Exporting design, tangerine look beyond the UK – Queen’s Award 2019

Founded in 1989, tangerine recognised how the dramatic socio-economic changes sweeping the planet might present opportunities to look beyond the UK market. Today, it is proud to be recognised with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade, in the same year that it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

From the beginning, tangerine stressed the importance of seeing a product from the consumer’s viewpoint, of understanding the user’s motivations and desires, as well as setting a clear business case. tangerine’s concept computers for Apple in 1990 were the product of extraordinary design ability, high ambition and exceptional imagination. Within a young Sir Jonathan Ive’s ‘Folio’ concept, for example, were the seeds of what would one day be called an iPad.

British Airways Club World seat, 1999

The design of the world’s first fully lie-flat business class bed in 2000 for British Airways propelled the studio into the spotlight.  tangerine’s paradigm-shifting yin-yang seating format revolutionised passenger travel and set a benchmark for premium travel worldwide.

With studios in London and Seoul, and a branch office in Brazil, supported by design talent from every continent, tangerine has built a successful business that helps global companies to create new products, services and customer experiences that drive commercial performance. “It’s all about clarity of vision,” says tangerine Chief Creative Officer, Matt Round. “Our understanding and insight of consumer attitudes in different parts of the world means we can help businesses to move into new markets and expand their consumer offer.”

Innisfree Flagship Store, Seoul, 2015

tangerine’s long association with South Korean giant, LG, started in the late 1980s when LG was looking to move into European markets, targeting western consumers. Today, after designing in excess of 85 projects the relationship has evolved to take advantage of new technologies and market opportunities. Elsewhere, tangerine is designing high-speed trains and autonomous cars for Chinese manufacturers, retail outlets across Asia and aircraft cabin interiors for national carriers. tangerine has also been bringing the world to its door, running a successful programme called ‘design immersion’, where companies such as Nikon and Seiko, send executives to co-locate with tangerine’s design team to explore future possibilities. This global approach has enabled tangerine to work with international companies, such as Cathay Pacific, Johnson & Johnson, Gulf Air, Samsung, Toyota and Huawei across a range of diverse sectors.

Huawei Future tablet, 2009

“tangerine is a major exporter of design, with over 80% of our business consistently coming from outside Europe over the last 30 years,” says founder and CEO, Martin Darbyshire. “We have experienced strong growth over the last three years in Asia and believe we have much to offer other businesses around the world.” Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Investment at the Department for International Trade, says:  “I am delighted that tangerine have received the Queen’s Award for International Trade. Over the last 30 years the company have continually looked beyond the UK market to further their brand and seek global success.

High speed train concept, CRRC

Recent research from the UK’s Design Council, The Design Economy 2018, has shown that the total value of exports which relied on the design industry was £48.4 billion in 2015. It is companies like tangerine who make this achievement possible, by marrying the UK’s world-class talent in design with hard work. “My department is committed to supporting businesses of all sizes to join tangerine in exporting more, breaking into new markets, and generating wealth for our economy.”

*Originally featured in the Queen’s Award magazine 2019

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