Recently, I spoke with Martin Darbyshire, a trustee on the Board of the UK Design Council, the government’s advisory body on design. He has seen that emerging economies in particular are in thrall to London’s unique concepts and provide a ready market for the city’s design sense.
His Bermondsey-based design consultancy tangerine is part of a thriving UK creative sector that is ranked fourth in the world for international design sales.
After receiving support from the Department for International Trade in identifying international opportunities in its target sectors, the business has established outposts in Seoul, South Korea and Porto Alegre, Brazil on the back of growing demand for its innovative ideas.
tangerine’s product design work can be seen in homes across the country – it designed the Sky digital set-top box – but more recently it has established a niche in the international travel sector.
Sky’s the limit
Martin led the team that created the world’s first lie-flat business class bed for British Airways. They have since designed airline interiors for Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, Asiana Airlines in South Korea, Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Brazilian airline Azul and Virgin Australia in…well, you can probably guess that one.
Now 80% of tangerine’s work is for overseas clients.
When Martin first launched the business, he had worked in the USA and Japan but had never anticipated how strong the demand would be for British creative services from countries such as South Korea, Brazil, and Australia.
He knew that the business had to take advantage of this. Martin and the team at tangerine aimed high from the start, travelling the world visiting potential clients and giving keynote speeches at conferences, knowing that the demand for UK creative services was high.
As well as being a regular speaker on innovation and design on the international stage, Martin also served on a government taskforce promoting UK design in China and South Korea.
He believes that the support available from the government can make all the difference for design firms setting out to expand internationally.
The Department for International Trade helped tangerine to discover international opportunities and Martin is positive that if they can do it, others can too.
Supporting the sector
As a country, the UK exports 50% more design services than it imports and the support infrastructure is there to take the sector’s success to the next level.
The UK is known across the globe for its creativity and inspired design so the opportunities are enormous.
The DIT has a team of International Trade Advisers based across London who are on hand to help firms like tangerine understand their potential overseas markets and deliver tailored help to businesses who are either exporting for the first time or looking to enter markets that are new to them. By providing bespoke market intelligence and host trade missions around the globe, along with regular events and trade shows, the DIT can give firms an international platform to promote their ideas and achievements.
tangerine is just one of the design firms that is currently doing just that at the International Business Festival, which is supported by the Department for International Trade’s Exporting is GREAT initiative and runs until June 28 in Liverpool.
Speakers include the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and British design icon Wayne Hemingway MBE, the founder of Hemingway Design in Wembley.
With homegrown design firmly in the international spotlight, you can bet that even more British ideas will be exported around the world.