Deborah Dawton


CEO, Design Business Association (UK)
Deborah graduated in 1991 from the University of Northumbria in Newcastle. Industrial design was never going to be her strong point even after four years of intense study. But evangelising about design probably was! So she resolved to leave the designing of things to those gifted enough to do it and like Dick Whittington, went off to London to make her fortune.

She began her career with the Royal Society of Arts working on their Student Design Awards. It was her privilege to meet the good the great of the design industry whose influence determined a career in working with design support organisations. She set up her own business delivering design events, competitions and conferences all over Europe for leading organisations like the UK’s Design Council, the Design Museum, D&AD and the Pan-European Brand Design Association.

In 2003, she answered the call of the Design Business Association joining them as CEO. And she loves this job. Funded entirely by the design industry with a remit to drive up their professionalism and the profile of design’s value in business, the DBA’s membership has tripled and the association’s turnover has grown to over £1million. The services that the DBA’s members can take advantage of include training courses, mentoring, legal and financial advice, benchmarking reports, networking and an annual programme of events. Perhaps one of the DBA’s highest profile initiatives is its Design Effectiveness Awards that, for 25 years, have measured the impact of design against business metrics.

Deborah speaks extensively on the role of design in business, on the public funding of design programmes and on the professionalisation and growth of design agencies.

Deborah served as president of BEDA from March 2011 and in May 2012, she was invited to join the European Design Innovation Initiative board on behalf of BEDA placing BEDA at the heart of policy recommendations that aim to embed design in innovation across. All of this work has lead to an understanding and support of design and innovation at the European level that now outstrips many member states. The output of the board’s work can be found here. Deborah’s term as BEDA President came to a close in March 2013 but she continued her involvement and support of BEDA in the areas of membership and policy. She is delighted to have been re-elected to the board and in addition to heading up Membership is also Secretary of BEDA.

DBA Chief Executive (UK)