The June 23 referendum that shook the world may have also created a deep and lasting impact on the creative design industry.
The United Kingdom has opted to withdraw itself from the European Union, after a majority vote from the electorate. The landmark event – often mentioned as Brexit – has sent a flurry of negative impacts especially not only on the UK but even all around the world, most notably in terms of economies.
One question that usually pops up in relation to Brexit is how it will affect different businesses. In the case of the creative industry, some design experts believe that the UK exit from EU may be more devastating than beneficial. For starters, UK companies with existing contracts and stakeholders from neighboring EU countries will now have to sever their ties.
Although it may be too premature to speculate how heavy Brexit will weigh down the creative industry, here are some common concerns for British designers across various fields of expertise:
Fear of walls and exclusivity
The beauty of being a member of EU lies in the idea that Europeans are free to explore and do business in the U.K., but that’s not going to be possible now. Some people from the creative industry feel that Brexit is going to create barriers between the Brits and neighboring countries, which doesn’t sound good on the viewpoint of free exchange and cultural expression.
Even before the British withdrawal from EU, some designers who came in to the U.K. from other countries have been experiencing more stringent visa measures. Now that Brexit has come, they’re expecting the U.K. to feel like a closed system rather than an exciting and welcoming country.
The excitement of open doors for fellow EU members has introduced a whole new spirit in the creative scene for the U.K. By hiring non-British Europeans, companies are effectively welcoming a different perspective to their existing work culture. “We have always found that diversity is a fundamental aspect of world-class teams and over the years we have employed people from almost every country in the EU,” said Moving Brands CEO Mat Heinl in this interview.
The departure of the U.K. from the EU may bring the spirit of diversity away. Europeans who are highly skilled in design, branding, motion graphics, and publishing will get snatched by EU member countries, who will probably benefit from these fresh and exciting talents.
Excitement comes with diversity, and so bringing the latter away as a result of Brexit will definitely dampen the fun of creative design. There’s always some level of excitement in the field of creatives, but expect it to subside with the lack of diversity.
Of course, some companies may be willing to push the envelope and find ways to continue working with their counterparts in EU territories despite the restrictions caused by Brexit.
Central hub shift
Many international companies have found their home in the U.K. for their business headquarters, but this shift to exclusivity may put off some CEOs. “That could change the center of gravity from London and the U.K. to, say, Frankfurt and Germany instead“, according to SapientNitro experience design director Daniel Harvey.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Hubert (of experience design company Layer) fears that some of his clients – including famous European furniture brands – may opt to shift to design firms in EU countries.
Weakening of startup boom
The recent years saw the rise of startup businesses in the creative industry, with London reaping the benefits of this trend. Unfortunately, the success of startups isn’t caused by British people alone. “They’re successful not just because of our homegrown talent, but also from the industry people we invite into the U.K. whilst having an open border policy,” said Seymourpowell creative director Pat Fahy.
Despite the seeming fragility of the British economy, people in the U.K. creative field need not be apprehensive of opening up new businesses. They just need to be a bit more creative in making new ideas and encouraging startup business ideas to flourish despite the apparent uncertainty.
The Brexit aftermath probably caused some British employees to feel discouraged with the turn of events, while others feel uncertain about the future of the companies that they’re working for.
In the case of Wolff Olins CEO Ije Nwokorie, he sees this as an opportunity to sharpen his saw. This includes boosting employee morale to push on amidst fears, encouraging creativity rather than risk aversion, and getting more personally involved in the business.
Loss of income
While local designers have yet to see the long-term effects of Brexit, the abovementioned scenarios seem to paint one grim picture: a potential economic recession. The actual day of the exit already created chaos in world markets, and led the British pound to plunge head first.
This uncertainty in the economy will obviously have an impact on workers of any industry, including creatives. The tides may turn in favor of the U.K. sometime in the future, but nobody really wants to feel insecure or unsure of the future.
Negative impact on design students
London is considered as one of the foremost learning hubs for creative design in Europe – and even in the world – but that’s bound to change with the U.K. exit. “It has one of the highest percentages of architecture and design firms and part of that is built on our cultural diversity. That is going to be seriously jeopardized by this ‘bring borders up’ mentality,” Hubert mentioned.
One very serious implication of Brexit is the loss of opportunity for students to join the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus) Programme. This student exchange academic program was established by the European Union, and serves as a way to fund apprentice and intern scholarships. Not being part of the EU means that the U.K. will be losing the opportunity for its students to experience other cultures, while at the same time preventing other non-British students the chance to learn from the best companies in the U.K.
For students in the creative industry, the walls created by Brexit may limit their potential to hone their craft. The U.K. is known for its strong education in terms of engineering and design, and it would be a shame to prevent neighboring countries to enjoy the privilege of learning from some of the best design schools in Europe.
It may be too early to tell at this point whether the world of creative design is going to be hugely affected by the British withdrawal from the EU. However, given the nature of their work, people working in creative companies will probably take this as a challenge to stay in the game. After all, creativity is in their lifeblood.
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