Speaker: Tara Ashe
Founder & Lead Designer at Block Design
Just like her beautiful and functional lifestyle products, Tara Ashe, Founder of Block Design, focused her presentation on the importance of having a methodical creative innovation process. “When I started thinking about this presentation; creativity and innovation, how we do it and the process – I realised that our process of being creative is ironically quite uncreative” remarked Tara, as she revealed Block Design’s Brand Manual.
In her session, Tara explained how the manual acts as a rule book for all her team. She says that having clear guidelines “gives a level of consistency” and ensures their creative minds are focused in the right direction – on their end user. “We really know our customer… these guidelines keep us on track and keep us consistent” she emphasises.
Interestingly, Tara recalls a time when they didn’t have these rules and design processes in place. She described some of the pitfalls for creatives, where the absence of defined parameters could lead to time being wasted on creative tangents, designers getting distracted and the resulting product lacking brand consistency or just not being right for their target consumer.
“We’ve got systems for how we design. We’ve got processes and roadmaps for how it all works and these really help us to become creative, and allow us to be more creative” she explains.
In taking away some of the basic variables and choices for designers, like having a set colour palate and brand guidelines, allows her team to focus on other more radical elements of design, creativity and innovation.
Whilst takes time to establish a Brand Manual, Tara aptly points out that “the things that are hard are always the most worthwhile” and in the long run she says it creates efficiencies in both time and money. Tara uses product photography as an example of this, emphasizing that the strength of her ‘rule book’ ensures that the photography they end up with is on brand and is in keeping with the other images on their website, social media (such as Instagram) and all areas where they want to be seen. Therefore, Tara believes the initial time invested in establishing and reviewing their Brand Manual on an annual basis, is time well spent as it helps avoid any resources being wasted in the future.
Sadly, Block Design have been adversely affected due to the Pandemic and the successive closures of non-essential retailers, such as design stores and museums that usually stock their products. Whereby 71% of sales are wholesale to bricks and mortar stores, their customers no longer require the same level of supply. On top of this, Brexit has also brought with it a second wave of challenges surrounding the transportation of goods overseas to the EU, which accounts for 17% of Block Designs sales revenue.
“It’s very hard to sit down and design a product when at the start of the pandemic we had no money coming in” says Tara, who highlights how important having a supportive network is for business owners, to help see them through difficult times. However, Tara also recognised that the Pandemic has created opportunities for small businesses and made business owners more resilient and resourceful, forcing them to use their “creative powers” to bounce ideas off one another, to problem solve together and even pool resources – all of which has been essential to survive in an uncertain and changing business landscape.
Tara also acknowledges a shift in consumer shopping habits, noting that “people are really putting their money where their hearts are” and supporting their local independents. Key drivers of this trend are the rise of a conscious consumer, who wants to reduce their environmental impact by shopping locally within their community, but also non-essential travel bans and lockdown rules, which are reducing the radius at which we shop and allowing people to rediscover businesses on their doorstep whilst enjoying their ‘daily exercise’.
If you would like to watch the full event online, the recording can be found on ATI2’s new digital platform: The Innovation Studio. ATI2 clients can request exclusive access logins by registering your interest at www.aticornwallinnovation.co.uk or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.