The economic outlook of the Finnish design sector 2017

Ornamo’s annual economic outlook for the Finnish design sector charts the state of this field and its trends. The most recent survey and outlook, from 2017, indicate continued growth of turnover and improving profitability among enterprises involved in design.

Design-sector businesses generated a total of €3.23 billion in turnover in 2015, as opposed to € 3.1 billion in the previous year, and the design sector employed 19,420 people. This information is based on business statistics from Statistics Finland, which are published as part of the economic outlook for the design sector.

The overall economic situation is reflected by the design sector. Employment  has decreased in design and the number of business that have started and closed in the sector has grown. In 2012 firms and companies of the sector employed 22,100 people in terms of full-year employment.

This decrease is explained, in turn, by the decrease of manufacturing which was not compensated by growth in service-oriented business. Manufacturing had been in decline throughout the period from 2007 to 2015. On the other hand, service businesses in design had grown and created jobs in the sector.

A new sector included within design in Ornamo’s 2017 economic outlook is digital design. Its addition to the review of the sector is required because the overall operating environment is rapidly becoming digitised .In 2015, the number of people employed in digital design in Finland was 29,176. This figure included people employed in publishing computer games and software and the design and production of software.

The main results of Ornamo’s economic outlook of 2017 are as follows:

    1. The continued growth of turnover in the design sector

      In June 2017, sixty-one per cent of the entrepreneurs and business owners that responded to Ornamo’s economic outlook survey stated that their turnover had grown from the corresponding period in the previous year, and only five per cent reported decreased turnover. The trend was obvious in comparison with the previous year when almost a quarter of a businesses in the sector referred to decreased turnover.

    2. The added value provided by design for other sectors is considerably larger than turnover in the design sector

      Design is applied the most in industry and the least in building and development. It increases knowledge of the client’s real needs and hopes and improves earnings from digital products as part of business. The significance of applying design in business was explored not only in Ornamo’s survey but also in a survey addressed to the members of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises carried out in connection with Ornamo’s economic outlook for the design sector.

    3. Forty per cent of the enterprises reported improved profitability

      Forty per cent of the enterprises reported improved profitability and 11 per cent noted poorer profitability, giving the reported improvement of profits a balance of +29 per cent, which indicates improvement of average profitability.

    4. The optimism of enterprises in the sector is reflected by economic outlook expectations

      As many as every second entrepreneur that responded to the surveys in 2017 believed that overall prospects of demand and economic trends would improve during the following year. In the design sector, confidence in the future is further underlined when overall outlooks of demand and economic trends are considered over a three-year period.

    5. Confidence in the future is shown

      Confidence in the future is also shown by a desire for growth among  enterprises in the design sector. In the 2017 survey, more than one tenth of respondents were enterprises aiming markedly at growth, while over 60 per cent of respondents stated they would grow where conditions permitted. The proportion of the latter group was larger than the average among the whole small and middle-sized business sector in Finland.

    6. Financial investments in digitisation grow

      Financial investments in developing digitisation in the design sector will grow significantly in the years to come. Almost half of the respondents stated that their financial investment in digital technologies and system would grow during the next two years. The vast majority of respondents felt that digitisation was a great opportunity for business, and only a couple of per cent regarded it as a threat.

    7. Internationalisation is an important channel of growth

      Internationalisation is an important channel of growth for enterprises in the design sector. Interest in foreign operations is growing, since 45% of the firms and companies have invested considerably or to some degree in internationalisation.


  1. The 2017 economic outlook was prepared by researcher Pekka Lith in June 2017, with 140 enterprises responding to the survey within the set period. In addition to the Ornamo survey, enquiries were addressed to member firms and companies of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises regarding the role and importance for their business activities.
  2. The results in summary: Finnish design sector in numbers 2017 (pdf)

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