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U.K. Design Industry Voices Sounded Less Satisfied in 2012, the Namesake Report Unveils

More than a half (59% —against 58.3% in 2011) of the UK design and digital agency staff intend to change their job in 2013, and overall, feel less confident and more disappointed. Continuing the trend of the previous year’s gloomy findings, the annual report by Fairley & Associates, Gabriele Skelton and On Pointe Marketing again proves that the future of small firms in the UK, and the design industry on the whole, looks dim. 

Continuous economic recession still influences the way agencies treat their staff and do business for clients. About 500 agency staff took part in a survey that revealed quite disappointing facts: clients cut budgets (80% proved agreed) and expect more work for less money (87%) or even free work in pitches (70%). As in the previous year, agencies still prefer to employ fewer permanent staff (61%), using more freelancers (66%) and unpaid interns (41%). Given a fact that about 34% of the respondents have been with their agency less than a year and 87% want to quit and look for another job, the industry may experience the highest level of staff turnover over the last 5 years since the recession hit in 2008.

While the level of instability in agencies increases, there is also a so-called crisis of leadership, as 53.1% of the respondents don’t perceive their management as the one that “demonstrates strong leadership skills”. To express their complaints 34.6% of staff use social media.

Although, not all conclusions are bad. “This recession is sorting the wheat from the chaff. Which is a good thing. We’re still suffering the client backlash from over-selling to them pre-recession”, noted an account manager, a participant of the Design Industry Voices Survey 2012.

The second huge problem of the British design industry, which often has been slurred over, however, now revealed in this survey, —is failing to address the needs of disabled people in the country. As survey conducted by Business Disability Forum and Disability Rights UK people finds, 83% “walk” away from making purchase, when realise that they are unable to do so. Among the reasons why disabled people change their mind and decide not to make purchases are, as follows: poorly designed products, inaccessible premises, and poor or inappropriate communications including inaccessible websites and printed information.

To attract public attention to this problem, Design Industry Voices organizers asked design agency staff three simple questions the revealed the following:

  • Just 9% say that clients ask for all designs to be accessible to people with disabilities;
  • 21.9% agree that clients ask for website designs to be accessible to people with disabilities;
  • 45.7% agree that they understand how to design in a way that improves accessibility for people with disabilities

If addressing the problem is a first step to tackle it, co-authors of the survey did a great job. Yet, they seem to show some optimism about the future of the industry. Karina Beasley, co-author and MD of Gabriele Skelton, commented: “We hope 2013 will be better as agencies adjust to working with smaller budgets and more smartly. But it’s vital that their business strategy is better communicated so that staff know what to expect”.