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Pioneering research set to provide most comprehensive picture to date on state of design in UK

3d cityscape design with London landmarks and a central chequerboard design
3d cityscape design with London landmarks and a central chequerboard design
3D Render by Daniah Isa, Foundation Show Architecture, spatial and interior design Central Saint Martins UAL © Martin Slivka
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
02 March 2021

A project to develop new evaluation and research methods to capture the vast contribution design is making to the UK has been launched by Design Council. The research will be carried out by UAL Social Design Institute and BOP Consulting on behalf of the Design Council and, for the first time, it will explore the social and environmental value of design, as well as its economic impact.

These additional insights, which will be gathered over a 5 month period, will lead to the most comprehensive assessment to date of the state of design in the UK. The findings will inform the ‘Design Economy 2021’ report and platform; the latest in Design Council’s flagship ‘Design Economy’ series and part of their pioneering evidence-based research on the value of design.

Every day we see the difference that design makes – through addressing health inequalities, responding to the climate crisis, or boosting the economy. This research, with its novel methodologies for capturing new insight, will allow us to develop a much fuller picture of the value that design brings. We’re delighted to be working with brilliant people at the Social Design Institute and BOP Consulting and look forward to sharing their insights over the course of this year.

— Bernard Hay, Lead Design Programme Manager at Design Council
We are delighted to bring to this project our expertise in design research to produce a robust and valid methodology for the next version of the Design Economy. Designers use their skills to enable change. Working closely with the Design Council and BOP Consulting, our analysis will enable the production of better evidence about the outcomes from design for business, the public sector, the environment, and society as a whole.

— Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director of the Social Design Institute
We are delighted to be working with Design Council and UAL’s Social Design Institute on this high profile project. Having been involved in the previous two editions of the Design Economy report, we are thrilled to continue to work on its evolution to better account for our changing understanding of the value of design

— Callum Lee, Managing Director at BOP Consulting

The design economy

The design economy refers to value created by those employed in design roles in a wide variety of industries - from design intensive sectors such as web design or animation, to designers and design-engineers in automotive or aerospace companies. Exploring the economic contribution of design, Design Economy 2018 reported that design generated £85.2bn in GVA across all economic sectors in 2016: just 25% less than the entire insurance and financial services sectors.

This year, Design Council will present Design Economy 2021 through a new online platform – rather than as a single publication – giving people access to a host of events, thought leadership, case studies and key publications. These insights, stories and statistics will be invaluable to Design Council and those working across the entire design economy, as we consider how design can best be used to ‘build back better’.

The Social Design Institute project team

Professor Lucy Kimbell is Director of the Social Design Institute, and Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at UAL. Her research looks at the emergence and development of ‘design thinking’ and the use of design expertise to address organisational, social and public policy issues.

Dr Patrycja Kaszynska is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute where she leads the team’s innovative work on value. Her interests are at the cross section of critical theory, pragmatic philosophy, cultural studies and design with the key focus on the theory of value and valuation studies.

Jocelyn Bailey is a Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute where she has been leading projects around childhood obesity, youth violence, and visualising systems/ policy. Her interests lie at the intersection of policy, governance and design practice.

Dr Christian Nold is a Research Fellow in the Social Design Institute. Both designer and academic researcher, Christian’s focus is on building participatory technologies for collective representation, creating numerous innovative large-scale public projects that have been staged with thousands of participants across sixteen countries.

Dr Francesco Mazzarella is a Research Fellow in Fashion and Design for Social Change at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion His research spans the fields of fashion activism, craftsmanship, social innovation, sustainability, and place-making.

Leading in social and sustainable design

Championing research and practice in social design and design for sustainability, UAL Social Design Institute develops and uses research insights to inform and change how designers and organisations design. Its mission is to make a positive social and environmental difference.

The Institute focus areas are: value and valuation through design, systems and design, and policy contexts and implications. It works closely with colleagues across UAL including the Centre for Circular DesignCentre for Sustainable Fashion and Design Against Crime Research Centre and recently launched its first short course, Introduction to Social Design.

  • For more information about this project, contact Lucy Kimbell