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The economics of design in Italy in the Symbola Foundation Report
Italy is the European country with the largest number of companies operating in the design field: about 30 thousand with 61 thousand workers and an added value, generated in 2020, equal to 2.5 billion euros.
Milan is confirmed as the capital of design with 18% of added value and 14% of employees in Italy. 57% of design companies integrate aspects related to product durability into their design, 43.4% to material reduction, 34% to recyclability and 31.4% to repairability.

This is what emerges from the "Design Economy 2022" Report presented last April 20 by the Symbola Foundation, Deloitte Private and POLI.design, with the support of ADI, CUID, Comieco, Logotel, AlmaLaurea and the patronage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation International.

The ADI Design Museum in Milan hosted the presentation of the Report that saw among the speakers Ermete Realacci, president of the Symbola Foundation, Ernesto Lanzillo, Deloitte Private Leader, Francesco Zurlo, president of POLI.Design and Dean of the Design School, Luciano Galimberti, president of ADI, Maria Porro, president of the Salone del Mobile, Domenico Sturabotti, director of the Symbola Foundation, Carlo Montalbetti, general manager of Comieco, Loreto Di Rienzo, Co-Founder of the Dyloan Group, Cristina Favini, Chief Design officer & strategist Logotel and Antonio Casu, CEO Italdesign Giugiaro.


Design, fundamental lever for the future of the sector

"In the midst of a green and digital transition - said Ermete Realacci, president of the Symbola Foundation, - accelerated by the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, design is once again called upon to give shape, meaning and beauty to the future. Many aspects of our life, as well as many sectors, will change, from the metamorphosis of mobility towards shared, interconnected and electrical models, to the processes of decarbonisation and the circular economy that are changing industry and supply chain relationships, arriving at products that , in a context of increasingly scarce resources, they will necessarily have to be redesigned to become more durable, repairable, reusable ".

"In our country - said Ernesto Lanzillo, Deloitte Private Leader - Design can be a fundamental lever for rethinking and orienting the strategy of the entire business organization from a sustainable perspective.
The entire sector can help to redefine the future of companies in all sectors, especially those of Made in Italy, but to do so we need to think about targeted actions, which allow the realities of Design to continue to grow, strengthening their structure and developing a business culture ".

The economy of Design: a photograph in Italy and in Europe

The report shows that the sector has 30,000 companies which generated an added value of 2.5 billion euros in 2020 with 61,000 employees. The design companies are distributed throughout the national territory, focusing in particular in the areas of specialization of Made in Italy and in the regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia - Romagna and Veneto, where 60% of the companies are located. Among the provinces, Milan (15% companies and 18% national added value) stand out, Rome (6.7% and 5.3%), Turin (5% and 7.8%).The enterprises operate for 44% to the foreign countries (8.9% extra EU), for 45% on national scale, while for the 10.8% on local scale.

Milan, the capital of Design

The main capital of Italian design is Milan: the Lombard capital concentrates 18% of the sector's added value on the national territory. After all, Milan is also home to the Salone del Mobile and Fuorisalone, the largest events in the world dedicated to design. In general, however, companies and design professionals carry out their activities mainly in metropolitan centers, where they have the opportunity to enjoy greater national and international visibility. In fact, four out of ten design companies operate abroad (44%, 8.9% outside the EU), while the remainder operates mainly at national level (45%) or, to a lesser extent, only on a local scale (10, 8%).

Another significant and distinctive aspect of Italian design emerges from the analysis, namely the direct relationship with the client: the vast majority of respondents (86%) in fact interact directly with entrepreneurs and top management. As regards the services requested, the companies declare that they mainly provide advice on stylistic (58%) and procedural (25%) aspects, while strategic consultancy accounts for 10%.

Design and ecological transition: sustainability as the engine of growth

The "Design Economy" Report this year dedicates a chapter to the relationship between the Italian sector and sustainability. The results of the survey conducted for the 2022 edition of the report are very interesting.

While the majority of designers and design companies feel overall prepared on the subject, declaring high (33.9%) and medium level (55.1%) skills, the offer for sustainability currently focuses on durability (57 , 6%) and secondly on the reduction of the use of raw materials and energy (43.4%).

The meeting point between supply and demand for design services is already embodied today in the design with more sustainable raw materials and the optimization of the use of resources. Among the sectors that drive the demand for sustainable design services there are above all the Made In Italy sectors, first of all the furniture sector (70%), followed by the automotive sector (56%), by real estate - ceramics, floors, up to the structural elements - (38%), clothing (30%) and agri-food (13.3%).

The growing environmental awareness and the increasing importance that the market attaches to environmental aspects is stimulating the commitment to a sustainable future in the Italian entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This is demonstrated by various concrete examples put in place both by associations, such as Federlegnoarredo, with its "Decalogue" which maps the demand for eco-design services or Comieco, with the investigation of the characteristics of the packs used by restaurants, and by companies and designers .


Italian training in the field of Design

As regards the training system, the Report reveals that it is distributed throughout the country with 81 institutes accredited by the Ministry of Education: 22 universities, 16 academies of fine arts, 15 legally recognized academies, 22 private institutes authorized to issue AFAM degrees. (Higher Education in Art and Music) and 6 ISIA (Higher Institutes for Artistic Industries). For a total of 291 courses of study, distributed in various training levels and in different areas of specialization. It includes excellences such as the Politecnico di Milano, first among the EU countries and 5th in the world according to the prestigious QS World University Rankings by Subject in the design sector. Subsequently, the European Institute of Design (IED) and the New Academy of Fine Arts (NABA) maintain an important role in the training of designers. Overall, 9,362 designers have been trained; of these, two thirds reside in the North, particularly in Lombardy (49.8%).

This year, thanks to the collaboration with Almalaurea and the Career Service of the Politecnico di Milano, there is new information on the employment situation five years after graduation and five years after the first Symbola Foundation design report. The first estimate of the employment rate of five-year master's degree graduates in design returns a value of 90%, higher than the average of the total of two-year master's degree graduates in Italy; of these, 84% have a profession consistent with the field of design.