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Arts and Culture, Design, Fashion

Design: Why the UK?

updated
February 22, 2021
Published on:
March 4, 2020
January 5, 2021

Five Reasons To Choose the UK Design Industry

1. Scale & Heritage

In 2016, there were an estimated 1.69m individuals employed in design roles across the UK economy, according to a Design Council report (Source: The Design Economy 2018, Design Council). The same study estimates that there were more than 73,000 'design-intensive' firms in the UK in 2017, an increase of more than 60 per cent since 2010.

The UK’s design industry is one of the most established in the world, building on design and innovation that date back to support by the Royal Society of Arts from the mid-eighteenth century onwards for the cause of open innovation and the profile of great industrial designers and innovators of the UK's first industrial revolution, including Stephenson, Brunel and Telford.

Watch a short film about how great UK design firms do have to locate themselves in London here.

2. global outlook

In 2015, the total value of exports (both goods and services) in which UK design had made a key contribution (as part of a greater whole) was ¬£48.4bn, representing 7 per cent of total UK exports that year. (Source: The Design Economy 2018, Design Council). Official Government data, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport,  counts service exports within the design and fashion design category. On this basis, exports were worth ¬£486m.

The UK ranks fourth in the world for design exports and exports 50 per cent more design than it imports. In the UK for every £1 invested in design businesses can expect a return of over £5 in increased exports. (Source: UK design as a global industry, Big Innovation Centre/Intellectual Property Office).

3. commercial effectiveness

Design is highly valued by UK business. In 2015, UK firms invested £14.7bn in design. Design Council analysis shows that when firms invest in design, they are more likely to invest in other intangible assets such as R&D and get them working in synergy to generate new innovations and create additional value.

UK designers were also 29 per cent more productive than the average UK worker, each delivering £50,328 in output (GVA per worker, 2016), compared to £39,111 across the rest of the economy.

4. dedication to innovation

Design in the UK is at the forefront of new developments, with design services increasingly employed in healthcare, for the digital age, or for services. The UK applies for the second most trademarks within Europe and the third highest number of community designs. (Source: Eurostat report, October 2016)

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.

5.  Educationally excellent

The UK’s design education is delivered by excellent universities and Design Schools, including the Royal College of Art, the University of the Arts London, University of Oxford and Saïd Business School among others. It has two of the top 10 universities in the world for arts and design in the 2018 rankings produced by the QS World University Rankings.

UK universities have developed cutting-edge multidisciplinary programmes that link business and design e.g. Imperial College design has been incorporated in the MBA delivered with the Royal College of Art.

According to UCAS, the UK University Clearance Admission service,145,330 students were studying this subject in 2014/15.

Just over 77 per cent of graduates went directly into employment with the top five destinations listed as: Wholesale and retail trade; Arts, entertainment, and recreation; Professional, scientific, and technical; accommodation and food service; and education.

The UK has an internationally-acclaimed design infrastructure which includes strong cultural assets such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, Design Museum and the Science Museum.

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