Design contributes 7% of UK economy – research

New figures from the Design Council aim to show design’s impact on the wider economy.

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Design’s contribution to the UK economy is equivalent to 7.2% of total GVA, according to new research from the Design Council.

The research shows that the design economy generates £71.7 billion for the UK as a whole.

The new research aims to measure the value of design across the entire UK economy – rather than just design as a single industry.

New estimate

It takes into account not just the contribution of designers working in design industries, but also those working in other sectors, such as finance and retail, and also other roles in the design industry, such as administration and finance.

As such, the Design Council’s figure far outstrips previous estimates of design’s contribution.

Figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, for example, showed that design contributed £3.1 billion to the UK economy in 2014. However, these figures only looked at the direct contribution from graphic, product and fashion design.

Faster growth

For this new research, the Design Council has worked with research consultancy TBR to measure design’s impact on the economy.

The research looks at a set of key measures, including gross value added, productivity, turnover, employment and exports of goods and services. The Design Council says it is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics and international data.

As well as showing the size of the design economy, the research also shows that design’s contribution is growing at a faster rate than the UK economy as a whole – 27.9% compared to 18.1%.

Employed in design

The figures also show that design-related exports account for 7.3% of the UK’s total export market – and are worth £34 billion.

Around 1.6 million people are directly employed in the design economy, according to the results, with 580,000 people directly employed in the design industry and a further 1 million working in non-design sectors.

The research also shows that designers are more likely to be self-employed than other workers, and less likely to employ staff.

Lack of diversity

Designers do, however, earn more on average than other workers, with an average salary in the design economy of £650 a week – compared to the UK average salary of £385 a week.

The results reveal a lack of diversity in design roles. A total of 78% of those employed in the design economy are male, compared to 53% of the wider UK workforce.



The Design Council says it is considering conducting this research on a more regular basis, as well as taking “deep dives” into particular sectors or topics.

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