One of the country's best-known and longest-established design consultancies, Renfrew Group International, has been converting ideas into useful and desirable products for over 20 years. The award-winning business, headed by Bruce Renfrew, continues to offer clients inventiveness and cross-disciplinary thinking.
"Like most of our contemporaries we major on user-centric innovation, but we also remain focussed on novel engineering. Clients appreciate the assurance that their product will fly, and the new intellectual property is always sought after ," says Renfrew. When we talk about taking concepts from the lab to the market it's because we become involved with new tech products at a very early stage, often carrying out the experimental work in our own labs and studios. And of course we have the tremendous benefit of having our own manufacturing facilities on site, which allows our clients to see samples and prototypes created under the guidance of our design team.
2011 was another positive year for Renfrew Group International with the consultancy increasing its activity in security and safety products, machine tools, medical infection control equipment, and high-technology personal products. The automotive sector continues to be a key area of operation, challenging the design team in terms of speed of development and the uptake of novel technologies and materials. Furthermore, designers also resumed work on a number of projects in the motorcycle arena following a break in this sector in 2010.
In October 2011, following a collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant services, the Consultancy unveiled its design for a new chair to enhance the blood donation experience and improve the whole process for support staff. The design of the Donation Chair was to be suitable for use with whole blood or component donation in a variety of environments, including mobile sessions. The chair is far more comfortable and easier to transport, it's easier to clean too.
In contrasting projects, the consultancy was asked to create 100 soft but durable polyurethane footballs to house GPS tracking devices as part of Cadbury's "Spots and Stripes Catch" publicity campaign ahead of the London Olympics. They helped Steritrox with the design of their innovative Meditrox water vapour and ionised oxygen generator for removing airborne and surface borne infection from the hospital environment. The patented process leaves a whole room safely decontaminated within less than one hour. The Group were also nominated for a Plastic Industry Award for their Duo Bird Feeder, a novel feeder that is specifically configured to allow for easy dismantling and cleaning prior to reuse.
Renfrew reports that whilst the demand for design support services has remained buoyant through the recent period of economic uncertainty, timescales and dwell times between development stages have changed. "Clients have been working through the process one step at a time feeling their way forward through market reaction and business sentiment," he says.
"There have been subtle changes in client expectations but nothing really dramatic," he continues. "Everyone has been treading extremely carefully, with measured steps and a far greater focus on their competitors' activities. Our commissions have seen more emphasis on the examination of IP than in recent times."
Looking towards the year ahead, Renfrew hopes that the consultancy will continue to expand its engineering provision and will build further links with China in order to secure more contracts with South East Asian brands.
"2012 will see us continue to address our responsibilities in terms of longevity, material selection and the end-of-life deconstruction of products. Designing products with multiple uses and more metal content will continue a trend that started a few years ago. Most importantly, we must consider designing products for manufacture in a higher wage economy."