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Nov 30. 2018

Next Practice In Design Action Plans - Part 1

In recent years, a growing number of European governments have adopted Design Policies, Design Strategies and Design Action Plans. According to BEDA’s recent EU Design Report 2.0 , between 2012 and mid-2018, design action plans have been adopted by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden as well as by the European Commission. Some of these policies, like Denmark's, are in their fourth cycle and some are at the beginning of the journey. However, in Europe we can be guilty of only looking over the fence at what our European neighbours are doing rather than beyond our borders and exploring good practices in design action plans around the world. As such, we have brought experts from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and New Zealand to share their experiences.

Design4Innovation, in collaboration with BEDA, hosted the 2018 Insight Forum on Next Practice in Design Action Plans. Here we presented some of the key lessons in developing, implementing and evaluating design policy as well as the presentations.

Overview of Design Action Plans in Europe

Anna Whicher presented an overview of the current state of design policy in Europe including the 11 European countries that have adopted design action plans this decade. Anna presented an in-depth analysis of seven design action plans identifying the main beneficiaries of the action plans and the key mechanisms of intervention.

Design Action Plans should ensure a balance between supply and demand across the Design Ecosystem.



On the Finnish design policy journey, Päivi Tahkokallio, BEDA President Elect and CEO of Ornamo, highlighted Design 2005!, Helsinki World Design Capital 2012 and the 2013 Design Strategy as key milestones. Paivi noted that the first design policy had a specific budget allocation and was therefore highly successful but most recent iteration of the design strategy did not allocate a specific budget. Other lessons included continuously mapping the Design Ecosystem, design within a wider research context and conducting an interim evaluation of the design strategy.


For Christina Melander, Programme Director at Danish Design Centre, the key to influencing design policy was data and evidence. Denmark’s first design policy was launched in 1997, followed by updates in 2003, 2007, and the 2013 Growth Plan for Creative Industries and Design. Crucially, data on companies' use of design provided an economic rationale for the policies. Furthermore, 450 companies receiving Design Icebreaker support meant case studies, data, and extensive promotion.

You cannot copy and paste design policies between countries. You need to understand capacity, build effective partnerships, harness the power of data and evidence and use a design process to develop design policy.



Singapore is in its third iteration of design policy (2004, 2009 and 2016). Agnes Kwek, possibly the world’s first Design Ambassador, also echoed the importance of data to inform policy development. DesignSingapore Council tracked the performance of 100 companies over two years on various indicators noting that:

Design spend as a % of revenue increased from 1.3% in 2014 to 1.7% in 2016.

Companies which invest more in design showed an average increase of 4.8% in profit margins.

There are 58,000 designers employed in the Singaporean workforce, about 40% are in non-design companies.

My three key lessons are: 1) Make it authentic. 2) Connect the players in the ecosystem. 3) Policy is implementation.



David Sung, CEO of Taiwan Design Center, was delighted to announce that this year, for the first time the government has given its support for design. The Ministries of Economy and Education are collaborating to create the Masterplan for Design. The Masterplan focuses on design for enterprise, the public, society and diplomacy. David advocated establishing a strategy committee supported by design research to formulate the national design policy.

New ZealandNZ has an intrinsic but not explicit design policy based on over 15 years of the By Design programme delivered by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. The programme has evolved in response to the market. It is a 12-week programme with third party interventions to enhance exports on a sectoral basis. It involves immersive training as well as an international study visit. Again, for Alicia Grimes, Design Services Manager at Better by Design, data and impact is crucial for creating a robust case for continuous government support.