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Mapping the design economy: regional data

Mapping the design economy: regional data

10 November 2015 Written by By Stephen Miller Research and Evaluation Manager 2015-18

Our latest research, The Design Economy reveals for the first time the major contribution design makes to the UK. In this post Stephen Miller uses an interactive map to examine the value of design to regions across the UK.

The Design Economy set out to provide an up-to-date, robust and holistic account of the current value of design in the UK. The research, conducted on behalf of Design Council by Trend Business Research, highlights design as a key part of the UK economy. It also shows that while some regions have a strong representation of design firms and designers (which make up their regional design economy), the benefits of design are not being fully realised across the whole of the UK. 

The interactive map below is shaded according to each region’s relative Gross Value Added (GVA), and clicking on a region reveals the absolute figures for other measures such as turnover, productivity and exports.  

Key findings

One of the  findings that immediately stands out from the map is the dominance of London and the South East in the following areas:  


London accounts for 35.3% of total turnover among design-intensive firms, while the south-east accounts for a further 23.6%. By comparison, the next most significant region in terms of total turnover is the south-west, which at £2.3bn, accounts for 6.9% of total turnover in the UK design economy.


Productivity among design workers is highest in London and the south-east (£56,200 and £52,600 per head, respectively). Design workers in the east of England (£48,500 per head) and South West (£48,200 per head) are the next most productive.


London and the south-east's contributions to design-influenced exports accounts for 23% and 17.4% of the total value of design-influenced exports respectively. The south-west and east of England are the next largest exporters, each accounting for just over 9.5% of total exports. Northern Ireland (1.4% of design-influenced exports), the north-east (2.3%) and Wales (2.8%) make the smallest contributions to design-influenced exports.

What does it mean?

Overall, London's GVA represents 23.4% (£16.8bn) of the total GVA created by the UK design economy. This is a positive revelation for its contribution to the overall design economy, however, the results from Northern Ireland, the North East and Wales mean that more could be done to develop the potential of design in other cities and regions across the UK. This in turn could contribute to the wider rebalancing of the economy, which is much needed.

Explore the data and let us know below what you think. What is driving the numbers for your region? What is driving the differences between regions? How we can all best support cities and regions to grow their design economies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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