Creative Britain in Reverse?

Seymourpowell, in partnership with the Design & Technology Association and the James Dyson Foundation, created this film featuring contributions from leading figures from across business and industry. The film promotes the importance of Design and Technology (D&T) education in Britain’s schools and universities, its contribution to successful business, and its fundamental role in supporting the UK Economy.


The role of the UK’s design industry as a key engine in our creative industries

Shape and size of the UK design industry

  • Design is a diverse sector encompassing a wide range of professions and activities, including interaction design, system design, automotive design, sustainable design, retail design, product design, service design, graphic design as well as architecture and urban design disciplines.
  • Designers work independently in design agencies and consultancies which are typically small or micro businesses, as well as in-house in large firms.
  • The UK’s design industry is the largest in Europe and one of the strongest globally.
  • Most UK design consultancies sell services nationally but a high proportion of leading design firms export their services internationally. Some of the top industrial design and architecture practices report few or no UK clients.
  • Latest estimates of the value design brings to the economy stand at approximately 2.2 per cent of GDP or £33.5 billion spending annually, (Imperial College London 2011).
  • Our research also shows that design is a resilient sector: the industry grew 29 per cent during a period of recession (2005-2010).


  • The latest estimate of employment in the design industry is 350,000 (Imperial College London 2011).
  • Self-employment within the design sector is high; it is as much as 48 per cent for product, clothing and related designs.
  • Around four designers are employed outside the design sector for every one employee inside. Manufacturing, for example, employs around 120,000 design sector workers.

Impact of design on wider economy

  • Design professions are central to the strength of the UK’s creative and engineering industries. They also support innovation in many other sectors.
  • Beyond the creative industries in sectors such as manufacturing and science and technology, design approaches support new product and service development, open new markets, help to better understand users and investor needs and aid long-term planning.
  • New Government research on the design industry has found that design is highly export-facing. Around 35 per cent of UK exports come from industries that employ higher-than-average concentrations of designers, and the UK exports almost 50 per cent more design than it imports.
  • The UK’s leading engineering/manufacturing sectors of high-tech, aerospace, energy, automotive, chemical and food production rely on engineering design, design skills and other design disciplines to develop ideas pre-production and to successfully take products to market.
  • Particularly successful firms such as Jaguar Land Rover embed design throughout their product and service development, as well as marketing and selling strategies, and design thinking is integrated at the highest strategic level into boardrooms in some of the world’s most successful companies, as the well-cited example of Apple shows.