Design adds value to the UK, but does the UK value design?

New figures show the value of design to the UK economy.

This week started off with the fantastic news that design's contribution to the UK economy was up 25% on last year, rising to a whopping £3.1bn in 2014. In fact design (classified as product, graphic and fashion design) is growing at more than double the rate of the creative sector as a whole, which is up by nearly 10 per cent from last year’s total of £71.4 billion.

The Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, stated that the creative industries are “one of our most powerful tools in driving growth, outperforming all other sectors of industry, and their contribution to the UK economy is evident to all.”

This is fantastic news for design, the businesses that have chosen to invest in it and ultimately the UK economy. Why? Because even as far back as 2007, the Design Council's report on the value of design noted that:

  • Rapidly growing businesses are nearly six times as likely as static ones to see design as integral.
  • Shares in design-led businesses have outperformed the FTSE 100 by more than 200% over the past decade.
  • For every £100 a design alert business spends on design, turnover increases by £225.
  • Businesses that add value through design see a greater impact on business performance than the rest. 

We've purposefully chosen antiquated statistics to show how long design's impact on business has been felt.

So why is it, as much as eight years later, that whenever a new 'logo' or 'brand' is unveiled for a business, the UK media's reaction is consistently less than favourable?

Guardian opinion article shows perceptions of design value need improvement.

This week, creative consultancy Aesop announced a new logo for tennis star Andy Murray. Our initial reaction was that the monogram was smart. When we read the story behind it, we thought it was even smarter. Besides a neat combination of his 'AM' initials, "The logo, designed by Dan Calderwood at branding agency Aesop, uses '77' as a reference to Murray's recent Wimbledon win on July 7, which made him the first British man in 77 years to top the tournament – it's also the name of his management agency" reported Creative Review.

Switch to an opinion in The Guardian and the commentary is far less favourable: "What a load of nonsense. It’s just three black lines on a page. Can you do better?" wrote its author, Paul Campbell. The publication then went on to open a gallery of suggestions for alternative logos.

So why does Murray even need a new logo? As Campbell suggests, "The idea that a tennis player requires his own “branding identity” is a peculiarly modern one". However, if the context of the design had been clarified, readers would have understood that the logo was due to launch at this year's Australian Open on Andy's training gear, before being applied to a range of clothing and merchandise.

So that marque will help to build a range of saleable merchandise that will then go on to boost the UK economy even further. Of course it's not purely down to the logo, but the Andy Murray brand needs a premium identity to signal its arrival in the sportswear market, and to challenge that of stars such as Roger Federer.

The article's author went on to Tweet: "Can you design a better logo for Andy Murray? Probably".

To The Guardian's credit, they did outline the context further in a separate news article (here) and later reported that the logo had received the "thumbs up from fans and marketing experts" (here), it's just a shame this balance wasn't addressed directly in the opinion piece.

The identity for Murray shows the thinking, storytelling and consideration that so often goes into logo and branding projects. We've got nothing against constructive criticism, we're simply saddened by the fact that when design's impact on society is so notably high, the wider commentary on the industry is often unjustifiably low.