Case study – Boots mirrors

Lyons Associates, formerly Lyons Ames, has been capitalising on the growth in the cosmetics and toiletries sector, providing structural packaging and product design for projects ranging from Boots’ new brand Kyusu to the new-born Virgin Vie.

According to Lyons Associates director Kerrin Lyons, product designers are in a prime position to meet the rise in demand for structural packaging skills: ‘The best people in this area are product designers because of the understanding they have of techniques such as injection-moulding. You’ve got to have a design you know will be manufacturable,’ he claims.

Following the success of Kyusu, Lyons Associates was commissioned by cosmetics and toiletries accessories supplier Leon Schaller & Sons to create concepts for a new range of mirrors sold through Boots. The initiation process of using an external consultancy proved a useful exercise, reveals Schaller business development manager Ray Dalton, though he now feels the supplier would gain more commercial benefit from having an in-house product designer.

Lyons created initial concepts for four different mirrors, ranging from luxury to a compact. The range had not been updated for several years, says Lyons, and needed ‘re-styling’. The consultancy incorporated ‘vacuum metalisation’ – a layer of metal – on to the injection-moulded plastic products to give a ‘high quality’ feel and added features such as Braille details to make them easier to use.

Although the consultancy would have liked to have carried the project through to model stage, due to time and cost constraints Schaller used skills in the Far East for model- and tool-making and manufacturing. Dalton claims UK designers would charge him ‘four times as much to make the model’, whereas he argues in the Far East it is quicker and cheaper. ‘You can cut out the technical drawing side of things,’ he suggests, claiming model-makers there would be happy to work from sketches literally drawn on the back of cigarette packets. ‘UK designers might say that’s Mickey Mouse but it works. Producing over here is a nightmare, it takes so long and the tooling costs are so high.’

Lyons is encouraged that UK clients are starting to recognise the importance of design, but acknowledges in many cases they are reluctant to pay for it. ‘Everything has to happen on a sixpenny budget in the end.’

Dalton says he was happy with Lyons Associates’ designs, but admits ‘rather than invest outside, we need someone in-house with a design background who will take a more responsible role over things like fabrics, textures and shapes.’

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