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Design programme was the catalyst that helped a 145-year-old business flourish

Design programme was the catalyst that helped a 145-year-old business flourish

2 February 2018

Halifax based business James Heal had experienced flat sales before applying for Designing Demand in 2009 – a Design Council business support programme to help businesses grow using design.

The 145-year-old manufacturing business has a long history and heritage within the textiles industry. They design and manufacture, in the U.K, testing instruments that support big brands and their factories to ensure their garments meet their own stringent quality standards.

Back in 2010, the business was at a crossroads. Business sales had generally plateaued for about eight years. The company said it was struggling to communicate its significant strengths – knowledge, expertise, heritage and premium quality. Their instruments were of high build quality but lacked a cohesive branded family feel. Their sales team were being met with ‘price’ negotiations first rather than be understood as having high value products.

Once accepted onto the programme, the Design Council matched James Heal with a team of its Design Associates to spend time within the business, talking to staff and understanding how the business works. At the end of a design review process the board was presented with 20 opportunities to improve the business.

Andy Cripps, a Design Council Associate, worked with Neil Pryke and his James Heal colleagues, to design a strategy to maximise these opportunities. The big learning for the James Heal Team was that they needed to maximise their brand potential through a series of exciting initiatives.  

Over the next 12 months, James Heal started a number of projects including a strategic rebrand to strengthen their position in the market. They looked at everything from their company identity, existing and future markets, the instrument design and even the product packaging. Together, they created a strong brand, with a clear market proposition and positioning in the market.

Neil Pryke, Innovation Director said:

The programme made us think differently about the brand, innovation and how we engage with our customers. It changed the way James Heal operate and design thinking is tightly embedded into the culture of the organisation.

After a long period of flat sales, James Heal went from £7.5million turnover in 2010 to £14.1million in 2017. The company has ambitions for further growth and the team are currently working on a creative, entrepreneurial and an exciting business plan to continue and accelerate the past growth.

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