Three-year research programme will examine the social, environmental and economic value of UK design.

A major research programme exploring the current and future social, environmental and economic impact of design in the UK is being launched today by Design Council.

Our most ambitious research programme yet, Design Economy 2021 aims to provide the most comprehensive assessment to date of the value of design. As well as exploring the wide-ranging value of design, this three-year project will also consider the role that design can play in building back better and creating a more just, healthy and regenerative world.

A three-year research programme, hosted on an interactive digital platform, Design Economy 2021 will be a growing resource for policy makers, business leaders, public sector professionals, architects and designers. It will explore a range of topics, including:

  • the social and environmental value of design
  • the economic value of design
  • business understanding and use of design
  • public sector understanding and use of design
  • public understanding of design
  • regional variations in the use of design
  • how the design economy might evolve and change over time.

Design Economy 2021 will have an ongoing focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, encouraging questions about how well design is responding to people’s different wants and needs, its vital role in levelling up the UK’s regional economies, and the changes needed to ensure that design works for everyone.

This research programme will be split into four phases.

Phase 1: Scoping (January to June 2021). Considering the key issues that Design Economy 2021 should explore, and outlining effective and inclusive research and evaluation methodology needed to capture the wide-ranging value of design. This phase was carried out on behalf of Design Council by BOP Consulting and University of the Arts London’s Social Design Institute between January and June 2021.

Phase 2: Building the evidence base (July 2021 – March 2022). Building a national quantitative picture of the value of design through national and regional economic analysis, and developing a new socio-environmental framework and insight through national surveys with business and the public sector.

Phase 3: A deep dive into design (April 2022 – March 2023). An in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis into the value of design across the UK. This will include a national survey of designers to understand the social and environmental impact of their work, along with case studies across business, public sector and local communities.

Phase 4: Re-imagining the design economy (April 2023 – March 2024). Continued annual surveys and focus groups to map trends across post-pandemic recovery and achieving net zero. We will analyse and consolidate the research into a series of reports and hold various events throughout the year.

Design Council will use the digital platform to curate new data, evidence, stories and toolkits to champion design and further its use as the research programme progresses. Its interactive format will enable Design Council to invite audiences to become co-researchers and collaborators in the research, rather than simply recipients of it.

Design Economy 2021 is being supported by a group of ambassadors: Leonie Bell, Director, V&A Dundee; Jane Davidson, Pro Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, University of Wales Trinity Saint David; Andrew G Haldane, Incoming CEO, the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), Lord Johnson, Chairman, Tes Global and Access Creative; Immy Kaur, Co-founder and Director, Civic Sqaure; Lord Kerslake, Chair, Peabody; Kamran Mallick, CEO, Disability Rights UK, Sadie Morgan, Founding Director, dRMM; Seth Scafe-Smith, Co-Founder and Director, RESOLVE; Elizabeth ‘Dori’ Tunstall, Dean of Design, OCAD University. As leading changemakers from a cross section of professions, they will help to drive innovative policy, contribute insights into our research and champion the value of design.

Minnie Moll, Chief Executive at Design Council, said: “At Design Council we know the positive impact that good design can bring – economically, socially and environmentally. As we build back better from covid-19 and face the biggest issue of our era with the climate crisis, we need to re-design nearly every aspect of how we live our lives. Design Economy 2021 aims to capture as much of design’s holistic value as possible, involving people across the entire design economy as we go.”

Professor Sadie Morgan OBE, Founding Director of dRMM Architects, said: “The power of design to improve lives should never be underestimated. Design Economy 2021 provides an opportunity to quantify and qualify its significant contribution. I’d urge anyone with an interest in design to get involved in the coming months as this ambitious and exciting programme progresses.”

Design Economy 2021 is available to view on desktops at the moment. Our mobile site will be available to view in the coming weeks. 

Access the Design Economy 2021 platform.

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