Delivering British creative design services in overseas markets

british design

British design is famed around the world. Our quirkiness, quality and originality appeals to a range of consumers who desire unique and interesting concepts – from fashion, architecture, cars, furniture to interiors.

Without a doubt, the design sector is one of the UK’s success stories and is a key area for economic growth. We have the largest design industry in Europe and rank fourth in the world for design exports.

While there is a world of opportunity for British design companies, taking UK designs internationally is not as simple as exporting your physical services – in fact it is a philosophy of working that is delivered and adapted locally to ensure it targets the relevant market. Every country has its own quirks, therefore having on the ground local experience and expertise is essential to understand the country and consumer needs – as is conducting thorough research and getting clued up on the full process from initial idea to implementation. Once you have this knowledge, you can begin creating a design solution that appeals to the target market.

To help your business go global, we have provided our guidance on taking British design to three core markets.

Sailing across the pond

The United States is perhaps one of the hardest countries to crack. Despite strict regulations, there are a vast array of opportunities for the UK design sector and can be a fruitful market for businesses. Similar to the UK, US consumers have a growing appetite for experiences – therefore design concepts that incorporate entertainment and offer something different can go a long way to attract customers and appeal to multiple demographics.

Unlike some countries, businesses should not solely focus on their British credentials. Instead designs need to be confident and efficient, while slotting effortlessly into consumer culture and drawing out their inner child. In addition, creative design solutions should not compromise on their approach to create otherworldly experiences.

One mistake British businesses often make, is seeing the country as one market. The United States is made up of over 50 states and four time zones, therefore its recommended to start small, focusing on one demographic or State, building up your expertise and knowledge. Once you have established a foothold in the market, then you can look to grow.

Having a good partner when expanding in the US can be a much-needed lifeline. Develop partnerships with companies already established in the country and speak “American” – therefore, have a firm understanding of the market and what is needed in order to succeed. For example, if you’re a British restaurant looking to open a chain in the US, partner with a business that’s already working with the hospitality sector and has the knowledge and know-how of opening new sites.

Cracking Europe

While uncertainty surrounding the vote to leave the EU hangs in the air, the market continues to remain substantial and offers a wealth of opportunities. In fact, nearly 60 per cent of creative service exports are to Europe, including EU and non-EU countries.

While there are similarities between European and UK design, including stylish and bespoke concepts that ooze character, there are key differences. Individuality and craftsmanship are essential traits of European design – therefore, offering variations on designs can go a long way, as does quality and personalisation. National identity is another key concept across Europe – each city and country has its own personality and this should be reflected in design concepts.

Often Europe is seen as a valuable testbed for businesses looking to take their design concepts international, due to its proximity to the UK, similar time zone and relative ease of access. However, mistakes businesses can make is assuming cultures and traditions are similar if not the same as the UK. Therefore, getting clued up on business etiquette in each country is important, for example, learning key phrases in your target market’s language can help bridge relationships and emphasises your commitment.

Establishing a gateway to the East

The Middle East is expanding and has a growing appetite for quality design, particularly British design concepts and style. The area is well known for being extravagant and has its own opulent style – therefore unique design and creativity is essential to tap into the Middle East’s insatiable appetite for luxury. While businesses should respond to consumer needs in the region, they should ensure it has a British twist providing something different that cannot easily be replicated.

The Middle East can offer your business riches if you go about it in the right way. Each country has its own challenges and opportunities. Culture, traditions, and languages vary from country to country, as do business operations, therefore conducting thorough research is crucial before looking to this market as well as building strong relationships with influencers.

Establishing and maintaining relationships is another important aspect of doing business in the Middle East. Face-to-face meetings are preferred to virtual contact, for example phone calls and email, which are seen as impersonal. Putting in the effort to create relationships can be extremely fruitful, if you successfully conduct business in one country it could open doors to others.

Taking your business global

British design is world-renowned and companies should take advantage of this strong reputation to find new markets and customers. If conducted in the right way, taking your design concepts global can open new doors from providing your business with fresh ideas, allowing you to constantly innovate and remain creative, to sharing knowledge and making new contacts. It’s always worth to take your business global, and regardless of current political and economic conditions, numerous opportunities still remain and it’s up to you to grab these with both hands.

Philip Harrison, President and Managing Director of Harrison