Design Week poll: Majority of designers have lost more than 75% of business

We surveyed readers to find out how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting designers and how businesses have interacted with the help on offer from the government.

A Design Week poll of readers has revealed that more than half of designers (54%) have experienced a loss of more than three quarters of business, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Launched last week, the survey attracted engagement from more than 400 readers. Its results present a snapshot of an industry that, like many others, is being considerably affected by the crisis and its various implications, such as public lockdown, cancelled contracts, supply chain shortages and school shutdowns.

Majority of design businesses going without government support

Alongside asking readers how business has been affected, the survey also sought to find out to what extent the UK’s designers were interacting with the government’s coronavirus financial support packages, if at all.

Since his inaugural Budget statement on 11 March, chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised the public a number of financial initiatives, aiming to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic on British business. These include the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

While these schemes are unprecedented in the amount of money being offered by the government, they have drawn criticism from those who say they don’t cover all workers (most notably: limited company workers and the recently self-employed), and for being inaccessible for those who are eligible.

This was reflected in the results of Design Week’s poll: some 55% of designers and design businesses have not accessed the help on offer from the government. Of those who had, one in five found the process was not straightforward.

Furloughing of staff expected to rise

According to the survey, the most accessed package by designers and design businesses was the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – the fund set up to allow companies to furlough staff, rather than fire them, with the government paying 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 for the duration of the furlough.

Responses suggest some 40% of design businesses have already taken the decision to furlough staff members, with a further 10% saying the decision is expected to be taken in the near future.

Because of the changing nature of the coronavirus crisis, the length of time for which designers are expecting to remain out of work is varied: one in ten furloughed respondents expected it to last for three months, while the same number have been left with an indeterminate date as to when they can go back to work.

Designers’ creative and political response to COVID-19

The results of the survey show, understandably, that the design industry has been considerably affected by the coronavirus. Alongside this, the crisis has also prompted a considerable reaction from the industry, both creatively and politically.

Last week, we reported on the campaign led by freelancer advocacy groups, which is pressuring the government to “fix” the holes in its finance schemes.

Since then the driving group behind the movement, freelancer banking platform Coconut, has launched a purpose-built online self-assessment calculator. This is so that if the campaign is successful in opening up support for the newly self-employed, currently ineligible workers will be able to quickly apply for government support.

And elsewhere, designers have been coming together to use their craft to convey vital public health messages, messages of support for key workers, and provide resources for one another.

Design Week has covered the financial schemes currently on offer from the government at length throughout the crisis, all of which can be found in our dedicated Coronavirus and Design news stream. For more information, visit the gov.uk website.  

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