Recognising the true value of design

Nick Myall
Wednesday 06 Dec 2017

New research in the UK finds design skills are vital to productivity but businesses face a growing skills gap

Based in the UK, Design Council is a leading authority on the strategic use of design. It focuses on using design to tackle societal challenges, drive economic growth and improve the local built environment.

Design Council has now launched a comprehensive report ‘Designing a Future Economy: Developing design skills for productivity and innovation’. The research is the first-time design skills have been captured and measured against economic performance to understand their entire contribution to the UK economy. Many of the findings could easily be applied to the economies of other nations across the globe. 

Some of  the key findings are:

Design skills are used across the economy, not just in design firms. Ranging from technology to health, and including sectors such as banking and construction, design is at the core

Workers with design skills contribute £209bn to the UK economy (GVA)

Workers using design skills are 47% more productive than the average UK worker, delivering almost £10 extra per hour in GVA

Skills shortages and gaps amongst those already working in design-skilled occupations cost the UK economy £5.9bn per year

At least 2.5m people use design skills in their day to day work, which is the equivalent to 1 in 12 workers 

The study has brought to light the need for wider recognition and investment in design skills, particularly at a time when stagnant productivity continues to challenge UK economic growth.

Crucially Design Council identify that whilst design occupations such as architecture, software or product design are well understood the wider importance of design skills in a range of occupations are less recognised. These occupations, the report finds, are often higher value jobs at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution and the charity calls for urgent integration of design into key STEM (STEAMD) subjects and the reintroduction of Design and Technology to the GCSE curriculum.  

Commenting on the research Design Council Chief Executive Sarah Weir (OBE) said: “Design is all around us, it is in our homes, our offices, our travel networks, and even in our health and education systems. Yet it is precisely because design is at the centre of our lives and technological change that its value is often overlooked. Our research not only sought to change this but to truly understand the value of design to the UK economy.

“Even Design Council were surprised by the scale of the findings. We knew design skills had a wider impact on our economy but £209bn (47% higher productivity) is so significant it makes this research even more important, particularly when decisions on industrial strategy and skills investment are being taken – Design skills are not an enrichment they are a necessity for the UK, and it is time to act”.

“The growing design skills gap is deeply concerning.  We estimate that skills shortages and amongst those working in design-skilled occupations cost the UK economy £5.9bn per year. Alongside the dramatic drop in take-up of Design and Technology GCSE and lack of additional design training provided by firms we need urgent action from the government and industry, as design and technology change the way we work and live”. 

“We hope this research is a wake-up call for all of us. The opportunity for design skills to play a central role in our future economy is vast – now is the time to seize it and play a leading role on a global stage once more.” 


Design Council recommendations are:

Education providers and regulators embed design into the curriculum

Moving from STEM to STEAMD

Greater support and resource for lifelong learning


A full copy of the report, including the executive summary and frequently asked questions, can be downloaded here:

For further information on the research report, as well as any media related enquiries please contact:

Abid Gangat

Design Council – Media and Communications Manager


Ph: 07833 182 159

Key Facts

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