Burbidge & Son Ltd Design Project
- Burbidge & Son Ltd (supported by The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers)
The design project was aimed at third year students engaged on the BA Design Studies course at Birmingham City University. 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 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 design project which culminates with the University 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 it 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 the best organisation and use of storage space in the kitchen within drawer systems. There are solutions already available, but Burbidge believed that while 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 Birmingham City University 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, sales, marketing and logistical implications of design. The students were offered feedback on their design concepts by Burbidge staff.
A family business established in 1867, Burbidge produce a range of kitchen products of superior quality. For over 35 years the company has been designing and manufacturing a wide range of kitchen doors and accessories, the majority of which are produced at their factory in Coventry.
These components are used to create complete kitchens by an established network of retailers who supply and install to meet individual customer requirements. With an extensive showroom at their Coventry factory, they have recently begun to diversify into other areas of Kitchen furniture, also taking over national distribution of the Blum drawer range of products; considering how (developments of) the range, can be integrated into their kitchen designs.
“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”
Product Manager - Fittings
The two 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.
Additional success stories stemming from the collaboration include the achievements of two students in particular: Jamie Morgan and Jack Trew. Both students went on to secure internships with Burbidge as a direct result of their involvement in the design project - an outcome of vast implications given the current student job market, particularly within such a competitive sector. Outcomes such as these reiterate the added benefit of collaborative projects between industry and universities.
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, gave the project the potential to be something considerably greater than the sum of its parts and it is hoped that this will be the foundation of a very strong partnership for the future.
- Product innovation – a wide selection of unique ideas for potential development of
- 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