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Could design be the key to the productivity puzzle?

The UK Design Council believes that design is a vital and neglected part of the solution to low levels of productivity in manufacturing.

In its Design Economy 2018 report, which explores the state of design in the UK and its value to the economy, the Council argues that engagement with design increases the probability that firms will undertake process innovations.

As process innovation is positively related to productivity, the effect of using design to shape processes also leads to productivity increases. This effect is largest among manufacturing firms, the report states.

According to a survey of 1,000 UK companies commissioned by the Design Council, around 40 per cent perceive themselves to be on the bottom step of the ‘Design Ladder’ - where design only plays a small or very peripheral part in the operations of the business. Most of this 40 per cent tended to be smaller-sized firms.

The report also shows that designers were 29 per cent more productive than the average UK worker in 2016, with designers working outside the traditional design sector generating around £55,000 GVA per head on average.

Guy Bilgorri, Senior Policy Advisor at the UK Design Council, said:

“Since the financial crisis of 2007/08, productivity growth has been lower than expected in the UK. This ‘productivity puzzle’ has been a long-term issue for the UK economy.

“Design and design skills are key in making the UK more productive. Our evidence, from the Design Economy 2018, shows that when firms invest significantly in design they are more likely to invest in R&D and combine these activities to drive innovation. This innovation, particularly in process and performance, drives improvement in productivity.

“Too few places, people and businesses benefit from the full potential of design. If we are to solve the ‘productivity puzzle’ and respond to the fourth industrial revolution we have to place design at the centre of our future economy.”

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