The Design Council have just released their 2018 Report on the Design Economy. As ever, there are some highs and some lows. Our view is that – without significant effort to weather the uncertainties of Brexit, and to ensure that design strategy is well understood in the 60 or so percent of businesses that rely on it – there is a real risk that the industry will recede.
Overall the design economy has grown 10% since their 2015 report, to £85.2bn and 60% of all companies surveyed by the Council use design as a part of their business in some way. 40% of the surveyed companies felt that design contributed to an increase in sales turnover. This is excellent news, and the industry is adapting well to the shift towards a predominantly digital economy, with the number of digital design firms in the UK more than doubling since 2010.
Lows: uncertainty and retreat
Almost one in three design firms are based in London (up from one in four in the 2015 report), along with one in five workers.
There is work still to be done clearly on the diversity front and the use of design talent outside of London. The numbers point towards a brewing monoculture, which cannot be a good thing in a creative industry.
Worse still, UK design export growth is slowing, for the time being we rank sixth in the world for design goods exports. Our interest in protecting our designs internationally (a key indicator of value perception) has also dropped by 58% since the year 2000. We may see an upswing in numbers eventually as the UK has ratified the Hague Agreement for industrial designs this year, but equally the status of trade marks and registered designs in our largest trading partner, the EU, hang in the balance following our vote to Brexit.
Weathering the storm
The Design council have suggested that tax credits, a UK action plan, a more design savvy workforce, and IP agreements after Brexit will enable the UK to stay at the forefront of global design. These are long term strategies that GL supports, and will work with organisations such as CITMA to achieve.
In the short term, however, our suggestions for positive change at a company level are as follows:
- Design strategy: clients should not be afraid of being ambitious in protecting their design works or commissions. Early planning for the registration and monetisation of intellectual property creates a safer and more profitable environment for further investment into creative assets.
- Location: how necessary is it for your business to be based in London? Our head office is in Bristol, so clearly we are a little biased, but there are some world class agencies here in the South West. Rents are cheaper, housing is cheaper, and London meetings are only an hour and a bit away.
- New hires: it is trite to say that diversity is an essential component of any creative environment. Lead by example.
Talk to our IP & Media team for more advice on design strategy and what you need to be doing to achieve your goals.