The design economy generated £85.2bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK in 2016, according to a report by the Design Council.

'The Design Economy 2018' report estimates that this is equivalent to 7 per cent of UK GVA and equivalent to the size of the distribution, transport, accommodation and food sectors. This value has grown 10 per cent since the council's previous report, outstripping the UK growth rate during the same period (7 per cent between 2014 and 2016).

Over the longer term, between 2009 and 2016 the design economy grew by 52 per cent, spreading far beyond the creative industries and across the UK economy. Designers operating in non-design industries such as aerospace, automotive and banking created the majority of this value (68 per cent).

In 2016, there were 1.69 million people employed in design roles. This represents growth of 6% since the previous report, equivalent to 99,604 new jobs (compared to a UK average of 4 per cent since 2014). If the design economy were one sector, this would make it the ninth largest employment sector in the UK. This size renders it comparable to the hospitality sector (1.6 million employees) and the logistics sector (1.5 million). 

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A ‘long tail’ characterises designintensive sectors, with many small firms compared to a few larger firms. The growth in firm numbers is being driven by a large number of start-ups, the majority of which (60 per cent) survive for more than three years, which is higher than the average for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country (44 per cent).

The report also found thatdesigners were 29 per cent more productive than the average UK worker, each delivering £50,328 in output (GVA per worker, 2016), compared to £39,111 across the rest of the economy. This figure is higher than those working in ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ (£50,064) which incorporates accounting and auditing activities, and research and experimental development in the natural sciences, among others.

Find out more on the contribution of design via the Design Council website