK exports come from industries that employ higher-than-average concentrations of designers
  • In the UK, businesses where design is integral to operations are twice as likely to have developed new products and services. Successful UK businesses and iconic brands such as Virgin, Jaguar Land Rover, O2, Dyson and Diageo all regard design as essential to innovation and market expansion.

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