Number of UK designers increases by a quarter

The number of designers in the UK has grown by a quarter over the past five years, according to new research from the Design Council.

Early analysis from the Design Industry Research survey, which is set to be released in full next year, shows that there are 232 000 designers in the UK, up from 185 500 when the research was last undertaken in 2005.

However, the total number of consultancies in the UK has declined from 12 450 in 2005 to 10 800, and the proportion of larger consultancies has also fallen, suggesting that the employment increase must be attributable to growth among smaller consultancies.

The number of freelance designers has grown by 39 per cent, and the number of designers in consultancy employment has grown by 35 per cent, but the number of in-house designers has grown by just 8 per cent.

The Design Council says that apart from this change in the number of designers in the UK, the profile of the industry remains broadly similar to that in 2005. Those results suggested that the majority of UK designers were men under the age of 40, while only 6 per cent came from ethnic minorities.

The new results also show that only 10 per cent of design consultancies and 5 per cent of freelances work for clients outside the UK. This is despite the pound’s weakness currently making UK design more affordable for overseas clients (see News Analysis) and is also a fall from 2005, when results showed that 14 per cent of freelances and 17 per cent of consultancies said their major clients were based overseas.

The new results show that 8 per cent of consultancies, 11 per cent of freelances, and 19 per cent of in-house design teams say they face competition from abroad. In 2005 the respective figures were 12, 18 and 23 per cent.

The communications and digital sectors are the dominant design sectors, with just less than 60 per cent of design consultancies and in-house teams and 75 per cent of freelances working in these sectors. Product design accounts for 11 per cent of consultancies and 16 per cent of in-house teams, but just 8 per cent of freelances.

When published, the full results, which are subject to change, will demonstrate the impact of the recession, as well as provide information on skills and professional development, sustainability and industry body membership.

The results are based on a telephone survey of more than 2230 designers.


  • The number of designers in the UK is up by a quarter since 2005, from 185 500 to 232 000
  • The total number of consultancies has declined from 12 450 in 2005 to 10 800
  • Just 10% of design consultancies and 5% of freelances work for clients outside the UK
Hide Comments (5)Show Comments (5)
  • Steve Roberts November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Looks like small(ish) is beauftiful!

    I guess one of the challenges of winning business overseas is the remoteness from the client (I’m talking specifically about Product Design); specifically communication.
    Anyone got any thoughts about this?

  • graham hitchen November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    how can a survey of 2000 designers conclude that there are now 230000 designers? And an increase of 25% during a recession…..

    I look forward to seeing the final research!

  • Rajeev. A.R. November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I wish you all the best of your effort. I am a Graphic/Carpet designer from India.

  • Denis Curley November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Complete and Utter Bullshit!

  • Ben Hewlett November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Always good to read articles like this, as a finalist in their final year of Product Design and Technology (sarcasm)…I guess it goes hand in hand with a recession. Fantastic…que the gap year.

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