Previous data on the design professionals – the design resource – in the Nordic countries (or anywhere else, for that matter) have primarily been sourced from national registers which only include more traditional occupations, such as product and garment designers and graphic and multimedia designers.
This new comprehensive study of the Nordic design resource is based on an innovative methodological approach with new and thorough definitions of design and the design resource using both existing and new data sources. The study is co-funded by Nordic Innovation.
Initially, the Nordic design centres – Danish Design Centre, DOGA in Norway, Iceland Design Centre, Design Forum Finland and SVID in Sweden – have engaged with more than 40 key stakeholders from the design ecosystem in all the Nordic countries. The stakeholders include top management in design associations, design organisations, design schools, universities, design managers etc.). Through either in-depth interviews or small workshops using hypotheses and personas, a new definition on the design resource has been developed.
The professionals comprising the design resource are characterised by their design-driven approach and methods. Some of these professionals have acquired their skills through formal training within the design domain, while others have acquired them through experience and perhaps continuous training in the field.
This definition unfolds the wide range of design professionals that integrate horizontally across sectors and industries. Design professionals are defined by a skill set – a way of thinking and doing – that goes far beyond the design industry itself.
New methodology for data collection
The research for the study has been sourced from four main data sources, both existing and new. Existing data sources include national registers and surveys, and new data sources include LinkedIn and the open web. Based on the definition of the design resource, the researchers listed a number of questions, such as how many design professionals the Nordic countries have, what design disciplines they work within, and how they create value. The majority of these questions cannot be answered only by looking into national registers. The ambition was to explore new data sources in order to get new answers, but also to uncover entirely new insights.
It is the first time that data on the design resource across the Nordic countries have been collected based on a common definition. This enables us to both look at the Nordic region as one large design ecosystem and to make valid benchmarking between the Nordic countries.
Whenever new numbers are published, especially numbers that are either much higher or smaller or just different from pervious findings, it is fair to raise about methodology and validity.
This study, the Nordic Design Resource, is the result of stakeholder engagement and an explorative, experimental, and curious approach to data, and especially new data sources. Thus, the study provides totally new perspectives on how many design professionals there are, how they are trained, what disciplines they represent, where they work, who they work with, etc.
The number of design professionals in this study is much higher than in previous studies. This is due to the broader understanding of what a designer is. In this study, design professionals have been divided into 18 occupations, whereas existing studies apply a more traditional and narrow approach to the design industry that only includes 3-4 occupations. All occupations in the Nordic national statistics have been evaluated from an operationalisation of the definition; in this case whether the people in the different occupations work in regard to the following:
- A systematic and creating process leading to outcomes such as graphic or physical products, new services, systems or business models
- A process that is visual and experimental
- A process that is centered around people’s experiences and behavior
Additionally, a survey among design professionals have been conducted, primarily to enrich the quantitative data. The survey has reached respondents primarily via social media platforms and via sharing on the design organisations’ websites. This survey does not in itself constitute a fully representative section of the design resource in the Nordic countries, however, nearly 3,000 design professionals (people that arguably fit the definition) have responded to the survey, allowing us to draw some conclusions based on this data source. Especially in the cases where findings correspond to findings from LinkedIn.
Today, network platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn contain a lot of relevant and interesting insights and data on people, and in particular LinkedIn contains answers to a lot of the questions that was raised about the design resource. For example, LinkedIn carries a lot of information on the skills and tools of design professionals.
Finally, the open web has been included as a new data source. Websites on the open web cannot provide data on individual design professionals, but can reveal new insights on who (companies, education, organisations) talks about design, to what extent they do this, and with whom.
The thorough data collection has been conducted by Seismonaut, and all key findings on both national and Nordic level can be found at nordicdesignresource.com.