Design Trends

Design Council’s The Design Economy 2018 : The State of Design in 2018

This will interest

  • Designers
  • Business leaders
  • Local and central government
  • Academics, economists, statisticians and research professionals


About the report

The Design Economy 2018 is the Design Council’s report on the state of design in the UK, and its value to the economy. It expands on their previous research in 2015, and in addition to exploring the supply of design firms and designers, also explores how the rest of the UK business population interacts with them, and what the demand for design is.

The UK is responding to the fourth industrial revolution, whilst tackling stagnant productivity, unequal growth across its regions and automation’s increased impact on living conditions and job security. It must also establish a new vision for its place in the world – negotiating an exit from the European Union and developing new trading partnerships.


Yet with these challenges come opportunities. Innovation and technological change – from 3D printing to artificial intelligence – offer hope for a brighter future. They bring the prospect of business growth and higher value jobs that can transform the economy across the UK. As advanced economies such as the UK adjust to technological and economic developments, commentators from Nesta¹ to the World Economic Forum² predict that demand will grow for skills which are difficult to automate.

Our 2017 research found that designers have these attributes, typified by their emphasis on interpersonal skills such as operations analysis and social perceptiveness, and cognitive abilities such as visualisation and thinking creatively.³

Design and design skills are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. They give us the tools to respond to these unprecedented challenges, and instigate the growth, innovation and jobs that will
drive the UK’s global future.

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Good design is about

Good design puts people first. It uses creativity to solve problems, challenge thinking and make lives better. Designers operate across the whole economy. They shape the built environment, the digital world and the products and services we use, creating better places, better products,better processes and better performance.

We define this activity as ‘the design economy’ – the value created by those who use design in a wide variety of industries. This includes designers in design industries (eg, digital design or animation), other roles in design industries (such as administration, finance and distribution on the basis they are supporting the main design function), as well as designers in other sectors of the economy, such as in banks, consultancies, automotive or aerospace companies.

Design is growing

The Design Economy 2018 builds on our 2015 research, a world first state-of-design report. It demonstrated how design drives growth and innovation to create significant value for the UK economy. Design economy studies have since been replicated by others for the City of Atlanta and New Zealand, with more in the pipeline. Our 2018 report explores wider questions arising from our original research and connects to the emerging economic challenges facing the UK. It examines in greater depth theeconomic impact of design on regional and local economies, and provides a deeper analysis of the types of businesses and people who are using, working with and benefiting from design.
Our 2018 report shows that design is growing – both in value and demand. However, there is still room for improvement, with many businesses, areas of the country and people continuing to miss out onthe benefits. Our report draws on in-depth analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (including the Annual Business Survey and Annual Population Survey) undertaken on behalf of Design Council by the Enterprise Research Centre. A unique survey of over 1,000 UK businesses about their use of design, delivered by BMG Research, complements this. Additionally, BOP Consulting compiled in-depth case studies of seven firms who either operate in design-intensive industries or are exemplars of how non-design firms can use design to achieve better outcomes.

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Key findings and recommendations

This summary document outlines a selection of 20 key findings from the research. We have responded to these findings with several recommendations for how the UK can better use design to successfully adapt to change and take a leading position in a global economy.

We hope you enjoy reading this research and will work with us to deliver on the recommendations and help the UK economy turn to design once more.

Source: report

Inside you will find

  • A breakdown of the true value of design to the UK economy
  • A regional breakdown of design hotspots and clusters
  • Updated statistics about the UK’s design exports, employment and productivity
  • Findings on business design use from over 1000 businesses
  • Short excerpts from two case studies of businesses using design
  • International comparisons
Design_Economy_2018_exec_summary (1)

View the full Design Economy 2018 report: a more detailed document with methodology, data tables, charts and excerpts from all of the case studies.

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