Design employment is still flourishing

Employment in the design sector is flourishing for the time being, despite falling general employment figures.

Figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics estimate that general employment was down by 0.2 per cent for the three months to July, compared with the previous quarter.

In stark contrast to the general employment picture, ONS reveals that the total number of working design professionals rose by 14 per cent to 165 000 during March to June 2008, compared with the same period last year.

The Government divides design into two occupational segments, graphic designers and product, fashion and ‘related designers’.

Its figures show that there were 11 per cent more graphic designers employed this summer than in March to June last year, reaching 104 000.

However, growth in graphic design is being far outstripped by product, fashion and other related designers, with numbers in full-time or freelance employment up by 20 per cent in 2008 to 61 000.

‘These significant increases are accounted for by new entrants to the industry, most of whom will be graduates,’ says Design Business Association chief executive Deborah Dawton. ‘The current economic crisis has not yet had an impact on the design business, which has had a very good year.

‘However, in three months’ time we are likely to find that the situation has changed and that design businesses will either be freezing their staffing levels or making redundancies.’

Dawton further warned that this could result in a dearth of designers with two to three years’ experience when the UK starts emerging from the downturn in about 2011, as some are predicting.

A DBA poll found that between May and now, the number of designers reporting strong business growth fell from 33 to 15 per cent.

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