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Ground-breaking research into design’s economic contribution to New Zealand’s economy has shown that during the last year alone design contributed $10.1b to New Zealand’s GDP (approximately 4.2%). The research launched in late July 2017 by Hon. Steven Joyce Minister of Finance, was undertaken by PwC and commissioned by DesignCo. Professor Claire Robinson, convenor of DesignCo, said at the launch of the research “There is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector. International evidence confirms that design leads to more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services.


“The research reveals that if design were treated as an individual industry its contribution to the New Zealand economy would be larger than agriculture and on a par with retail trade ($10.6b), and food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing. The sector also provides approximately 94,200 FTE design positions in New Zealand, roughly 4.4% of employment,” Professor Robinson said.


For the purposes of the research the definition of design is broad in nature — it is a process or series of processes to create a proposition in any industry. Design is dynamic and can stretch across a number of applications, industries and occupations. It is because of this broad nature that the project group determined that the current classification system for industries and occupations in New Zealand did not adequately capture design in all its forms. As such, a project reference group developed a classification system for design. The classification has five levels, including the design disciplines of design education, graphic design, innovation / invention, interactive design, motion design, product design, service design, spatial design, and strategy.


The research shows that the manufacturing industry contributed the greatest amount to design-related economic activity in 2016 with $2.7b. Product design and interactive design disciplines are the two biggest individual contributors towards design’s GDP, with over $4.5b of economic activity coming from these two disciplines (46% of the total).


The study indicates a broadening use of design as an effective process; in exporting firms, technology, health, conservation, the public sector and within cities. Ludo Campbell-Reid, head of the Auckland Design Office and Auckland’s design champion said: “There is an international movement that is centred on cities that are transforming themselves through great urban design. We need to make sure that people understand the impact that design can have. Great design is good for the environment, good for business and good for social cohesiveness. Well-designed schools reduce truancy, well designed hospitals are better for your health, and well-designed cities are better for health and happiness. Design in the 21st century, with the rise and rise of technology and interactive and open-source consumer platforms, is being harnessed more frequently, for a wider set of purposes and with increasing impact,” Ludo Campbell-Reid said.


Professor Robinson said: “DesignCo partners will continue to connect with the constituent parts of the New Zealand design eco-system in a systematic and regular manner, telling the story of New Zealand’s design excellence, rectifying the paucity of information about the design sector and gathering statistical data on the value and impact of design in New Zealand.  


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