Design Council launches research into social and environmental value of design

The first phase will ask designers about barriers to “realising positive impact” and will work towards generating a “co-created, purpose-driven future agenda” for design in the UK.

The Design Council has started a new research project in a bid to better understand the social and environmental value of design within the UK.

In 2022, the Design Council presented a report on the economic value of design in the UK titled Design Economy: People, Places, and Economic Value. This report established that there are 1.97 million people working in the design economy and that the industry contributed £97.4bn in Gross Value Added (GVA), which was 4.9% of the UK’s GVA total in 2019.

Though the Design Council already has “a strong sense of the economic value” of design, its senior research and impact manager Benjamin Kulka says it wants to look further into its environmental, social and democratic impact. This new project – carried out in partnership with design and innovation research centre PDR (International Centre for Design and Research) – will focus on gaining these insights with the help of designers.

The initial phase will involve the “extensive dissemination of a survey among designers working within all sectors and industries of the British economy”, says Kulka. The survey will ask designers “what barriers and enablers they face in realising positive impact”, which could include skills, methods, innovation or demand from clients, he explains.

Read more: Design contributes £97.4bn to the UK economy Design Council reveals

In light of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s recent announcement of support for the creative industries to boost the UK economy, the Design Council believes this to be an ideal time to be looking into these issues, according to Kulka. “With the current effects of climate change, it’s more important than ever that designers are empowered to use their unique role to help us design for a regenerative future”, he adds.

The Design Council says the results gained from the survey will inform the next stage of case studies and workshops, with the eventual aim of generating “a co-created, purpose-driven future agenda for Design Economy practice and research”. A final report will be published in early 2024 on the Design Council’s website with suggestions for designers and government to prioritise environmental and social impact.

Kulka also confirms that the research findings will be used by the Design Council to help develop “a Design for Planet Skills and Knowledge Hub” which will offer resources that aim to “support and inspire the design community to put the planet at the heart of their work”.

Read more: Design for planet and purse: Cat Drew on reaching net zero equitably

Banner and featured image: BongkarnGraphic

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