Dawton takes over from previous president Jan R Stavik, managing director of the Norwegian Design Council, and steps up from her former role as vice-president, to which she was elected in 2009.
Dawton was appointed as president at the Beda general assembly in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, on Sunday, which was attended by 41 members from 27 European countries.
Beda is a body that aims to communicate the value of design and innovation to the European economy. Made up of design bodies from across Europe, it lobbies European Union authorities.
Last year Beda was tasked by the European Commission with creating a series of proposals that could influence European design policy over coming years.