Design Week poll: half of designers still worried as uncertain winter looms

Our latest poll reveals mixed fortunes for the industry, with 48% of designers still worried about making it into 2021.

A Design Week poll of readers has revealed that almost half of designers are worried about how the rest of the year will play out.

Almost 100 designers responded to our latest business interruption survey – the third such survey Design Week has used to collected data on how the industry is faring during the coronavirus crisis.

Now well over six months into the pandemic, it seems the design world is divided. Some 52% of respondents to our survey reported feeling optimistic about the future – this is up from just 29% back in July.

However, our latest results show a considerable 48% are still concerned with what the closing months of 2020 might bring. The ever-present threat of lockdowns and further disruption over the winter months means the future is uncertain for many.

One in ten have lost all work

While optimism is welcome within an industry that, like so many others, has been acutely affected by the crisis and its consequences, other findings from the survey suggest some concerns remain.

Most notably, nearly half of design firms (45%) report losing more than 75% of their business. This number has remained relatively unchanged from our previous survey.

Thankfully, the number of businesses claiming to have lost 100% of work is on its way down too. Back in July, 15% of designers claimed to be completely without work because of the pandemic – now in October, only 10% report this being the case.

32% of designers accessed no help from the government

With the end of the month marking the termination of the furlough scheme in its current form, Design Week asked respondents to reflect on how this support initiative, and others, have been interacted with.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the official name for the furlough scheme) was by far the most popular choice among design businesses. Some 50% of respondents reported engaging with it.

Additionally, 15% of respondents claimed to have accessed the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Conversely, no readers reported having used the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, and 32% reported not having accessed any support at all.

56% of respondents still don’t know when they’ll be brought back from furlough

Beyond just what support was accessed, this time around Design Week also sought to understand when it was accessed.

As is perhaps to be expected, most respondents (31%) reported having engaged with government support as soon as lockdown was announced. But interestingly, some 29% revealed that their design business waited until mid-way through lockdown before accessing financial help.

With the end of the furlough scheme on the horizon, it is as yet unclear how design businesses will take up its replacement. You can read more details of the Winter Economy Plan and how it will effect designers here.

What we do know, however, is that plenty of designers are still out of work – when asked, 56% of respondents reported being on furlough and not knowing when they would be brought back into the studio.

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