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The UK Design Council: Putting a Value on Design





Ailbhe McNabola

Lead, Research and Evaluation, UK Design Council






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As the UK Design Council celebrates its seventieth anniversary in 2014, it has amassed a great deal of evidence pointing to a cost benefit in investing in design.


THE UK DESIGN COUNCIL has long championed great design. First established by Winston Churchill's government in 1944, it played a crucial role in helping the UK develop a peacetime economy by working with industry and championing great design to boost consumer spending.


Over time, the work we do on the value of design has changed to keep pace with how business and society use design. We have moved from encouraging business use of (and investment in) design—making the argument that design is a key business tool that delivers real value—to looking at the social and economic impact of design for the private and public sectors of our national economy, and the role of design in supporting innovation. Our focus on articulating the value of design—in particular, driving innovation through a stronger customer focus—has led to the recognition of design as an essential component of a national innovation ecosystem. Design has now achieved due recognition, having been written into the innovation and industrial policies of the UK and other countries.


Measuring the value of design to the business world has always been a pillar of our work, and we have over time studied how much business invests in design, running our regular "Design in Britain” survey that delivers important insights into actual business spend on design, as well as on business understanding of design. The Design Ladder, developed by the Danish Design Centre in 2003, has been an important framework for understanding how businesses use design, from a less sophisticated to a more strategic level—and research that has been done internationally using this framework has shown that businesses that use design more strategically get a better business return on that investment. This work helped to make the early arguments about the role of design in business, and to emphasize that it's not just if a business uses design, but how it uses design, that matters. Read more.




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