Since the success of the 2015 Year of Irish Design, design has been high on a policy agenda in Ireland and we often looked at good practices in design policy, support and promotion from this Land of Saints and Scholars, as it is often nicknamed. The outcomes of the year were: 

  • 370 newly registered design companies
  • 476 designers supported to attend international design-based trade events
  • 50 companies supported to undertake design training
  • €24.1 million in design-based exports generated
  • 28.5 million people engaged with ID2015 through exhibitions and events
  • €20.1 million+ PR value generated
  • 3 design accelerators launched

The initiative was implemented as part of the Irish Government’s Action Plan for Jobs and gave impetus to the development of design in Ireland with publication of important studies [A Study of the Role and Importance of Design in Firms in Ireland in Non-Design-Intensive Sectors (2015); The Irish Design Footprint: Economic Value and Characteristics (2016)] that provided data and background evidence for creation of the Policy Framework for Design in Enterprise (2016) and A Consultation Paper Towards A National Design Strategy: Ireland – the Design Island (2017). 

Currently, a National Design Centre is being established. It will serve as an incubation, training and demonstration capacity in the regions to support market-led innovation in Irish based enterprises to grow international sales. At the beginning of this year, Enterprise Ireland launched a pilot support programme for SMEs Thinking Ahead Through Design, and most recently design has been employed to help the economy recover from the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 lockdown measures though The Made Local campaign. The initiative, launched by Tánaiste (the deputy head of the government of Ireland) Leo Varadkar and Actor and Writer Amy Huberman, aims to boost sales and drive revenue for both makers and retailers. 

In this concerted effort to progress design in Ireland, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs has provided vital evidence of the value of design in Ireland’s innovation ecosystem through the Winning by Design report (2017) which recognized design as an important driver of economic growth, integral to both industry and society, and showed how businesses can use design as a strategic means to encourage innovation.

Building on this foundation, the latest report - Together for Design (June 2020) looks into the future scenarios for demand for design skills. Creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and complex problem solving, collaboration and agility will all be crucial in the constantly evolving competitive digital economy.

The growth in demand for design jobs is already outperforming other professions. In Ireland between 2011 and 2016, employment in design grew by 43%. It is almost four times more than the total jobs growth (11%). The same trend is observed in the UK (see Design Council's Design Economy Report). To ensure supply of high quality design skills that is going to meet the growing demand, the Irish Expert Group recommends to:

  1. Strengthen a collective voice for leadership in design across enterprise, academia and the design community so that emerging and urgent issues can be anticipated and met;
  2. Implement policy interventions to address skills shortages in design (such as provision of flexible education provision methods, the delivery of Technology 2022 and the promotion of Springboard and Skillnet Ireland);
  3. Enhance collaboration between education and enterprise - it is crucial for design community to engage directly with educational institutions to facilitate developmental processes for educators and to support the emergence of new design disciplines and career options.
  4. Develop career pathways in design and make sure that funding pathways can deliver additional design skills. 
  5. Design in education - design should be better embedded in secondary school education and strategic design promoted in the post-secondary educational offerings.

The future economy needs design skills and who is going to invest in it will win!