Founded in 1980 by John Brown while the Australian industrial design sector was in its infancy, Design Resource is one of the largest multidisciplinary consultancies in the country.
Brown, a New Zealander, has had thirty-eight years of experience in industrial design. After studying in London, he worked and taught in Europe, Asia and Australia.
He has drawn on this global experience to create Design Resource’s philosophy of calling upon overseas research and design inputs to provide clients with a distinct advantage in the global marketplace.
Design Resource now works for clients in the USA, China, United Kingdom, Europe, Korea, New Zealand and Hong Kong. The company, best known for its product development services, industrial design and transportation design; also operates in graphics and signage, retail, defence, transport, ergonomics and medical product design.
This global approach has created a number of clear global market leaders, including high-quality cookware company Scanpan, known for its stylish and functional products. Although engineered in Denmark, many Scanpan designs originate from Design Resource’s Sydney offices. Scanpan’s innovative and user-friendly designs are exported to more than thirty countries.
The Eveready Dolphin torch, an Australian icon and the best-selling torch in the country, is another success story.
For almost twenty years, Design Resource has been behind Energizer’s torch designs, sold throughout the world. Designs like the 2-in-1 camping lights and Double Barrel, Weather Ready and Lithium ranges have won design awards and achieved sales in the millions in the USA, Europe, Asia and South America.
Design Resource is part of the Energizer Global Lighting Group, who meets four times a year in the US, China or Europe.
“This is an example of Aussie design operating on a truly global scale,” says Brown. “We get briefs for new products that will be sold in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Australasia and the US – all very different markets with distinctive selling characteristics and cultural influences”
An exciting aspect of working for Energizer is the partnership with a second design house in New York. Both teams exchange data, and collaborate on some international projects.
“The opportunity to work alongside Chase Design in New York has been a very enriching experience,” says Brown. “The most outstanding aspect of this collaboration is the contrast between our distinctly European approach to design which contrasts with their very US style.”
“We know their designers well and the companies have become close, from time to time swapping designers or tasks on the same programme to add strength.”
After working with Eveready and Energizer for twenty years, Design Resource is a fully integrated and trained creative partner, expected to contribute not only on a design service level but also at a strategic, research and process evolution level.
A further example of Design Resource’s international reach is their design of banking transaction terminals for VeriFone, which saw that company grow to number one in the world market and increased its USA market share by twenty-five per cent.
VeriFone, which generated US$910 million of revenue in 2007 and has 2000 employees worldwide, has retained Design Resource for nine years. It’s a partnership that has delivered VeriFone the lead in a highly competitive market.
“When we met VeriFone they made simple black boxes,” says Brown. “Their approach to design was engineer and procurement driven. We were able to educate them in the value of strategic design.”
“In a presentation to the board in Palo Alto back in 1999, I introduced the concept of product image (PI) and explained the need for a common visual language where a number of products all share the same brand. This concept was a huge success.
“Our first design, the Omni 3200, was the biggest selling product in the company’s history – something we have managed to repeat a number of times since.
“We have since moved on to the Silver Edge theme and are now working on a totally new family. We are constantly copied by competitors, even by local designers here in Australia. One competitor sacked their designers and hired Phillipe Stark in an effort to compete with us.
“It’s exciting – a small creative team from Sydney, Australia, working in Silicon Valley with global high-tech leaders. I cannot stress enough the value of design research and VOC (voice of the consumer) research.
“Our designers are always deeply involved in this work and attend consumer and customer interviews all over the world. It means a lot of international travel and hours in the market place, but it gets us to places where our creative problem-solving wins big.”
Another global project of note is the advanced Millennium Train, styled by Design Resource’s largest specialist division, Transport Design International (TDI). It is recognised internationally as the world’s best double-deck metro train.
“Very few companies can boast our level of expertise in interior design and styling for passenger rolling stock,” says Brown.
As a result, Design Resource has recently won two major projects with South Korean firm Rotem, the largest single-deck train manufacturer in the world, and is working with Downer EDI Rail on the design of Sydney’s PPP Rolling Stock Project, Australia’s largest ever rolling-stock procurement program.
“A unique aspect of international transportation work is that the designs require a sense of empathy with the culture and people they will transport, although the transport operators in developing countries often ask for the global benchmark,” says Brown.
“Adding uniqueness by design is the hallmark of Design Resource’s process. In terms of empowering regional operators, VOC understanding is vital. Australians don’t actually want to ride a German, French or Japanese train.”
Design Resource’s work for Wellington’s rail system (GWRL) in New Zealand involved a study of Maori visual arts, and the design team is currently looking at Islamic visual arts for a major railway project in Turkey.
“In a recent marine project for a ferry fleet in Shanghai, we incorporated styling links from the Shanghai tower, a much-loved city icon described by the Chinese as the ‘pearl’,” Brown adds.
Brown concludes that working on a global scale helps add value to smaller projects and clients in Australia.
“Australian companies are recognising that clever design can mean a huge increase in sales and the bottom line,” says Brown. “With this understanding, design is moving to the forefront of business practices – where it rightly belongs.”
“Researching, ranking and analysing competitive products and strategies is second nature to Design Resource designers and a key differentiator in our process.
“Our objective is to provide clients with the highest value design package with respect to distinction, innovation, international competitiveness, profitability and increased market-share potential.
“Every person in our team is really passionate about design and getting the design right for our clients. We all put a lot of value into in-depth research, innovation and attention to aesthetics and style.”