Design contributes over £200bn to UK economy, Design Council reveals

The Designing a Future Economy report looks at how different occupations use design skills and the positive impact this makes on the UK more generally.

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Design skills contribute £209bn to the UK economy, almost double that of what the creative industries were previously found to contribute as a whole, a new report from the Design Council shows.

The Designing a Future Economy: Developing Design Skills for Productivity and Innovation report has been compiled using UK and US-based data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and O*Net, a US-based research company offering definitions and data on different jobs.

Architecture and advertising to fashion and digital

The report defines “design” as “the creation of a proposition in a medium, using tools as part of a process” – which covers creating tangible products such as buildings, dresses and kettles through to invisible things such as software codes, transport systems and policies.

It looks at the skills of people working in the design industry across disciplines categorised into eight groups. These are architecture and the built environment; advertising design; clothing design; craft design; digital design; graphic design; multidisciplinary design; and product and industrial design.

It also looks at design skills used by people in non-design professions in their day-to-day work.

These jobs were varied but include construction, IT (information technology), engineering, surveying, carpentry and textile manufacturing.

The design skills list came to 177 in total, and these were then given a rating based on how important workers found each skill and how often they use them.

Listed skills included everything from design techniques to building and construction, fine arts, engineering and programming.

Design contributes £209bn GVA to UK economy

The GVA (gross value added) – the economic value of goods and services produced as a result of these design skills – was then calculated, showing that workers’ design skills contribute £209bn to the UK economy as a whole.

This is far above what design has previously been found to contribute to the UK. In February this year, Government figures from the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) found that the creative industries as a whole contributed £87.4bn to the economy in 2015.

Design Council’s report also shows that at least 2.5 million people use design skills in their day-to-day work, which is equivalent to one in 12 workers.

“Growing” skills gaps

Despite the wide use of design-based skills, the report found that there are “growing” skills gaps in design, with one in eight employers stating they have staff who are “not fully proficient” in their current jobs.

These skills shortages cost the UK economy £5.9bn per year, according to the report. This figure was calculated using data from the UK Employer Skills Survey showing the number of people not fully proficient in their current jobs in the design industries, and multiplying these by estimates of GVA per head.

“The value of design is overlooked”

Sarah Weir, CEO at Design Council, says: “Design is all around us, in our homes, our offices, our travel networks and even our health and education systems. But it is precisely because design is at the centre of our lives… that its value is often overlooked.

“We knew design skills had a wider impact on our economy but £209bn is so significant,” she adds. “Design skills are not an enrichment, they are a necessity for the UK, and it is time to act.”

A need to better integrate design into education

Design Council has put the design skills shortage partly down to the Government’s focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and the resulting drop in students taking up design, technology and art subjects throughout education, from GCSE through to A-Level and university.

Weir also says the “lack of additional design training provided by firms” could be contributing to growing skills gaps.

“We need urgent action from the Government and industry, as design and technology change the way we work and live,” she says.

Design Council has put forward recommendations to reduce the skills gap, which include schools, examination boards and education regulators including Government better embedding design into the curriculum and shifting the focus from STEM to STEAMD (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths and design).

It also recommends better support and resources within the design industry for “lifelong learning” and continued training.

For a full copy of the report, contact the Design Council.

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