Burbidge & Son Ltd Design Project

Burbidge & Son Ltd (supported by The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers)

The design project engaged third year students on the BA Design Studies course at Birmingham City University (BCU). It allowed students to apply their ideas in a commercial context, whilst providing Burbidge with the opportunity to tap into a pool of new ideas, generating new concepts which they could take forward for consideration into the development of new products in the future.

Dr Tony Smart from The Furniture Makers Company approached the Research, Innovation and Enterprise team at Birmingham City University with the suggestion of engaging with them on a live industry brief with one of their member companies, after initially seeing the high standard of work produced for the Trends project, a textile design project which culminates with BCU showcasing at the international INTERIORS show.

Burbidge had recently taken on national distribution for “Blum” drawer system components. Blum is the global market leader in this area with a worldwide turnover in excess of Euro1BN. With changes in the market place as a result of demographic changes (specifically an increasing ageing population and the reduction in the size of living spaces) there is a growing market for products that allow better organisation and increased use of storage space in the kitchen within drawer systems. There are solutions already available, but Burbidge believed that whilst very well engineered, they could be improved upon to create a more aesthetic solution. This is where the Birmingham City University students were asked to engage on a project which would result in offering a compelling new product for drawer storage solutions.

This challenge presented BCU Product and Interiors Product Design students with a brief that was representative of the work they are likely to face in the future which allowed them to consider the business, financial, the target market and the logistical implications of design. The students were offered feedback on their design concepts by the Burbidge team.

Burbidge provided a financial contribution towards material costs for students to create prototypes along with very generous prize money for winning students.

The real prize for the students though, was the opportunity to take part in a live project where they could experience a taste of industry challenges and to understand that all designs require changes in order to translate into commercially available products in the future.

The 2 winning students were Kin Cheung Wong and Nikoleta Fotiou who came up with an integrated drawer storage system which was flexible in terms of application, with interchangeable interior components which could be used to create different sizes of storage areas within the drawer to accommodate user needs; they chose to include finishing details such as veneered wood.

“We thought that it was a well-run, well organised and very interesting process with some thought-provoking results. We haven’t done anything like this before so it was an interesting experience”

Tom Bruck
Product Manager - Fittings


Students gained a real perspective of live commercial projects and learnt from the experience through being able to take risks, pushing design boundaries and experimenting with new processes. Although only the first year of the project, the results were truly exciting: the portfolio of talent from Birmingham City University’s design students, coupled with the depth of experience of Burbidge and The Furniture Makers Company, created an exciting project which supported students’ learning and skills development, and it is hoped that this will be the foundation of a very strong partnership for the future.

Also, as a direct result of participation in the project, student Jamie Morgan emerged from the process with a confirmed internship with Burbidge and Sons – testament to the benefit of such projects with industry and Birmingham City University. With such a competitive job market, particularly within the creative industries, success stories such as Jamie’s hold even more gravitas.


  • Product innovation – a wide selection of unique ideas for potential development
  • Access to up and coming designers with an ability to provide fresh perspectives and review new ideas
  • Promotion and PR for the company
  • Supports the company’s wider strategic aims to encourage new design practice
  • Student experience working within a real client brief and design conditions
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