Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Best wishes and Happy New Year

The Interiors & Lifestyle team send their best wishes for the holiday period to all our West Midlands companies, partners, readers and blog contributors. In particular, we hope your business and personal plans have not been too severely disrupted by the adverse weather conditions. Have a very Happy New Year and we’ll be back in touch in January with more blog news and details of all our latest workshops, activities and exciting business opportunities. Our offices reopen on Tuesday 4 January 2011.

Our contact details
Tel nos:
Birmingham office 0121 331 7925
Stoke office 01782 415210

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Challenging product evolution at Pashley Cycles

Post by Adrian Burns

As well as the advantages of business collaboration, West Midlands companies can also derive benefits by collaborating with local universities. Pashley Cycles, formed one such partnership with MA Product Design students at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (Birmingham City University), later employing one of them full time to help develop accessories and bicycle designs.

Pashley Cycles of Stratford–Upon–Avon is England's longest established manufacturer of hand-built bicycles and tricycles. Looking for a fresh perspective, it invited BIAD’s MA Product Design students to develop accessories that enhanced the Guv’nor, a retro 1930s pathway racing cycle.

Pashley Guvnor bicycle (photo credit: Chris Webb)

Six groups were each given an accessory to consider (water bottles, reflectors, repair kits, mudguards, bells or pumps), before putting these seemingly simple components through a process of product evolution.

The process also involved the groups carrying out historical research of the products and analysis through observational drawing. Each student then proposed four simple and affordable adaptations of an existing product, based upon aesthetics, interactions, cost and alternative/new technology.

Pashley Guvnor mudguard sketch development

“While the aim is to create small but telling product changes, the students produced a detailed body of research and development work in support of their accessories,” said Graham Powell, Course Director.

“This was also an opportunity for Pashley to benefit from a wide ranging and fresh perspective, with regards to its design outputs, as our students represent a very diverse and international cohort with equally different views and ideas on what the company might potentially want to develop. Typically, our collaborative projects are aimed at challenging existing design based assumptions within the company and proposing alternative tangible outcomes for consideration.”

Speaking at an exhibition of the students’ products, Pashley’s Chief Executive Adrian Williams commented “I was blown away by the quality and diversity of the accessory proposals”.

Other BIAD MA Product Design students have since worked with Denby, Richard Burbidge and with Triumph motorcycles on collaborative projects.

The MA Product Design Course is always looking to work with strong brands. Suitable companies can find out more by contacting or 0121 331 7925.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Exploring design opportunities in the low carbon economy

Post by Christine Foss

Interiors & Lifestyle Futures, with support from Forum for the Future and Sustainability West Midlands, recently brought together a variety of West Midland’s businesses with a strong interest in low carbon issues. Participants at the Low Carbon Interiors 2010 workshop included architects, designers, manufacturers and service providers.

The opening keynote was provided by Martin Hunt. Martin offered a range of case studies, illustrating how Forum for the Future uses innovation tools to encourage companies to become more sustainable, see his presentation below:

View more presentations from I&L Futures.

Popular topics emerging on the day included:

  • Who’s buying low carbon products/services and what are the markets?
  • Specifying sustainable materials whilst enlightening clients on the issues
  • Creating motivation and incentives for sustainability

The event also hosted an inspirational presentation by award winning architect, John Christophers from Associated Architects. John spoke about his Zero Carbon House, a unique development in inner city Birmingham that produces at least as much energy as it consumes.

A range of ideas resulted from the event, which will inform Interiors & Lifestyle Futures’ business activity for the West Midlands. A few of these business opportunities may include:

  • A showcase of West Midlands low carbon industry case studies
  • Accessing low carbon funding to support the region’s businesses
  • Developing a stronger and diverse low carbon network
Are you interested in getting involved with Interiors & Lifestyle Futures?

Would you like to know how we can help your low carbon strategy?

Get in touch with us:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Branding Masterclass – workshop review

Guest post by Paul Phedon, director at

  • How do you define what your brand stands for?
  • How do you know if you’re branding reflects your business and your values?
  • How can you brand and branding work effectively in delivering maximum value for your business?

These are typical questions that I’m frequently asked and was a key theme to a recent workshop I ran on November 16th 2010 for Interiors and Lifestyle Futures.

Paul Phedon and some of the brands he has worked with at S&X Media

Branding is a vital component of marketing and developing and leveraging your brand is an important component of any marketing strategy.

I’ve worked with and for brands in developing and managing brands..... and now a partner with a communications agency, so I’ve had some experience in understanding how brands and in particular branding are central to marketing activity and can deliver real value to a business.

Working with companies within the Interiors and Lifestyle sector, this session looked at challenging that perception and providing an insight in how brands and branding are relevant to any scale or sector and how it can deliver maximum value and return.

The workshop took companies through a 4-stage process in developing a brand: Discover, Define, Design & Deploy.

The Discover phase provided an insight into how businesses can determine what they stand for and how to focus on what makes their brand unique. This process should consider any available research and also consider appropriate market/social trends, business planning and strategy. Involving key stakeholders is important to ensure there is buy-in from the start of the process too.

The insights acquired from this phase provide the content that can assist in Defining the brand. I’ve seen brands defined using various different models - but in essence they all do the same thing. A typical brand model for capturing your brand definition should include:

Attributes – what your brand stands for
Promise – what your brand offers
Source of Authority – what makes your brand credible?
Personality – tone, values, approach
Essence – core single brand idea or key words

Successful brands have clarity, consistency and focus.

The Design of the branding can then be created to deliver and reflect your brand values and essence. During the workshop we investigated examples and case studies which demonstrate how branding is far more than ‘just a logo’ but considers elements such as photography styles, visual assets, typography, tone of voice and considering the touch points. The acid test for any strong brand is to still recognise the brand even if you cover the name!

This touches on an important question - does your brand have both rational and emotional appeal? Brand’s that deliver both are often the most successful through greater consumer engagement and loyalty.

Finally, once your branding is in place – it needs to be Deployed through the marketing mix. Traditionally the mix has included the 4 P’s, i.e., product, price, place and promotion. That feels too limited for today’s challenging environment so the session investigated the 8 P’s of the mix to develop a more comprehensive approach to marketing. The 8 ‘P’s include:

• Positioning – owning a position in the market
• Product – and how your product range is segmented and targeted
• Price – links with positioning
• Place – including online and B2B
• Promotion – much broader now with the impact of digital communications
• Planet – where does your company sit in terms of ethical trading and
• Profit – where to focus for maximum return
• Planning - for success

The session gave delegates the opportunity to apply information and guidelines through practical working groups, using a couple of the companies that were involved in the workshop as case studies.

Companies left the workshop with details on the whole brand development process and guidelines to develop a holistic approach to brand marketing and communications.

“I now know where we are goingStrata Group (Window & conservatory manufacturer)

“Gave me new ideas and direction” Purefine Bullion (Gold products)

“I valued the interaction with other businessesFairfield Displays (Contract display & lighting)

Event Location
Millennium Point, Birmingham

Workshop Content
• Understanding the role and value a brand can deliver to build your business
• Understanding what makes branding successful
• How to build and articulate a brand
• Crafting a positioning/proposition and essence for your brand
• Defining the relationship a brand wants with its consumers/customers

To make sure you don’t miss out on our other events and workshops – including when we next run the Branding masterclass workshop – please email us at