Industrial Design is Key to Growth of Manufacturing Sector

National Endowment for the Arts Publishes Industrial Design: A Competitive Edge for U.S. Manufacturing Success in the Global Economy
cover of industrial design publication
Washington, DC— Another example of the arts positively impacting business is the growing recognition among manufacturers of the value of industrial design and design thinking. To advance design as an asset for improving manufactured products and processes, the National Endowment for the Arts has published Industrial Design: A Competitive Edge for U.S. Manufacturing Success in the Global Economy. In addition, new findings from the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, a partnership of the NEA and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), include industrial design employment and compensation by state. Industrial Design: A Competitive Edge for U.S. Manufacturing Success in the Global Economy This report makes the case that industrial design is an underutilized growth catalyst for U.S. small and medium-sized manufactures (SMMs). Based on interviews with over 40 field experts and an extensive literature review, the report lays out why industrial design is important, offers data and examples to support those assertions, and shares successful models of practice from across the country. “In today’s hypercompetitive, global marketplace, manufacturers need effective tools to survive and thrive, and design is one of those tools,” said Director of Design and Creative Placemaking Programs Jason Schupbach. “This publication is another way that the National Endowment for the Arts is helping advance the fields of industrial design and design thinking, integrating design into business to improve the world we live in.” Industrial design has become more important to manufacturing because of:
  • Global competition and the imperative to innovate
  • Unforgiving pressure for successful product launches
  • High market expectations brought about by Apple
  • Hyper-connected products and systems through the Internet of Things
  • Consumer demand for a responsive and high-quality user experience
Among the benefits of industrial design are:
  • Increased corporate value, with some design-led companies outperforming the S&P by 219 percent (Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index)
  • Greater product innovation and company growth, where companies that integrate design have a 9.1 percent higher employment growth rate and 24 percent greater likelihood of product innovation Fernando Galindo-Rueda and Valentine Millot, Measuring Design and its Role in Innovation)
  • Cost savings, recognizing that 70-90 percent of a product’s cost are determined in the design phase.
Industrial Design Data from the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account On April 19, the NEA along with the BEA announced the latest data (from 2014) from the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ASPCA), a resource that provides in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector's contributions to the U.S. economy. For the first time, the ACPSA reported state-level data on employment and compensation in the sector including within industrial design. From that data, four states—Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, and Oregon—emerged with industrial design employment and compensation rankings above the national average. The rankings are in the form of a location quotient or a per worker basis. For example, Michigan’s employment LQ of 6.84 means the state has 6.84 times the number of industrial design workers than the national rate.


Employment LQ

Compensation LQ













The data also indicates that industrial design services was one of the fastest-growing arts industries. Between 2012 and 2014, average annual growth in real value added by the industry was 4.1 percent. By comparison, the overall arts economy grew by 1.4 percent and U.S. GDP average annual growth was 1.3 percent. Other NEA Resources on Industrial Design The NEA has supported industrial design for many years through research and funding. In 2013, the NEA published Valuing the Art of Industrial Design which highlights the number of working industrial designers and their earnings, the industries employing the greatest numbers of designers, and their geographic concentration in western and mid-western states. Through its funding programs over the last five years, the NEA has awarded more than 25 grants and more than $800,000 to support projects that focus on or utilize industrial design. These include grants to:
  • Art Center College of Design to support a vehicle design demonstration studio at the Petersen Automotive Museum
  • D-Rev: Design for the Other Ninety Percent to support work towards refining the functionality and design of the ReMotion Knee.
  • Center for Contemporary Art & Culture to support the exhibition "The Design and Craft of Prosthetics (DCoP)."
About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Please visit


Victoria Hutter,, 202-682-5692