Bristol and Bath are the go to cities for design

Issue date: 27 October 2016

Bristol and Bath by Design report launch

The Swan at Shakespeare's Globe London, 3 November 2016
12:30 – 13:15 followed by lunch

The unparalleled success of the design industry, from aerospace to illustration, in the Bristol and Bath region should be celebrated and acknowledged. The two cities also need designated funding to enable growth to support connectivity and networks between specialist businesses and to showcase the region as the UK leader in the design sector.

These are the recommendations called for in a report led by a research team at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) entitled 'Bristol and Bath by Design' (BBxD), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Design Council, that will be launched at the Globe Theatre, London on Thursday 3 November 2016.

The findings will be launched alongside the BBXD app that includes a unique design directory made to appeal to the creative sector to help nurture collaboration across the different design sectors from product design and film making to graphic design and digital innovation.

Professor Carinna Parraman from UWE Bristol, project lead, said, “We are launching our report in London to reach policy makers in the Design sector and to bid for government support to grow the region as the UK design hub in the light of our findings”.

Recently Matt Hancock MP emphasised the significance of the creative industries contribution to the British Economy in a rousing speech. He said, “The creative industries consistently outperform the rest of the economy.

“Post Brexit it is particularly clear that we need to emphasise the importance of the UK and its contribution to design led industries. Bristol and Bath were identified as Design hubs as far back as 2010 but our findings demonstrate that a great deal of design work in the region is under-appreciated, unacknowledged, or 'hidden'.

“Paradoxically growth for designers is not about turning SMEs into large companies. The report findings show that Design led companies prefer to remain small and agile but put a great emphasis on networking and collaborating particularly when different skill sets are needed to help make projects succeed. And it is this way of working that needs support together with affordable space and business support.

“The report calls for the establishment of an international Design Festival in Bristol or Bath and the introduction of a Design District supported by a number of Design hubs to help companies to network and collaborate.”

The report found that across all sectors, designers cited the regional network of flexible, highly-skilled companies and individuals that can be relied upon to deliver a project, as well as a strong community of people that are open to ideas and ventures, as key reasons for success and for remaining in the region.

Design-led companies in the region have increased levels of productivity. Design-led companies based in the Bristol and Bath region have 3-5% higher turnover than the average design companies elsewhere in England and Wales. Small design firms in the Bristol and Bath region are 14% more productive than the average small non-design company and 3% more productive than average small design-led companies across England and Wales.

Enterprise Images show that designers and design companies are creating goods and services in complex networks of relationships with regional and non-regional and international companies. The images showed a high density of design and design related firms were regionally located with geo-located individuals who co-create economic and cultural value.

The design ecosystem demonstrates that while private companies and freelancers are the primary part the ecosystem, other public bodies and organisations play a vital role in facilitating and supporting the design sector. These are: education, public sector, and not for profit; essential for providing space, sharing experiences and ideas, by connecting designers with collaborators and clients and as beacons to promote and attract designers to the region.

Design is integral to a diversity of commercial activity in the region in its role as a process for creativity, innovation and problem solving, as means of communication, and in the value it adds to the experience of the consumer.

The long history of design in the region shapes the character of present day design enterprise. From the woollen trade in the Middle Ages leading to pioneering experiments at the beginning of aviation, resulting in a regional specialism in aerospace and the high tech industries. Concurrent to these activities are the artisan and craft industries that have always been present throughout the centuries as demonstrated by the long histories of Bristol and Bath schools of art and design.

Good design changes societies' perceptions. Design makes an important contribution to lifestyle as demonstrated by positive regional exemplars (e.g. Cameron Balloons, Wallace and Gromit, Brunel's Clifton suspension bridge, and Bath's Georgian architecture).

The project team was led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Bath Spa University, and University of Bristol. The team also worked with key regional partners, the West of England Design Forum, Bristol Media, Creative Bath, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the REACT Hub.

The full report can be accessed here.

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