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2018 DBA Annual Survey Report & Annual General Meeting

The launch of the 2018 DBA Annual Survey Report took place on Tuesday 9 October, kindly hosted by DBA member agency Coley Porter Bell at their offices in Sea Containers House, next to the famous OXO Tower and with sunset views over the Thames.

DBA members from across the country, including Brandality, BrandOpus, Design4Retail, Dragon Rouge, Elmwood, Taxi Studio, Pearlfisher, The Pull Agency, The Clearing and Spring to name a few, joined the event to be the first in the design industry to hear the latest shifts in trends and performance of the design industry, to approve the appointment of new Board Directors and to hear DBA Chief Executive, Deborah Dawton’s plans for the DBA membership in 2019.

2018 DBA Annual Survey Report

img_0431Esther Carder, Partner at Kingston Smith and long-time author of the DBA Annual Survey Report launched the event with her analysis of 2018’s results, “the flavour of this year’s Report is very ‘steady as she goes.'” Previous instability resulting from the Brexit vote seems to have steadied somewhat for now however, the report warns that further uncertainty is a concern, as the industry and the nation await the final Brexit deal. 

Headline findings from this year’s report include:

  • 24% of DBA member agencies income is generated from overseas clients, with half of this from clients based in the European Union. 
  • Staff costs should not exceed 55% of income revenue. 
  • 51.5% of employees are male and 48.6% are female, an improvement on 2017’s 55:45 split. However, there is still plenty of work to be done in achieving a balanced gender split in senior agency roles. 79% of Creative Directors are male, with only 21% female. 
  • The percentage of survey respondents offering staff training has dipped from 70% in 2017 to 68.5% in 2018’s report. The DBA offers an annual programme of affordable and exceptionally well regarded training workshops, with discounts for DBA members. See what’s on offer here.

DBA members who took part in the survey can access the survey website with interactive data using your unique login, access the website here.


DBA member agencies will also receive soft copies of the abridged survey report via email.

2018 DBA Annual General Meeting

img_8525This year, the launch of the DBA Annual Survey Report was followed by our Annual General Meeting (AGM). 

The order of the evening was to approve the appointment of two new members to the DBA’s Board of Directors.

We’d like to congratulate and welcome Merle Hall, CEO of Kinneir Dufort and Nir Wegrzyn, founding partner and CEO of BrandOpus to the DBA Board and look forward to the expertise and fresh perspectives they’ll bring to their new roles.

Paul Flowers, CDO Lixil Water Technology and Lesley Gulliver, MD The Engine Room were re-elected for a further one year term, and Sean Carney, CDO Royal Philips and Will Rowe, MD Rufus Leonard were re-elected three year terms.

After five years of dedicated service as President of the DBA Board, Jim Thompson has come to the end of his term. Steve Pearce, Global Design Director at Skyscanner and Brian Mansfield, Chairman at Taxi Studio have both stepped down as Board Directors after many years of service.

The DBA would like to offer our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Jim, Steve and Brian for their years of service and wish them every success in their future endeavours.

Our commitment to you

DBA Chief Executive Deborah Dawton delivered a keynote address to the event’s delegates, where she outlined the DBA’s areas of focus for 2018/2019.

People and threats to talent supply

The lifeblood of our industry is truly talented creative people and high performing teams. Homegrown talent, as the Government refer to it, is crucial to our success – nothing new there. But we also have a need for international talent – those who understand the culture and nuance of designing for a Japanese business for example.

Education policy & recruitment

Government policy regarding Ebacc, Progress 8 and education funding is having a profound impact on numbers of students studying art and design, and design and technology which is compromising many schools’ ability to keep offering these subjects.

It’s important to remember, education is about equal opportunities. It’s not about academic vs creative subjects, A-levels vs T-levels. We have to end this either/or attitude in education and understand that equality of opportunity, encouragement, the nurturing of gifts and talents for all should be what school is about.

If you’re not creative enough, then you should be encouraged down an academic route. We need people who are gifted academically to be the best they can because we have to work with them in future life. 

If you are creative enough, we need to nurture that creativity but we also need to make sure students have a good academic grounding to their learning – because talking through the solution to a mathematical equation is where we learn to develop the skills to articulate our ideas, reading poetry or a book is where we learn to empathise.

We’re working to influence the future of our education system, undertaking extensive research amongst the DBA membership to establish what they need in their future talent, where the gaps in education and training are and how to combat broader issues stemming from education funding and policy.

We’re collaborating with the Design and Technology Association (DATA), the All Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG), the Design Council and the Creative Industries Federation to name a few to ensure the design industry’s needs are recognised in the ongoing debate surrounding education, as well as working with the Department for International Trade on an international strategy, to secure the UK’s reputation for world-class creativity and design globally.

Growth and evolution

We want to focus our time on how you can attract and retain the right people to your businesses, and increasingly it’s not about throwing money at people. You should have a staff retention strategy – you should know exactly who you want to keep and who’s just passing through – and passing through is OK. Purposeful recruitment is critical – it’s costing too much in wasted time, so how do we develop the skills of those with this responsibility to deliver against our business strategies that clearly lay out the requirements we have for people? 

People bring about change and our businesses are ever evolving. Growth can look like so many things today: a more strategic approach to business, maturity of thought, scale, reach, stability and beauty of what we produce. We want to help you with that change. Great teams need to be fed a diet of great work and your skill to attract the best work is paramount. So we’ll be taking a fresh look at procurement for those that cannot circumvent it.

We’ll be looking at a suite of issues around growth (or evolution) such as business development (here and internationally), positioning, procurement and senior management team development even if that team is only one person. Well run businesses can cope with a leave of absence at Founder level if the Senior Management Team are well-developed. Let’s build businesses that are built to last beyond their founders.

World class

The positioning of you all as world class is critical to winning the hearts and minds of international brands, of SMEs and of start-ups, of governments, of NGOs and of the third sector. But we can only do that if you truly are world class. We’ll champion the UK’s design industry here in the UK and internationally. We’ll do that through a new focus on international activity and through the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards. Our positioning as a country of commercially and creatively effective teams and businesses is unique, we’ll evidence that.

We’ll also need to engage you in these activities because you’re on the frontline more often than we are. We want to furnish you with the arguments to make the case for the UK as THE creative centre of the world.

The DBA Annual Survey Report analyses in detail design agency fees, salaries, utilisation, income, recovery rates and benefits to enable DBA members to benchmark their businesses as well as helping them to develop pay and benefits strategies to attract and retain the best talent.

You can read about the value DBA members derive from the report here.

If you’re not yet a DBA member and would like to join to access the Report’s findings, call the membership team on 020 7251 9229 or email


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