The ground-breaking research shows that in a year alone design contributed $10.1b to New Zealand’s GDP (approximately 4.2 per cent).

A nationwide study into the economic contribution of design to New Zealand’s economy


A nationwide study into the economic contribution of design to New Zealand’s economy was released.

The ground-breaking research shows that in a year alone design contributed $10.1b to New Zealand’s GDP (approximately 4.2 per cent).

About the study

The study was undertaken by PwC and commissioned by a national  consortium DesignCo, which comprises Massey University’s College of Creative Arts, the Designers Institute of New ZealandOtago Polytechnic School of Design, NZTE (Better By Design programme), AUT School of Art and Design, the Auckland Co-design LabCallaghan Innovation and Victoria’s University’s School of Design.

Professor Claire Robinson, convenor of DesignCo, said at the launch of the research today: “There is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector. International evidence confirms more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services.

“The research reveals that treated as an individual industry its contribution to the New Zealand economy would be larger than agriculture and on a par with retail trade ($10.6b), and food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing. The sector also provides approximately 94,200 FTE positions in New Zealand, roughly 4.4 per cent of employment,” Professor Robinson said.

Design as an effective process

The study indicates a broadening use as an effective process – in exporting firms, technology, health, conservation, the public sector and within cities.

Ludo Campbell-Reid, general manager of the Auckland Design Office and Design Champion for Auckland said: “There is a global movement that is centred on cities that are transforming themselves through people centred urban design. Think Melbourne, Vancouver, London, Barcelona, Bilbao, Portland, Seattle, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Each of these cities has pursued a deliberate programme of economic revitalisation and urban renewal based around design led thinking. Great design is all about the value add: good for the environment, good for business, good for attracting talent and critical for social cohesiveness”.

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The ground-breaking research shows that in a year alone design contributed $10.1b to New Zealand’s GDP (approximately 4.2 per cent).
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Aboute the impact of design

In the private sector, the study highlights through case studies  significant impact on firms such as Gallagher Industries in New Zealand’s agricultural sector, Xero, Fisher & Paykel, Air New Zealand, Imake, Allbirds shoes and Goodnature. In each, design has played a significant role in their success.

In the public sector, the study indicates a greater use of methodologies and insights. More and more public sector organisations, including IRD, MBIE and MPI establishing teams to improve government services to citizens.

In the same vein, MBIE and the Auckland Council have jointly established the Auckland Co-design Lab, a joint initiative based in south Auckland, which provides a neutral space to co-design cross-sector collaborative approaches, in order to create radical, system-level solutions to seemingly intractable social and economic problems.

The study also argues that urban design has a critical role. To ensurie a city is a place where people want to live and visit.

Recommendations for future action

Among DesignCo’s recommendations for future actions are:

  • Treasury to develop a national strategy in collaboration with the New Zealand design sector.
  • Fund a body similar to the UK Design Council responsible for the strategic coordination in New Zealand, bringing together the design industry, research and education.
  • A programme of business support for the use by SMEs, similar to the NZTE Better by Design programme.
  • Increase targeted funding support for service transformation in the public sector.
  • Widen the current conceptualisation of STEM. Include creative arts subjects such as design and creative media production, and increase the EFTS funding for these subject areas.
  • A dedicated research fund for researchers to access. And infrastructure to support the allocation of funds (separate from science, health or arts funding).
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Professor Robinson said: “DesignCo partners will continue to connect with the constituent parts of the New Zealand  eco-system in a systematic and regular manner, telling the story of New Zealand’s design excellence, rectifying the paucity of information about the design sector and gathering statistical data on the value and impact of design in New Zealand.

“We are convinced that the government are an essential partner in ensuring design’s potential in New Zealand is fully realised. We look forward to working with them to implement the recommendations,” she said.



Winning by Design