BDI to report cross-industry fees down

The results of British Design Innovation’s annual valuation survey, due to be published on 30 November, will report an 8 per cent reduction in both total fees and turnover earned across all design disciplines in the UK.

One of the broadest surveys of design activity, the data is drawn from a cross section of 4500 commercial design consultancies, furniture designers, designer-makers, architects and fashion designers. It examines estimated, unaudited figures from the period 1 July 2006 to 31 June 2007.

An overall picture of those surveyed shows a 10 per cent decrease in export income and a 5 per cent drop in employee numbers.

The decline in fee-income and turnover for the second year running is a source of ‘deep concern’, says BDI chief executive Maxine Horn.

Despite this, companies with a turnover between £100 000 and £250 000 experienced growth of 28 per cent, by contrast with groups with a turnover of more than £1m, which dropped by 10 per cent.

Most notably, the number of groups employing five or fewer staff rose from 51 per cent to 57 per cent, accounting for more than half of the sample.

‘With a figure of 57 per cent employing fewer than five people, it highlights very nicely how fragmented the design industry is,’ says marketing services accountant Willott Kingston Smith partner Esther Carder.

The total fee-income of those surveyed declined between 2005 and 2007, but groups within the £50 000-£100 000 bracket experienced a 21 per cent rise in their fee-income. Fee-income among groups in the £250 000-£500 000 turnover bracket fell by 20 per cent.

‘What this sample shows is that you’ve got so many oneman bands low-balling. Smaller groups just aren’t robust enough to charge higher fees. The fact that the industry is so competitive and projectoriented doesn’t help margins,’ says Carder.

WKS’s financial performance review, by contrast, looks at the top 30 branding and design groups in the UK, with the lowest group recording a gross income of about £3m. Its report reveals a much more optimistic outlook for gross income among branding and design consultan – cies.

Although national and Govern – ment initiatives such as the Creative Economy Programme and the Design Council’s Designing Demand scheme are raising the profile of design in industry, designers are not sharing in the profits their work helps to generate, says Horn.

Horn has invited the Design Business Association and the Chartered Society of Designers to discuss how best to deal with industry fragmentation and how fee-income models could be bolstered by exploiting intellectual property to include licensing, fees and royalties.


  • Total turnover fell from £4.3bn in 2005/06 to £4bn in 2006/07
  • The total number of employees working full-time within design consultancies dropped from 64 847 in 2005/06 to 61 680 in 2006/07
  • The decline in employee numbers could be attributed to more designers going freelance, says BDI chief executive Maxine Horn
  • Total fee-income fell from £3.34bn in 2005/06 to £3.08bn in 2006/07
  • For further details, visit

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