Design worth over $10b to the New Zealand economy


(left) Anna Brown, College of Creative Arts Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Claire Robinson, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise service manager Susie Marsden, and Dr Simon Mark at the launch of The Value of Design to New Zealand, the first study to measure the economic contribution of design to New Zealand [Photo:Mark Tantrum].


New research into the design industry’s contribution to the New Zealand economy has found it is worth more than $10 billion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.

If design were treated as an industry in its own right, it would be bigger than agriculture, and on a par with retail trade ($10.6 billion), food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing.

DesignCo, a consortium led by Massey University’s College of Creative Arts Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Claire Robinson, has succeeded in putting this value on New Zealand’s design industry for the very first time. 

The findings showed that a highly skilled, creative, knowledge intensive sector adds an estimated $10.1 billion to New Zealand’s GDP, equating to 4.2 per cent of the total, and created 4.4 per cent of New Zealand’s total employment.

Professor Robinson says, “there is a strong correlation between national prosperity, economic growth and a thriving design sector. International evidence confirms that design leads to more competitive firms making and selling higher value products and services.” 

The study indicates a broadening use of design as an effective processin; exporting firms, technology, health, conservation, the public sector and within cities. The manufacturing industry contributed the greatest amount to design-related economic activity in 2016 with $2.7 billion. Product design and interactive design disciplines are the two biggest individual contributors towards design’s GDP, with over $4.5 billion of economic activity coming from these two disciplines.

general manager of the Auckland Design Office and design champion for Auckland, Ludo Campbell-Reid said, “there is a global movement that is centred on cities that are transforming themselves through people centred urban design. Think Melbourne, Vancouver, London, Barcelona, Bilbao, Portland, Seattle, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Each of these cities has pursued a deliberate programme of economic revitalisation and urban renewal based around design led thinking. Great design is all about the value add: good for the environment, good for business, good for attracting talent and critical for social cohesiveness.

“Good design really matters. Well-designed schools discourage truancy, well designed hospitals help patients recover their spirits more quickly and well-designed cities are safer, more productive, more competitive and more sustainable. Without it quite the opposite occurs and we need to make sure that the public and key decision-makers are fully aware about the positive impact that design can have.”

DesignCo comprises, Massey University’s College of Creative Arts; the Designers Institute of New Zealand; Otago Polytechnic School of Design; NZTE (Better By Design programme); AUT School of Art and Design; the Auckland Co-design Lab; Callaghan Innovation, and Victoria’s University’s School of Design.

For the full report, click here.

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