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UK design industry goes west

Date: 04/11/2016


The Bristol and Bath region has officially become the national ‘go to’ hub in the UK for designers from multiple disciplines, a new report reveals.

The Bristol and Bath by Design (BBxD) project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Design Council, was led by a research team at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) in collaboration with the University of Bristol and Bath Spa University.

BBxD have been working together over the last two years to collect data on design companies in the Bristol and Bath region to gain a better understanding of the economic and cultural value of the design-led sector. BBxD have found that 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 a means of communication, and in the value it adds to the experience of the consumer.

Carinna Parraman, Professor of Design and Innovation at the University of the West of England, said: “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.”

A new BBxD app has also been launched, which includes an essential design directory that has mapped over 3,300 companies in the region, spanning a range of design functions from engineering to graphic design.

Bristol games designers, Arcfire, have worked with BBxD to create the app to map and visualise the extent of design in the region. The app shows the location of freelancers and companies in all areas of design including engineers, film makers, graphic designers, architects, website developers, technology firms and more.

The report found that across all design 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.

Paula Rothwell, Head of Creative Arts and Digital Humanities, at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “The Bristol and Bath by Design project is one of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s largest current Design investments, in partnership with the Design Council. We’ve been excited to be able to support this important research work in helping to understand and promote the value and contribution of design to the UK’s creative sector and the Bristol and Bath economy.

"Using innovative research methods, this project has revealed the role and cultural and economic value of Design in the Bristol and Bath region and significantly, this transferable methodology has wider applicability across other regions to better reveal insights about the role and value of Design.”

For further press information please contact:

AHRC Communications team


The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. For more information visit: www.ahrc.ac.uk or follow @ahrcpress on twitter.

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