UK designers’ combined fee-income reaches £15bn

The combined fee-income of UK design consultancies, in-house teams and freelances came to an estimated £15bn in 2009, according to the forthcoming Design Industry Research survey, from the Design Council.

This is a real-term increase of 15 per cent on the figures from 2005, when the last survey was carried out, according to the Design Council.

However, this figure suggests the fee-income per head across the design industry is less than it was in 2005, as the research also shows that the number of designers in the UK has increased by a quarter over the past five years – from 185 500 to 232 000 (, 8 December 2009).

The research also shows that 78 per cent of consultancies have an annual feeincome of less than £500 000, while 85 per centhave an annual fee-income of less than £100 000.

The research, which is being released in full next week, suggests that designers are bullish about their prospects in the coming year – 58 per cent say they expect their fee-income or budget to increase from 2009 to 2010. This is an increase on 2005, when 54 per cent of designers said they expected their turnover to increase.

The effects of the recession are clear in the new figures, which show that 69 per cent of design businesses hadn’t recruited designers in the past year, while 7 per cent had made redundancies in the same period.

The new figures also show that the number of in-house design teams has increased by 10 per cent, and 8 per cent more designers are employed by them than in 2005. This is despite 34 per cent of in-house teams reporting an overall cut in their budgets since 2005.

Most design businesses work on a fixed-fee or day-rate basis, the research shows, while only 4 per cent work on a client-retained basis. The figures show that 66 per cent of designers do not take any action to protect their intellectual property rights. The research also shows that approximately 10 per cent of designers are members of regional design networks, while 14 per cent are members of the Federation of Small Businesses, and 12 per cent are members of British Chambers of Commerce.

Ruth Flood (pictured), head of knowledge and research at the Design Council, says, ’Overall, the findings paint a positive picture of how the industry has fared in the recession, which is great news.’ The research will be available in full in a supplement published with the next issue of Design Week (25 March).

Council debate

  • The Design Council is hosting a debate at the Royal Society of Arts on 26 March to discuss the research. There will also be a webcast at
  • Three motions will be debated: recessions are good news in disguise for designers; networks are fine but they won’t keep me in business; andtighter finances mean more on-the-job learning
  • Contributors will include Simon Waterfall, Mandy Merron and Mike Dempsey
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