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James Heal

16 January 2014




The support we received from Design Council changed the face of our company and provided insight into a far wider range of business issues. Design Council also enabled us to embed a much deeper understanding of the value of user-centred design.



David Repper, Managing Director, James Heal






James Heal, a family-owned manufacturer of textile testing machines, approached Design Council to help them grow their business. Four years later, sales had increased by 64%.




Like many SMEs with international ambitions, James Heal wanted to grow while remaining UK-based. Managing Director David Repper knew that achieving this aim meant sharpening the competitive edge of his products. In 2010, he turned to Design Council for advice.


The process


Our expert Design Associate, Andy Cripps, worked with the James Heal management team to analyse different aspects of their business. David Repper described this as a sometimes bruising, but enlightening, process.

During the meetings and workshops, Andy was able to gain a firm grasp of the way the company operated on a day-to-day basis, perfectly placed to provide them with a route to success. He identified two main problem areas which needed to be addressed:

  • Confusion and inconsistency in the way James Heal communicated its product and brand
  • The threat of copycat products and price undercutting from the far east

Andy turned these findings into a design brief for a rebranding project. He saw that James Heal needed to make their products harder to copy, and to communicate their strengths to justify their pricing. Using his industry connections, Andy introduced James Heal to a number of agencies capable of carrying out an in-depth rebranding project, and together they selected Thompson Brand Partners.


The results




The work we did with Design Council was revolutionary for James Heal. The demand for our products and services has gone far beyond any expectations of the project.



Neil Pryke, Innovation Director, James Heal




With Design Council support, and Thompson Brand Partners carrying out the branding project, James Heal's sales increased by an average of 13% year-on-year. International business increased, and in 2012, the company was presented with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and International Trade.


The export market now accounts for 95% of its turnover, with some markets growing particularly quickly, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. James Heal is currently growing its external sales team to cope with demand and new projects.


Neil Pryke, Innovation Director at James Heal, said: “The work we did with Design Council was revolutionary for James Heal. The demand for our products and services has gone far beyond any expectations of the project. We now have a strong brand and a much more consistent, high quality offering to our customers. The design insights on areas such as ‘user centred design’ has greatly improved the appeal of our products. What’s more is that we learned a lot through the process and we continue to improve through our own dedicated employees and with external specialist support.”

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