The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, promotes the impact of Design economically, environmentally, socially and culturally through a programme of exhibitions and events. The first public commission that Charles Rennie Mackintosh worked on, the Lighthouse is also a visitor centre.

Ian Elder, Economic Development Manager for The Lighthouse and Creative Industries looks at the impact the centre has had on Scotland’s creative industries.


The idea behind the Lighthouse is a simple one; creativity, innovation, and design has a positive impact on the economy, environment and society of Glasgow and Scotland generally.

Along with other organisations such as Creative Clyde, Design in Action, and the Institute of Design Innovation at Glasgow School of Art, our aim is to promote or demonstrate the impact of design.

The Lighthouse provides a platform for exhibitions and debate, but also looks for ways in which it can support designers, especially in encouraging businesses to embrace design thinking.

Research, both national and international, shows that design’s greatest impact comes when it is not only considered as styling but is also integrated into a business as part of their strategy.

Research by the Design Council has shown that for every £1 a business invests in design they gain over £20 in net turnover and over £5 in net exports.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges to overcome; the reality is that Scotland invests significantly less in the creative industries than the UK as a whole.

The reasons for that include a lack of awareness and experience, not knowing where to turn for specialised help and too many other pressures on business.

Research in Northern Ireland identified another challenge; almost 80% of design businesses there work for organisations within the wider creative industries sector. I’ve not seen any research for Scotland but if our design sector is to grow, it cannot be defined by the size of the creative industries alone; it must find ways to engage with business generally.

The idea of promoting the impact of design has run through a variety of inspiring exhibitions at The Lighthouse including the Scottish Show, Six Cities and MAKLab.

These were all ways, to support, enable, and promote the design industry.

Our objective will continue to be to look for and implement ways to support those businesses within the Creative Industries which are social enterprises or work as cooperatives.

We will also introduce ways in which we can encourage businesses to invest in design.

And finally, we will continue to lobby for a design policy for Scotland, a path down which both Northern Ireland and Wales have already made considerable progress.


Ian Elder is the manager of The Lighthouse. Follow him on Twitter @IanElderf1 or connect on LinkedIn. Are you looking to host an exhibition or event in The Lighthouse? Take a look at the events website or get in touch with a member of the events team.


The above blog post has been made possible through the generous support of Creative Clyde and the named contributors.