Previous Heal’s Discovers participants have had to work to a structured theme or brief – for instance, last year’s was all about Sustainability. This year though, we decided not to send out a specified brief; we wanted to organically find a design or product that could be adapted to become a Heal’s product, without constraining the designers’ creativity.
The design did not have to be finalised and it didn’t need to be production-ready. It did, however, need to display a few core principals:
- Innovation – whether in its design or the making process
- An honest material process
- The potential to be developed into a useful and commercial product Heal’s customers would want in their homes.
While visiting the three universities we’d selected to work with, I met as many of the designers as I could to discuss the projects they wanted to present to Heal’s. This gave me a clear idea of their products, vision and the process behind the product (you can read more about these visits in my last blog). Without these conversations we couldn’t truly understand and appreciate the work. The presentations brought the ideas to life.
As we weren’t limiting our shortlist to undergrads – designers who had graduated from our the chosen universities in the past three years were also eligible – several of the designers weren’t available to meet on campus. These graduates had dispersed across the UK to work within creative industries, so they came to visit me on my home turf; the Heal’s Hub at our Tottenham Court Road flagship.
It was fantastic to see such talented, engaging and enthusiastic designers who are all just starting their careers. I was amazed at the breadth and diversity of designs I saw, which only made the next stage (making the final selection of designs) that much harder. Regardless of whether they made the final cut, I’m sure that all of the designers who made it to this stage will continue on to great things.
Back to the decision making… This was no easy task. First things first, tea and biscuits were needed. Lots of them.
The first stage was to make sure that all the boxes were ticked:
- Did the product fit in with the existing Heal’s collections?
- Did it use our skilled manufacture base efficiently?
- Can we get the product made in time for launch, which will be at this year’s London Design Festival?
- Would the buying price be realistic?
- Did the design have the WOW factor that’s the mark of Heal’s Discovers?
I got the list down to my Top 9, and then called in the reinforcements: the product experts on the buying team and the customer-focused viewpoint provided by our PR and Marketing team. Their initial reactions to each design, coupled with their knowledge of our supplier base’s capabilities, were key to the final decision.
After much deliberation we finally selected our final four designs. All that was needed now was the stamp of approval from our Creative Director, Carmel Allen, and Chairman, Will Hobhouse.
From here, it was onto the next exciting stage: working closely with the designers to develop their product to bring it to market.
More of that on my next update…