Support for the creative economy

Supplementary written evidence submitted by the Design Council [SCE 070a]

About this paper

The Design Council provided written and oral evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry on Support for the Creative Industries in November 2012.

This paper sets out further recommendations to the Committee and provides a selection of Design Council case studies for the written report.

About the Design Council

The Design Council is an enterprising charity that enables people to use design to stimulate innovation in business, tackle complex social issues, drive public service efficiency and improve the built environment. The Design Council has extensive experience of working in partnership with central and local government and running open innovation challenges and mentoring programmes for business, universities and service providers and offering design support for developers and infrastructure providers. These activities are market making for the design sector, creating opportunities where there are significant barriers to entry.

The Design Council is supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government and generates income through programmes, services and private funding partnerships.

Overview of Design Council evidence

In previous oral and written submissions to the Committee, the Design Council provided evidence on the economic impact of the UK’s world-leading design sector, which also provides the skills set underpinning all other UK creative industry sub-sectors. Our evidence also highlighted the significant, although largely untapped, potential for design to drive innovation and growth in the wider economy, in sectors including manufacturing, healthcare and the commercialisation of science and technology research. We also emphasised the potential of design for government, where it can help to deliver user-centred policy and services which add value and reduce cost.

The Design Council works closely with the UK design sector; specifically by building the market for design services and showcasing UK design skills through activities such as the design of the Olympic Torch by BarberOsgerby, which was commissioned through a competitive tender run by the Design Council and LOCOG. The main thrust of our work is bringing design to areas where it can have real social and economic impact, including front-line public services, healthcare and planning as well as product development and investor and client relations for small businesses and university spin-outs.

To support the UK design sector, government must understand, enable and deploy design in its widest applications, through support for businesses to access design services and by drawing on design in public policy and service development.

Below, we set out specific recommendations on design for the Committee. We also present a selection of Design Council case studies which demonstrate the social and economic potential of design skills and techniques. Further evidence on the case studies can be provided to the Committee should they be included in the final report.


1) The government should showcase the designers and design agencies involved in the success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Design and other creative industries made a vital contribution to the UK’s Olympic success, and the event provided excellent international showcasing of UK creative industry strength, with export potential for future large-scale international events. However, the marketing ban around the Olympics means that much of this contribution is yet to be publicised. The Design Council is in discussion with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about a ceremony to profile the contribution of design to the games, and the department and LOCOG have an important role in identifying supplier information.

2) Findings of the Creative Industries Council should be taken on board by government and there should be wider representation of government departments on the Council – notably Treasury representation in recognition of the significant economic contribution of the creative industries.

3) The government should draw upon design support, through intermediary bodies such as the Design Council, in the delivery of large-scale planning and infrastructure projects. Independent design support can enhance the credibility and quality of large-scale projects by providing impartial guidance and helping to secure fresh insights which maximise the benefits of an integrated design approach for all stakeholders. This is vital to ensure major programmes respond to local community needs, address sustainability issues and create business opportunities.

4) Design capabilities should be a normal part of civil service training across the board. Design thinking and methods have much to offer the civil service, including the development of alternative solutions to policy challenges, more efficient user-centred policies and services and more effective procurement, including the commissioning of design services. This is increasingly recognised in the private sector, where some of the world’s leading companies deploy designing thinking in both product development and management systems and human capital. The Design Council delivers development workshops for central government departments and senior civil servants, for example as part of the Civil Service Learning programme in February 2013.

5) More use should be made of open innovation Design Challenges and design coaching programmes in addressing ‘knotty’ policy issues. The Design Council has delivered ten open innovation Challenges with government departments and private companies, developing products and services to tackle complex social problems in areas of youth employment, health, dementia and crime. To date, more than 30 innovative products and services have been brought to market. In addition, through the Design Leadership programme for the public sector which is supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Design Council has also provided coaching to over 30 public sector bodies on service delivery in the areas of homelessness, health and well-being and business services.

6) Government should strengthen support for targeted design coaching programmes which drive business growth and strategic planning using design, particularly for SMEs. These include the Design Council’s Design Leadership programme for business, which is supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and has provided mentoring to over 650 businesses over the last five years. An independent evaluation of the programme in 2012 showed that for every £1 businesses invest in design, businesses can expect over £20 in increased revenues, over £4 increase in net operating profit and over £5 in increased exports [1] .

7) The design skills base should be supported through the inclusion of design as a Foundation Subject in the National Curriculum to Key Stage 3. A ‘sixth pillar’ should be added to the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) to include creative and cultural subjects, such as design and technology and art and design. Subjects which are perceived to be purely academic are also separated from those which are perceived to be practical in University Technical Colleges (UTC) – design as a discipline deploys both technical and academic skills. For UTCs to be strengthened there is also a need for more effective industry and university engagement.

8) The government should continue to support initiatives such as the National Skills Academy for Design. The Design Council is involved in the delivery of the Academy with Creative & Cultural Skills and it will galvanize the effective delivery of skills support for the design sector by strengthening links between the design industry and education training providers.

Case Studies

Small and medium sized enterprises 

- Naylor Industries, Yorkshire: The Design Council Design Leadership programme for business helped this manufacturing SME to diversify clay production from pipes to flowerpots. Sales of the flowerpot product line grew from £500,000 to £5m in three years representing 15- 20% of the UK terracotta pots market. Naylor turned over £36m in 2011/12.

Health and social Care

- Living Well With Dementia: The Design Council ran an ‘open innovation challenge’ with the Department of Health which resulted in five new initiatives for dementia patients. Ode, for example, is a fragrance-release system designed to stimulate appetite among dementia patients and is on trial in 50 Care Homes around the country.

Local authorities

- London Borough of Lewisham: The Design Council Design Leadership programme for the public sector helped the Council to redesign its emergency housing services in the face of increased demand, reducing budgets and a need for greater personalisation of services. The intervention resulted in savings for the council of £368,000, from an investment in design of £7,000. Staff morale and absentee rates also improved.

Science and technology research

- University of Nottingham: The Technology Transfer Office underwent the Design Council Leadership programme for science. They needed to find new applications for a product that measures heart rate and communicate this better to investors. This has generated up to £50,000 of additional investment secured by better demonstrating different product applications for new platform technology. More about the programme is available here. [2]


Planning and infrastructure:

- Olympic Park: The Design Council Cabe team advised on the planning and development for this major infrastructure and planning programme. This has ensured the delivery of quality through the proposed buildings, use of materials, clarity of access, inclusiveness and accessibility.

[1] Designing Demand National evaluation 2007-2012, Eden Partners (2012)

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Prepared 28th January 2013