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Nordic design for a global market

  • Published 01/03/2006
  • Last updated 08/06/2011

Frontpage report

This report provides policy suggestions for how the design industry in the Nordic countries can be helped and supported. 
While the design industry is a cultural industry with many societal benefits beyond the purely economic, the report takes an economic standpoint. The measures it suggests are about how increased Nordic coordination of policies, and ultimately of the design industry itself, may enhance the economic effects of the industry.


Design as an industry 
Above all the report is very narrowly focused on analysing design as an industry. While the process of designing is carried out by highly skilled people, often with artistic ambitions, these people are also employed in commercial firms, and the organization of these firms and their economic condition have profound effects on the quality and impact of design activities. Hence, the report uses analytical frameworks from business economics, institutional economics and economic geography to analyse and provide policy suggestions for the design industry. We make no attempt to analyse the trends and developments (of techniques, styles, and so on) within the design product.

Global perspective
The report also takes the view that the Nordic design industry needs to aim to be globally competitive. Design is, as mentioned, a creative industry, but it is also a service industry, supplying other industries. Traditionally, the markets for such service industries consisted of local (i.e. national) clients, but this pattern is changing, with more and more firms in service industries (such as advertising, consultancy, and design) aiming to supply global markets and enter new markets. The report works from the assumption that due to the growing global service economy and increasing competition from abroad Nordic design firms must aim to operate not just in the Nordic markets but also in the EU or even beyond. 

Nordic policies
The policies suggested are explicitly Nordic in character and scope. While there are many measures that can be — and are — taken at national levels to enhance the economic effects of the design industries in the Nordic countries, we argue that there are significant synergies to be gained from coordinating policies across borders, and that the Nordic arena is a natural candidate for such coordination and cooperation. 

Selective suggestions
Finally, as the report is founded in a scientific logic and in earlier research into the Nordic design industries, it is selective in its suggestions. Simply speaking there is a range of policies that the report deliberately does not include. First, the report aims to suggest policies that supplement rather than replace existing policies: We do not wish to down play existing beneficial framework conditions on the demand or supply side, such as targeted public purchases and entrepreneurial schemes. Second, the economic approach to the design industry means that we focus on policies that aim to facilitate industries actors’ own attempts to become more effective and competitive: on helping them to help themselves rather on top-down policy approaches. The result is that rather than a comprehensive catalogue of possible policies, the report suggests a careful selection of policies that stand a good chance of working together successfully.