New report calls on government to put design at heart of digital economy

A new independent report by the Design Commission, the research arm of the All-Party Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group, warns that the UK’s digital economy will not reach its full economic and social potential without the strategic application of design.

The report, entitled ‘Designing the Digital Economy: Embedding Growth through Design, Innovation and Technology’, argues that the application of key design techniques will be vital for future considerations of technology to become ‘inseparable from user experience’.

The report welcomes recent government figures showing growth in the UK creative industries, and highlights the extent to which this growth has come from the digital technology sector. However, it warns that the vast majority of this digital growth has occurred within London and urges government to do more to spark similar digital sector expansion outside the capital.

It suggests that the ‘power of design’ remains under-exploited in the creation of digital services and products. It calls on government and the design and technology sectors to do more to ensure user-centred design is a primary focus in digital service delivery across the private and public sectors. 

The report is the result of an eight-month inquiry by the Design Commission, a body of cross-party parliamentarians and leading representatives from business, industry and the public sector. The inquiry was chaired by Lord Inglewood of Hutton in the Forest and co-chaired by Gillian Youngs, Professor of Digital Economy at Brighton University, was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Sir Terence Conran.

The report makes seventeen recommendations to spark policy and culture change across government and the design and technology sectors. The recommendations centre on 4 key themes:

  1. Growing the digital technology sector outside London
  2. Embedding design capabilities in all government digital activities
  3. Promoting and supporting digital design education through primary, secondary and further education
  4. Increasing the ability of Research Councils to undertake research and development into new frontiers of design-led, cross-disciplinary applications of digital technology.

The report will be launched formally in Parliament on Wednesday 14th May. Speaking ahead of the launch, inquiry co-chair Gillian Youngs said:

“The growth of the digital economy opens up new possibilities for design to play as yet unimagined roles in helping us to understand and navigate a newly connected world. Design can help us shift the balance further towards making people central to the digital revolution, rather than just the technologies used to achieve it”. 

The report is the third report by the Design Commission, and follows 2011’s Restarting Britain 1: Design Education & Growth and 2013’s Restarting Britain 2: Design & Public Services.

Related reading