How is the design economy doing?

salonemilano, fondazione symbola

Infographic by Davide Mottes

Between data, insights, trends, new skills and professional fields, the 2024 report promoted by the Symbola Foundation, Deloitte Private, and ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) gives a detailed picture of a sector that continues to evolve 

Punctual as every year since 2017, the Design Economy Report describes in great detail the state of the art of the design-furniture sector in its ramifications, providing data and insights into new skills, trends, and emerging professional fields, so focusing on the new challenges to an industry undergoing continuous change. 

The report is promoted by the Symbola Foundation, Deloitte Private, and ADI (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale) in collaboration with Comieco, AlmaLaurea and CUID. This year it focuses on some key questions to project tomorrow’s future. How will we decarbonize homes, offices and public spaces, responsible for 45% of energy consumption and 18% of carbon dioxide emissions? How will we redesign health systems to support the 4.4 million dependent elderly people expected in just under six years, in 2030? How will we improve physical and digital connectivity and living standards in the urban, mountainous and rural areas of the country? What will we do to make artificial intelligence a tool that ensures the well-being of all and not just of the few?  

The numbers of design in Europe 

Within the European perimeter, design is an important factor in competitivity. Manufacturing industry boasts pre-eminence on a global scale. In fact, the sector has more than 270,000 thousand businesses employing some 330,000 employees. And according to the latest data for 2022 it generates no less than 28.6 billion euros in turnover, or 14.4% more than reported by Eurostat for the previous year. In this scenario, Italy occupies a leading position: 19.7% of employees and 22.3% of turnover. 

Identikit and numbers of design workers 

In terms of employees, Italy stands out positively (+8.6%), despite being behind the EU average (+9.6%). France leads the way, with Italy and Poland following. According to Eurostat data, in terms of companies, Italy ranks behind only France and the Netherlands, accounting for 16.3% the of European Union’s total. As for the number of companies, the report highlights that “the +6.0% recorded in Italy confirms that design is an area of interest for new entrepreneurship, albeit with a slower growth dynamic than that of the European Union as a whole (+10.4%), driven by the performance of France (+34.2%). This, however, appears to be largely a result of changes in the way companies are classified, especially those with a maximum of one employee and freelancers.” 

salonemilano, fondazione symbola

Infographic by Davide Mottes

What are the new design professions? 

The world of design is evolving continuously and rapidly. According to the study by and Symbola Foundation, there are 20 new professions characterized by an increasingly interdisciplinary and transversal identity. The result is a map articulated in three macro-areas superimposed on design, which intersect with innovation, organization and technologies. The report states: “The figures that emerged were also classified according to the degree of awareness, from the most widely recognized by insiders to the most prospective, after being examined by companies and designers to assess the level of awareness and identify those that will actually be ‘emerging’ in the next five years. This was done by administering a questionnaire to an international target of professionals and the creation of focus groups.” 

Design in the age of artificial intelligence 

The topic of AI has officially entered the center of the debate across all sectors. The objective: to optimize design, increase the potential of creatives, make processes more sustainable and improve the quality of work. The furniture-design segment is not exempt from this. Today it has to measure up to the challenges, opportunities and benefits that the use of generative artificial intelligence applied to design can bring. A snapshot provided by the report shows that generative AI is frequently used by 35.6% of operatives, while companies with more than 10 employees make greater use of it than the average (48.5%). With respect to competitive advantage, the report stressed virtual collaboration in large work teams (45.7%), such as the use of online platforms, machine translation, AI-assisted brainstorming. In second place, among the benefits, emerged the reduction in project development time (42%), with reference to generative design or rapid prototyping and testing. In third place, the personalization of products, services and experiences for the end users (37.7%), such as the automatic adaptation of content, images or the user interface based on their preferences, 3D modeling or customization.  
The area of design specialization that receives the greatest benefits of all from adopting AI solutions is Digital and Interaction Design (61.1%), which also relies on AI to optimize and personalize the user experience. In conclusion, 39.7% of respondents say that “AI can be a powerful ally of designers in project work, with a significant gap between companies (33.3%) and designers (58.4%)”. 

21 June 2024