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Rise of the


LA Design Director Les Stokes, links changes in government thinking with examples of new collaborations

This is an interesting and exciting time for industrial design companies as government has finally woken up to the fact that design can maximise the value of science and technology by providing outcomes that people actually want. Innovate UK (previously the Technology Strategy Board) has recently published their new ‘Design in innovation Strategy 2015-2019’ and it contains a number of important statements along with compelling figures showing how design positively influences the bottom line.

The executive summary includes a crucial change of emphasis: “The commercial success of any new product, service or process ultimately depends on human motivations and behaviour. While technology can enable innovation, excellent design is the key ingredient that aligns technology (supply) with customers’ needs and desires (markets).”

Innovate UK also acknowledges that the message can be difficult to convey to some SMEs who are focused on cutting edge core technology development, viewing success in terms of technical problem solving.

Interestingly, at LA Design we have also seen an increasing trend for projects that involve smaller entrepreneurial start-up companies, developing innovative and sometimes revolutionary products and services. Some of these have their roots in universities, others have already had successful careers and are looking for new challenges and investment possibilities. The common denominator is their desire to create products that meet real market needs and an understanding that this requires specialists who appreciate the behavioural aspects of design along with design strategy and the means to create cost effective, easy to manufacture solutions.


Flitchio is the first product from Supenta, a London based start-up specialising in Near Field Communication hardware. The company has already received two rounds of funding from Innovate UK for the work necessary to research, design and develop the product to fully working prototype stage. LA Design was selected to be responsible for all physical design and user experience aspects.

The world’s first fully interactive smart phone case that enables advanced mobile gaming and other interactions through pressure sensitive buttons and joysticks, is achieved without compromising any of the phone’s normal functionality. Flitchio snaps onto the phone like any other case but communicates with the phone and takes power using NFC, removing the need for connectors.

The back of the phone is utilised to provide highly sensitive control in a slim, truly mobile package enabling the whole screen to act purely as a display. Normally, gaming on smartphones results in screen masking, inaccurate touch controls and no tactile response. With Flitchio, pushing harder increases volume, speed, force and so on and direction is controlled by an innovative and unique ultralow profile joystick design developed by LA and intensively tested by gamers.

Excellent design is the key ingredient that aligns technology with customers’ needs and desires


KickTrix is an exciting new soccer training system developed by a start-up company with considerable experience in sports preparation regimes. The idea is to inspire young footballers to develop their skills and fitness indoors with an ‘intelligent’ and ‘connected’ product that supports a flexibly tethered ball and simulates natural movement. A headset retains the ball whilst allowing it to spin and stripes align with your body to develop correct technique. KickTrix has different difficulty levels and also enables friends to simultaneously play competitively whilst recording results. User trials have consistently demonstrated that youngsters become highly motivated and confidently learn correct skills very quickly.

Our role was to design and build initial ‘proof of principle’ rigs to test the concept with users and coaches and then develop the product in conjunction with sports professionals. In addition, we have created the GUI design for the accompanying app and website and also the packaging and supporting literature. In doing so we have created a strong and consistent brand that appeals to the target market. KickTrix is one of a number of sports related products currently in development, all with the



common theme of improving the sporting experience by the use of innovative design and technology.

Entrepreneurs come in many different shapes and sizes and only a small proportion of ‘good ideas’ stand up to real world needs. Some companies are looking to commercialise advanced technologies, others have identified innovative market opportunities for potential products and services. The common requirement is for early stage design, research and validation but in addition, most start-ups require a ‘road map’ for development and implementation.

Most of our entrepreneurial clients have found us through word of mouth or from our website and it’s clear that they value the wide range of interconnected design services on offer. In most situations these are all employed to ensure ultimate success and although the journey may sometimes be challenging, the results clearly demonstrate the importance of these new collaborative relationships to the UK economy.

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