All of the following insights originate from Taiwan’s Cultural & Creative Industries Annual Report 2018, which is published annually by the Ministry of Culture. Special thanks to Steffi Cheng for helping with the research and translation.

Cultural and Creative Industries

Taiwan's cultural and creative industries are growing at a rate between 1 and 4 percent annually. According to the latest figures from 2017, cultural and creative industries represent a total of 63,250 companies, which altogether employ 2.29 percent of Taiwan's workforce. The visual communication design industry was among the fastest growing industries between 2016 and 2017, charting a 9.1 percent increase in its number of companies.

Despite this growth in the number of companies, however, cultural and creative industries are actually declining in terms of contribution to Taiwan's nominal GDP, which has dropped steadily from 5.51 percent in 2012 to 4.8 percent in 2017. This trend may be down to the comparative strength of other sectors, but there are also issues within Taiwan's cultural and creative industries, which in turn present new opportunities.

One issue is that exports (10.31 percent) lag far behind revenue from the domestic market (89.69 percent). Another issue is that 62.1 percent of companies are reporting less than 1 million TWD in capital, and 26.28 percent report less than 0.1 million TWD. Therefore, most companies in Taiwan's cultural and creative industries are small in scale and focused on the domestic market, so there should be an opportunity for some of these companies to expand in size and move into export markets.

Product Design

The most affluent segment of Taiwan's design economy - product design could account for anything from textiles to packaging and technology products. Although the number of companies in this industry is plummeting, the annual turnover reached an all time high in 2017, which indicates that the remaining companies must be growing in strength. The main advantage of the product design industry is its high export revenue.

  • Number of companies in 2017: 1,427 companies (-1.52 percent from 2016)
  • Annual turnover in 2017: $45.899 billion TWD (+13.44 percent from 2016)
  • Imports annual turnover in 2017: $13.224 billion TWD
  • Exports annual turnover in 2017: $32.675 billion TWD

Architectural Design

In comparison to product design, Taiwan's architectural design industry has very little export power; firmly tethered to the domestic real estate market. An increase in the number of companies, contrasted against a faltering growth rate, tells us that the architectural design industry is becoming more competitive. Therefore, new opportunities should lie in exporting architectural design services.

  • Number of companies in 2017: 3.689 companies (+5.04 percent from 2016)
  • Annual turnover in 2017: $33.231 billion TWD (-1.19 percent from 2016)
  • Imports annual turnover in 2017: $32.877 billion TWD
  • Exports annual turnover in 2017: $354 million TWD

Visual Communication Design

Despite being Taiwan's smallest design industry, visual communication design grew exponentially between 2012 and 2017, which is a very positive sign. Its dynamic growth has been helped along by an increased demand for multimedia and digital content such as online platforms, animation, and digital advertising. There is still plenty of room for improvement, however, as companies remain small in size and exports remain low.

  • Number of companies in 2017: 1,331 companies (+9.1 percent from 2016)
  • Annual turnover in 2017: $3.297 billion TWD (+15.12 percent from 2016)
  • Imports annual turnover in 2017: $3.031 billion TWD
  • Exports annual turnover in 2017: $266 million TWD

The Bottom Line

Altogether, the Ministry of Culture's report valued Taiwan's design economy at $82.427 billion TWD (approx. $2.662 billion USD) in 2017. This is a conservative estimate in comparison to Singapore at $34.3 billion SGD (approx. $24.916 billion USD) in 2015 according to DesignSingapore Council, and Hong Kong at $525.3 billion HKD (approx. $67.157 billion USD) for 2017-2018 according to Hong Kong Trade Development Council. However, as the Ministry of Culture's report itself points out, these figures are only based on income tax data, which presents certain limitations for industry research.

Hope is on the horizon as Taiwan Design Center transforms into Taiwan Design Research Center in 2020, devoting considerable resources to design industry research. Researchers there should work towards diversifying the enormous product design and architectural design industries. Long established design industry research centers such as the UK's Design Council offer a strong model to follow.