Mumbles and Musings

What Brexit Could Mean For The Design Industry

The United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that. You might have heard about it on the news, seen it all over your social media newsfeed, or perhaps you were one of the 30 million who turned out to vote. Although nothing has been set in stone just yet, it is almost certain that it will affect many of us, one way or another.

In early 2015, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) released economic estimates that the creative industries in the UK are outperforming the UK economy as a whole. It is evident that design plays a major role in this sector as its fastest-growing industry, and as pointed out by Design Council:

The new figures value the UK creative industries as a whole at £76.9 billion a year – contributing an incredible £8.8 million to the UK economy every hour. The creative sector as a whole is up nearly 10% from last year’s £71.4bn, growing at three times the rate of the wider UK economy – but design itself is growing at double that rate.

The UK now has the largest design industry in Europe, and is the second-largest in the world. Britain’s access to the European single market contributed to the continued growth and success of the design sector, recording higher growth than previous years.

However, Britain leaving the EU could restrict the UK’s access to the free market and be deprived of the opportunity of receiving exports and creative talent from European countries. As pointed out by Design Week, this move could damage the design industry’s reputation as ‘inclusive’. So often we have seen collaborations of designers from across the world, and it is common for design consultancies to have offices globally. The diversity and the blend of creative juices from designers who come from such different backgrounds have led to wonderful and unique creations.

“This could prove a huge issue for the continued growth and success of the design sector – particularly at a time when companies are struggling to fill skilled jobs from the domestic labour market and the Migration Advisory Committee has placed a number of design roles on the UK’s skills shortage list,” says John Kampfer, chief executive of Creative Industries Federation.


“The immense creative and cultural exchange that we currently get to experience will be restricted,” Philippe Malouin.

What do people of the creative industries have to say about Brexit?

A research done by the Creative Industries Federation showed that a resounding 96% were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. The survey was taken by people from creative industries which include design, architecture, craft, fashion, music, and those involved in creative education.

And according to a separate survey done by Design Week, 70% of its readers voted for Britain to remain in the EU.

Before the referendum, about 200 business leaders, including well-known design industry individuals such as interior designers Kelly Hoppen and Katharine Pooley, signed a letter to The Times warning that Britain leaving the EU would put the economy at risk.

Some quotes taken from all over the web:

“The immense creative and cultural exchange that we currently get to experience will be restricted. This exchange is at the very heart of the design world and enriched all of us. I believe that our industry and many others will suffer from this.” Philippe Malouin, designer and director of Post-Office.

“Clearly there is uncertainty about the timescales and impact on a range of issues important to our industry including free movement in the EU for architects as well as students, trading and material sourcing, inward investment relationships, EU procurement rules and the effect on the construction sector if restrictions are placed on EU migration.” Jane Duncan, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Cited from Dezeen.

“.. On average 20% of their income comes from overseas – with over half of this from European clients. The main concern for DBA members regarding the outcome of the referendum (cited by 90%) is their access to European markets and whether a Brexit will influence their ability to compete with consultancies from the rest of Europe.

The second issue (cited by 51%) revolves around access to talent, as many consultancies employ staff from the European Union to help service their European clients and provide different cultural perspectives within their studio.” Deborah Dawton, chief executive officer of Design Business Association.

“Sovereignty – is that a British car, designed in the Midlands, built in Poland, owned by a German company? Or a vacuum cleaner that is engineered in the UK, by Indians on international work VISAs, which is then built in Malaysia?

We would have little hope of continuing that pace outside Europe and the open borders that we enjoy. We could not do it with UK talent alone – we just don’t have the amount of people required. And if we shut our open borders to Europe, it won’t make it easier to recruit from Asia as some think. Those HR hurdles will still be in place, we just won’t be able to recruit from our closest neighbours. And not inviting your neighbours to the party never goes down well.” Joe Macleod, founder of Include Design.

However, Christine Losecaat, chief executive officer of Little Dipper, remains optimistic:

“The quick answer is no one really knows. Britain refused to join the Euro and most would agree that was the right call. Britain also opted out of the Schengen visa framework, and while you could argue it has restricted some international freedom of movement, it also means the UK has safer borders and there is no question that UK’s tourism and leisure industry is booming nonetheless, keeping many creatives across all disciplines in business.”

Cited from Design Week.

It is still early to see the short- and long-term effects that Brexit will have on the design industry but for now, let us enjoy the one good thing that came out of all this: Brexit memes.


Any thoughts on Brexit? Yes, we’ll make UK great again. No, we’ve made a terrible mistake. Square off in the comments below!

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