Over a year after the Bean review (Sir Charles Bean: Independent review of UK economic statistics: final report), where design is classed as ‘intangible capital’ and it is recognised that economic statistics aren’t necessarily measuring the output of design and the associated productivity correctly, we still seem to struggle to understand the contribution it makes to the UK economy, visibly or invisibly. ‘Innovation’ has become a buzzword and is seen as the source of economic advancement with ‘Design’ being the poor relation but both complement and depend on each other.
It is often difficult to describe the value of design – not only with a focus on the economic advantages but also with regard to the increase of health and well-being for the whole community through well designed places, homes and workplaces. The Design Council’s research shows that for every £1 invested in design, businesses can expect over £4 in net operating profit which means that design could be a game changer in re balancing the economy and creating significant opportunities for the South West.
The exponential growth of design roles and economic impact means that we will need to nurture design talent for our fast growing industries so companies can find the ‘home-grown’ and local skills they need. Future research has now been commissioned by the Design Council on how design skills measurably contribute to productivity and innovation. In the case of building and urban design this will lead to better living, sustainable communities and increased happiness.
It is therefore essential to provide attractive learning spaces and sufficient student places at all levels of Further and Higher Education to support the design economy in the South West. One of the inspiring colleges of the future is the refurbished 6,000 sqm School of Art and Design for Somerset College, designed by Stride Treglown.
The College had secured the appropriate funding which shows that there is a growing importance of the region as a provider of high quality Further Education and a pipeline of design talent.