With election day upon us, we look ahead to how design can help the British economy grow and what the next government can do to see us through a period of uncertainty. 

On Monday morning, the in-tray for a returning or incoming government will be full. Brexit, security, health, social care, education, housing, economic growth and living standards – difficult and complex problems that require often immediate responses. 

Big questions remain. What is the plan to raise living standards, to pay for our social care; how will we work past 65; what does our health service look like in five, ten or twenty years and how are we going to build homes that will enable all of us to prosper and live healthier and fulfilled lives? 

Perhaps one of the biggest unanswered questions in the manifestos is how we are going to build an economy that not only maintains pace with the changing world, but stays ahead of the game?

All the leading parties have announced industrial policies with some welcome announcements. But do these really feel like game changing policies, or more of the same? Our current and future economy, more than ever, depends on creative thinking, innovation and knowledge. This doesn’t quite fit with industrial strategies of old.

Design is at the heart of the solution. And the more we debate the industry, jobs and skills of the future, the more design leaps out. Yet the game-changing opportunity of design is not recognised in the manifestos. 

Good design puts people first. It uses creativity to solve problems, challenge current thinking and change lives – and it’s already being used to drive economic growth and social change across the world.

Crucially, when normality resumes, we will be pressing for an education system that not only puts design back into the national curriculum, but inserts design skills into core subjects. This helps the scientists, lawyers and civic leaders of tomorrow to have the agile, creative and emotional intelligence to build the innovations, products, services and societies of tomorrow.

We will also press for a clear plan for life-long work, retraining and redesigned workplaces of tomorrow. It is no longer acceptable to think about adult skills in one bullet of a manifesto, for any party. We need more than that. We need vision, collaboration with business and a radical rethink on how we consider working environments and ageing in the UK.

First and foremost, we need to keep talent in the country. The next generation of designers working across the economy must be encouraged to not just receive world-class training in Britain, but to remain and practice their craft here. Britain already has some of the best designers in the world, it is vital that it remains the best place in the world for them to be.

The government’s core focus must remain on designing a better Britain that works for everyone. At a time when much of British life can seem clouded by uncertainty, good design can drive economic growth, improve our shared built environments and tackle social challenges. We call on the new government to position design at the centre of its plans for a healthier, more prosperous, better Britain for everyone.

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