Realise Design is a product design company with creativity at its heart. Based in Temple Studios, Realise has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. We caught up with MD Andrew Redman to talk about where the company came from, where it’s going and what makes it so unique.
Business age: 10 years.
Number of employees: We have eight in our team at the moment, soon to be nine. We also work with a range of trusted associates and specialists that lend additional expertise to specific projects, in areas such as product rendering, structural analysis or electronics.
Length of time in Temple Quarter: We were one of the first tenants to move into Temple Studios when it was refurbished and we’ve been there for about five years now.
What does Realise Design do? Very simply, Realise is a product design agency: we help entrepreneurial people in large or small businesses develop radically improved new products. We work with clients through the whole creative process, from an initial idea through to its manufacture. This means we deliver on the technical side of projects as well as the creative stuff – we like to say that our work is a fusion of art and engineering.
What we’re trying to do is create things that are both effective and emotionally engaging for real users. One of my favourite historical examples is the Spitfire. It was an aerodynamic masterpiece, so effective at is job that it became a cultural symbol of its time, and that 80 years on is still aesthetically beautiful and apparently a joy to fly. That’s the kind of ‘good design’ that we aspire to!
Can you share any quirky or interesting facts about the business? Well, the business was started on 1 April 2008 – so we joke that it’s one of the world’s longest-running April Fools! Although it wasn’t so funny starting a business two months before the Great Recession happened. That was a bit hairy for a while, but I always believed in our potential and we’ve come a long way since then!
Tell us about some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on. We’ve just had our tenth anniversary, and I have two main examples: one from when we were just starting out and one from very recently.
Our first project was Vortex: a huge telescopic carbon fibre camera mast operated remotely from the ground up to the sky. It was extremely technically challenging and really set the tone for some of Realise’s later work. It’s been a huge thrill to watch some of the live broadcasts filmed from Vortex, such as F1 races and the main balcony shots from the Royal Wedding.
At the moment, we’re backing the company launching Hedkayse, a completely new kind of tough, folding cycle helmet made with a new flexible, multi-impact material called ‘Enkayse’ that we’ve helped develop. It’s a great example of a project that started with a simple idea – make a folding helmet – that has morphed into a huge challenge and a product with the potential to be very disruptive!
Probably one of the most unusual briefs we’ve had was for a “bee hotel”, in which bees would be trained to detect Semtex. You can find out more about this one on our website.
How do your projects come about? Usually a company will come to us with a need or idea. Sometimes this is already quite fixed, say where they want to improve an existing design. Sometimes it’s much more open, if perhaps they’ve identified a market need or increasing competition. We usually start by challenging and breaking down ‘the problem’, ideally having the chance to observe people in the real world to test our assumptions and uncover any unmet needs.
Once we’ve fully defined the problem, then we can go crazy creating ideas, seeing how these might fit into users’ lives, imagining all the ways this product could be in the future. This structure allows us to think much more freely and broadly to push for stronger, future-proofed ideas.
What makes working at Realise Design different from other jobs? There are two main things that make working here different. One is the incredible variety – I’ve not had the same day twice in 10 years. The other is our brilliant team. Whether through intention or luck, Realise is a really lovely group of people that I want to expand over the coming years. I think Product Designers are really interesting, excellent people, but we seem to have some particularly good ones!
To celebrate their hard work and the company’s tenth anniversary, I recently shut the office and took everyone on a ski trip – a proper road trip with lots of music and fun times. As we spend so much time together at work and have a good time doing what we do, the anniversary was a great opportunity to have some fun together outside of the office, thank the team for everything they’ve put into it and celebrate our achievements.
How did you get into product design? I come from an artistic family and Dad was marine engineer, so I was exposed to both creative and technical thinking from a young age, drawing with my sisters and taking engines apart with Dad! We also lived by the coast and I did lots of sailing, which got me interested in physics and how to make things go faster. I ended up doing a degree in Naval Architecture, but it was way too heavy on the maths and light on creativity for my liking.
Having loved design technology at school, I realised that design – using creativity as a tool to solve problems – was really my passion, more than boats. So I retrained by taking a masters in Product Design. Then I started freelancing, and once I felt I’d learnt my craft in design, I set up Realise. To me, the name is very apt – we take potential opportunities, ideas and make them real, we help people get to finish line with a properly developed product.
What do you like about working in Temple Quarter? We love our studio. It’s a great example of a mixed use industrial creative space, something that’s quite lacking in Bristol and the South West. It’s gritty, but creative and fun, and means we can have a more traditional office and a workshop space in one.
The location next to the train station is also excellent, for staff who commute and for clients. People can fall out of train and straight into the office!
What does Realise Design have planned for the future? We have big plans for the future! In the next 5 years we’d like to move to a larger, more dedicated space. We’d like to have somewhere to bring entrepreneurs in start-ups and big business together, running workshops and events to create interesting collaborations to tackle bigger problems. We also want to win a DBA Design Effectiveness award to demonstrate that the design we do has real positive impact, ideally not just commercially for our client – but also more widely for humanity.
Describe the business in 3 words. Creative, technical, human. Boy that’s hard. There’s so many interesting words I can think of!