In a competitive environment, providing unique products that are competitively priced can be challenging. Marvell's recognised that it had developed a series of unique manufacturing relationships that enabled it to manufacture a range of goods competitively. To stay ahead of their competition the company wanted to review how it could develop its range to incorporate more design-led products which were unique.

Marvell's approached Birmingham City University, having visited the “Trends” exhibition at Interiors 2009, to establish how the University could assist it in developing its products with new designs and ideas.

Working with the academic team of BA Product Design and BA Textile Design at the University’s School of Fashion, Textiles and 3D Design, Marvell's highlighted the current range, specified the areas for development and highlighted the opportunities and limitations relating to the manufacturing process.

As a result of the exploratory process, Birmingham City University agreed to develop a specific programme which could tease out potential design concepts and ideas. As a result of discussions, the University was able to highlight how additional support could be made available through knowledge transfer placements, including Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

The Client

Marvell’s has 15 employees and turns over approximately £3m per year. The company began as a supplier to wholesalers. Its product base has grown from the antiques trade to gardening, interior and giftware, where it has built on the development of its product base to include interior wall art, tables, cast iron products including post boxes, along with fire guards, benches and decorative frameworks for plants.

Marvell's has been a premier supplier to the gift trade for over 30 years. The company exports goods to Europe, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Middle East.

Marvell’s product design project with Birmingham City University over the last six months has huge potential for students to take their designs towards the ultimate goal of production for the high street. The University has been exemplary in its professionalism, with both Marvell's and the students involved, and a great deal has been achieved from all sides. Hopefully we may see a student working for Marvell’s in future projects through the University’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

Marvell’s would welcome the chance to repeat such an experience given the high-quality results that have been achieved this year, and looks forward to developing new products in the future by using projects such as this. It has been an excellent stepping stone exercise for a company of our size to head towards gaining an internal designer for the future, and we would like to thank Birmingham City University for giving Marvell’s the opportunity of taking part in such a valuable experience.

David Marvell, Owner and Director, Marvell's


Working with BA (Hons) Textile Design students interested in surface finishing and BA Product Design students, Birmingham City University established a project brief to engage students to review how Marvell’s could modify its existing product range to target a new market.

This project was embedded as part of the curriculum process and a legal framework created to protect the intellectual property generated. Student briefs focused on evaluating strategic aims, processes and markets in order to assist students in producing robust work.

Following on from their initial briefing, the students carried out research to consider the objectives, target audience, timescales, materials and budgets which needed to be clearly identified.

Over six weeks students developed their initial concepts resulting in 15 designs from 14 of the students being selected by Marvell's to be taken on to the second stage for manufacturing development.


Product Development in a small business can be time consuming. As a result of the partnership between Marvell's and Birmingham City University, Marvell's was able to evaluate the potential benefit of investing in design resources to rechannel its business.

Marvell's is currently considering a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to support the company in employing a designer to develop its design skills.

Marvell’s is now working with the 15 designs and technical specifications produced by Birmingham City University students to cost-up each piece, including exploring what specific elements would need to be adapted. Once costs, including manufacturing, shipping, packaging etc, have been determined, David Marvell will make a decision on which products will be taken forward this year into production and inclusion on the Marvell’s catalogue product range.