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We needed to articulate what was different about our technology. It wasn't that we didn't know, but we didn't know how to say it easily.Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, Founder, Sugru
Sugru is a worldwide phenomenon. Featured ahead of the iPad in Time Magazines' 50 best inventions of 2010, this mouldable silicone rubber has taken the DIY world by storm. It's no surprise that its inventor, Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh was named London Design Festival's entrepreneur of the year, or that Sugru has now sold in 159 countries. However, back in 2004 when Jane approached us, Sugru was an unknown product without any commercial interest. Like every success story, expert business advice was paramount.
Here's a short film from just after Sugru's launch in 2004:
Jane's aim with Sugru was clear - to enable customers to repair and recycle products using her new innovative material. However, like many technology start-ups, she was unsure how best to articulate the company's vision with clarity and impact. Jane said: "When we heard about the Design Council's programme the timing was perfect. We were just about to launch Sugru and needed help refining our business plan."
What we did
We paired Jane up with one of our Design Associates (DAs) who could offer expert advice on innovation. The DA immediately set about helping the team identify and articulate what made their technology so unique within the materials landscape. "This might sound simple but our materials are complex and we had to communicate that clearly if we were to understand the opportunities," explained Jane. The DA then led the team through a practical process to help them use design to boost performance, open new markets, cut costs and reduce risk. There were three clear objectives to meet:
- Clarify and articulate what the company does and stands for
- Refine the business model accordingly
- Apply design thinking beyond brand communication to maximise Sugru's chance of success on a limited marketing budget
The creative and analytic sessions the Design Council ran with us were instrumental to many of our key decisions throughout a crucial period for the company.Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, Founder, Sugru
We then worked with Jane to develop a brief for web, brand and customer agency, Atto Partners. Working with Atto they were able to breathe life into the Sugru brand - from materials, to messaging, web creation and packaging. "The insight from Design Council enabled us to identify people who could help us define and execute our ambitions moving forward."
The support we received from the Design Council gave us the confidence to apply the same thinking we use in product design to designing the businessJane ni Dhulchaointigh, Founder, Sugru
Working with external design expertise helped Jane and her team build a clear and ambitious business strategy. They had an incredibly successful launch and within 18 months had made more than £1m in turnover. They secured additional funding of £350k which enabled them to establish their own manufacturing facility and grow their team from two to 18.
Now in 2015, Sugru has sold over 2.5m packs, the FormFormForm team is 35-strong and has doubled its sales year on year since 2012.
The branding and online presence of Sugru was so successful that, with its slogan 'hack things better', they won the support of the online hacking community and saw their online customer base soar to over 100,000. Two thirds of Sugru's sales come from their own website. To this day, the active and passionate online community behind Sugru is a hugely significant and successful part of their inspiring brand story. Just have a look at their brilliant website to see what we mean.
With the Design Council's support we developed a concept, tested it with end users, refined it and stayed flexible enough to keep modifying it as the market develops.Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, Founder, Sugru
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