Truman Brewery
17-20 September 2020

Design Council, The Design Economy 2018

The UK is responding to the fourth industrial revolution, whilst tackling stagnant productivity, unequal growth across its regions and automation’s increased impact on living conditions and job security. It must also establish a new vision for its place in the world – negotiating an exit from the European Union and developing new trading partnerships. 

Yet with these challenges come opportunities. Innovation and technological change – from 3D printing to artificial intelligence – offer hope for a brighter future. They bring the prospect of business growth and higher value jobs that can transform the economy across the UK. As advanced economies such as the UK adjust to technological and economic developments, commentators from Nesta¹ to the World Economic Forum² predict that demand will grow for skills which are difficult to automate. Our 2017 research found that designers have these attributes, typified by their emphasis on interpersonal skills such as operations analysis and social perceptiveness, and cognitive abilities such as visualisation and thinking creatively.³ 

Design and design skills are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. They give us the tools to respond to these unprecedented challenges, and instigate the growth, innovation and jobs that will drive the UK’s global future. 

Good design puts people first. It uses creativity to solve problems, challenge thinking and make lives better. Designers operate across the whole economy. They shape the built environment, the digital world and the products and services we use, creating better places, better products, better processes and better performance. 

We define this activity as ‘the design economy’ – the value created by those who use design in a wide variety of industries. This includes designers in design industries (eg, digital design or animation), other roles in design industries (such as administration, finance and distribution on the basis they are supporting the main design function), as well as designers in other sectors of the economy, such as in banks, consultancies, automotive or aerospace companies. 

The Design Economy 2018 builds on our 2015 research, a world first state-of-design report. It demonstrated how design drives growth and innovation to create significant value for the UK economy. Our 2018 report explores wider questions arising from our original research and connects to the emerging economic challenges facing the UK. It examines in greater depth the economic impact of design on regional and local economies and provides a deeper analysis of the types of businesses and people who are using, working with and benefiting from design. Our 2018 report shows that design is growing – both in value and demand. However, there is still room for improvement, with many businesses, areas of the country and people continuing to miss out on the benefits. 


Sarah Weir OBE 

CEO, Design Council


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