Design Scoreboard

Design is widely viewed as an important contributor to national competitiveness. It is generally believed that the UK retains a strong design base - but there is little hard evidence to show how we compare with other nations.


Existing measurement systems, such as the R&D Scoreboard and the Community Innovation Survey, provide data to enable the UK's capabilities in research and innovation to be compared with other nations. These scoreboards have enabled national and corporate targets to be established. The insights provided have made a substantial impact on business and on policy makers. However, these measurement systems fail to take into account the full contribution made by design. They often see design as a subset of new product development, ignoring its wider impact in industry, the public sector and in the overall economy.


This project seeks to develop a National Design Scoreboard to provide a picture of the UK’s capabilities in design in comparison with other nations.


Initial comparison of international design capabilities

This report presents findings from a study to develop an International Design Scoreboard. A framework for ranking nations has been created that considers design at a national level as a system comprising enabling conditions, inputs, outputs and outcomes. A series of indicators has been identified that collectively enable a picture of national design capability to be considered, in both absolute and relative terms. The ‘relative’ indicators (e.g. number of design graduates per million population) help to show the relative intensity of design capabilities within a nation. The ‘absolute’ indicators (e.g. total number of design graduates) show the overall scale of the design capability in each country.


This framework has been used to collate data on 12 countries. It is evident that Korea is emerging as a new design powerhouse, with other countries in East Asia displaying similar ambitions. The UK retains leading capabilities in design education, but the design services sector has reduced in size over the past ten years.


This report highlights the difficulties in providing a comprehensive international comparison, as reliable and comparable data is sparse. This lack of reliable, consistent and up-to-date data is problematic in creating an ongoing International Design Scoreboard. Thus, a set of clearly defined measures is proposed. A key objective of this report is to encourage discussion and agreement on using a consistent set of measures, to enable more effective measurement and comparison in the future.


Printed copies of the report are available for purchase (£25 + post and packaging from our Books and Reports page). Download a free PDF version here.


Company spending on design: exploratory survey of UK firms 2008

This report presents the results of an exploratory survey of company spending on design in the UK, based on 358 survey responses from companies across the economy collected in 2008. The total design spend for the companies surveyed was £92 million, representing 2.1% of turnover.


Few previous estimates of national private-sector design spending exist due to the difficulties in collecting such data. The estimate resulting from this work is similar in order of magnitude to previous work, but there are significant differences based on how design is defined and how the data was collected.


This report is seen as a proof of principle that reliable and comparable data on design spending can be collected across the economy. It is hoped that it will act as a catalyst to further work and the development of a standard for the reporting of design spending, akin to the standards for R&D spending.



The project has been managed by the University of Cambridge

  • University of Cambridge - Dr James Moultrie, Finbarr Livesey, Cecilia Malvido.

With project partners in the following Universities:

  • University of Nottingham - Johann Riedel, Ahmad Beltagui, Professor Kul Pawar
  • University of Strathclyde - Dr Jillian MacBryde,
  • Cranfield University - Professor Steve Evans, Dr Veronica Martinez
  • Loughborough University - Dr Peter Demian,
  • University of Dundee - Professor Bill Nixon,


The Design Scoreboard is a research project funded under the design for the 21st Century initiative by AHRC and EPSRC. It is also supported by the Design Council. 

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