GLA report on creative industries overlooks design

A report published late last month by the Greater London Authority into the state of the creative industries has been criticised for failing to gather data on the capital’s design industry.

The 61-page report also makes some controversial claims, such as stating that the proportion of women to men in the industry is declining and ethnic minorities remain under-represented.

Entitled London’s Creative Sector: 2007 Update, the paper tabulates statistics about London and the South East’s art, advertising, architecture, antiques, fashion, leisure and software, film and video, radio and TV, music and publishing sectors. But along with crafts, design is conspicuously absent.

Design Council deputy chief executive Harry Rich has called the latest GLA report ‘a missed opportunity, particularly in light of the report’s publication alongside the London Design Festival’. The Design Council is due to publish its second report into the sector this week. Considering the design industry’s annual turnover of more than £11bn (according to the Design Council’s figures), omitting it from the report looks like a terrible oversight.

However, the GLA defends itself. Under the international classification coding system for industries, design does not have its own code, which the GLA claims makes gathering information about the sector almost impossible.

London Development Agency creative industries team policy manager Tom Campbell says, ‘Design is considered an occupation rather than an industry, so designers don’t exist in a value chain that can be calculated in terms of Standard Industrial Classification codes. The Office of National Statistics accepts that there is a real problem when it comes to gaining information on new and rapidly evolving industries such as new media and design.’

Rich claims the Design Council is pressing for design to be allotted a code. ‘We have encountered the same problem as the GLA, and, as a result, we had to research the industry ourselves. Our data is way ahead of the Government’s. We are pushing very hard for design to be identified within the codings, but this process could take years, as SIC codes are subject to international agreements,’ he explains.

Could the lack of information mean that design is left out in the cold when the Government forms new policies based on the GLA’s reports? The GLA is concerned enough to announce that it is seeking to talk with designers and relevant design bodies to gain an understanding of the sector as part of a ‘cultural audit’ of London. ‘We think the design industry has a better idea of how big it is than we do,’ says the report’s author Alan Freeman. We are now trying to talk with the design – and, indeed, with all creative sectors – to get their picture of their industries. If they get in contact with us now, that would be very useful.’ The report does not have an official publication date, but Freeman expects it to be ready next year.

However, Rich claims that he is unconcerned by the report’s ignorance of the design sector. ‘We are already working very closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which use our data all the time. We would welcome it if the GLA contacted us.’ If the GLA and the Design Council can overcome confusion about who is supposed to be contacting whom, this could prove to be a fruitful partnership.

The Design Council’s independence of spirit is also evidenced in its response to the part of the report concerning statistics about female and ethnic minority participation in the creative industries. ‘The design industry must look to itself to employ more women and minorities,’ says Rich. ‘This should not just be the domain of Government policy. The design sector must recognise that it is in its own interests to hire women and people from different backgrounds. After all, consultancies are often in the business of understanding markets, and these groups are important markets. The problem is that people are prone to hiring those who are similar to them – so white males often hire white males.’

The GLA says it will investigate these issues through examining the statistics in further depth, before asking why inequalities still exist. ‘We are conscious that good policy has to be based on good evidence. The main purpose for this update has been to flag up areas that require further research, which we will now undertake.’

If good evidence demands a comprehensive approach then future Government reports must take account of the design sector.

The full report can be read at

The Creative Sector in the south east

• One-third of creative sector jobs are located in the South East

• Creative jobs in the rest of the South East outnumber those in London

• In London, there is a ‘wedge’ of creative businesses stretching from Westminster to Hillingdon

• Between 1995/1996 and 2003/2004, the proportion of women in the creative sector declined from 42% to 37%

• Black, Asian and other ethnic minority workers rose from 11% to 15%

Source: London’s Creative Sector: 2007 Update

GLA reports
This is the GLA’s third report into London’s creative industries. The first of these, Creativity/ London’s Core Business, was published in 2002. The second was London’s Creative Sector: 2004 Update. All three were written by Alan Freeman

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