25 years of Tangerine

Tangerine is celebrating 25 years with a new book spotlighting 25 projects that helped define the product consultancy, which has worked with the likes of Sky, British Airways and Samsung, and kickstarted the careers of Clive Grinyer, Jonathan Ive, Martin Darbyshire, and Peter Phillips.

Here we’ve picked out five landmark projects:

The Flatliner, for Brian Drumm (1990):

Flatliner
Flatliner

One of Tangerine’s first projects saw the consultancy hone the design of shipyard worker turned hairdresser Drumm, who had integrated a spirit level into a comb, to create the perfect flat top cuts.

In his Edinburgh salon, Drumm was cutting hair for the likes of Princess Margaret, Simple Minds, and the Bay City Rollers – not that they all had flat tops.

Drumm says: “I heard that the Scottish Design Council was giving out grants and I thought it was time to recreate the Flat Topper.”

The process led him to a young Ive and Darbyshire, who turned Drumm’s Flat Topper design into the Flatliner.

Computer-aided design was not an affordable option for Tangerine so the design was sculpted from white foam and the designers ensured that no moldings could be seen.

They worked with toolmakers and created something which was ergonomic, balanced and felt good to hold.

A very flat flat top
A very flat flat top

Ideal Standard (1990)

The “Raphael”design by Ive

Although this is a landmark project it is also one that never was. The same year as the Flatliner, bathroom manufacturer Ideal Standard sought out Ive having noticed his Newcastle University degree show work.

The company tasked Tangerine with designing a contemporary bathroom that could offer mass appeal as it looked for something to replace its Michelangelo range.

The Tangerine trio of Ive, Darbyshire and Grinyer had taken on the project and presented three routes to Ideal Standard managing director Roger Cooper, who, as legend has it was wearing a Comic Relief nose at the time. He was later referred to as a “clown” by Grinyer. 

Ive’s route is remembered as particularly innovative in the book – the basin is described as having lines that took inspiration from “the scooping of liquid”; a design that required the bowl to be fired twice.

Ideal Standard product manager Paul Frankish says: “We could see it was refined, had natural flowing lines and was well integrated…We just didn’t think it would manufacture well.”

Needless to say it didn’t go ahead, and the upshot was that Ive left for Apple in the wake of this project that never was.

Original Michelangelo
Original Michelangelo

 British Airways 1998-2014

Club World Seat
Club World Seat

“Project Dusk” as it was known, saw a team of Darbyshire, Matt Round, and Don Tae Lee overhaul BA’s Club World seating, which was replaced by a yin-yang-inspired lie-flat bed.

Crucially, from an economic point of view at least, the new business class seat design meant the same number of seats could be accommodated in the aircraft.

From a customer perspective, it meant that they could lie flat – and actually sleep.

Tangerine had sought advice from a sleep expert in the design stage, who revealed that the average person turns over 30 times a night and that if you can’t turn over in your airline seat, you won’t achieve a deep sleep. 

The consultancy went on to create a second generation of the lie-flat bed before redesigning the First Class seats in 2012.

Generation comparison 2000 and 2006
Generation comparison 2000 and 2006

Wilkinson Sword, (2002) 

CSK 185 (Combination Survival Knife)
CSK 185 (Combination Survival Knife)

Ex-Tangerine creative director Mike Woods led a project to design a new survival knife for Wilkinson Sword, a brand that was steeped in military history.

Inspired by this history, Woods accompanied the Royal Marines and watched how they handled “a small arsenal of survival knives” out on Dartmoor.

Woods says: “I saw them doing things intuitively that they didn’t even realise they were doing.”

Soon the CSK 185 (Combination Survival Knife) was created. The double edge knife and sheath boasted a button compass, snare wire, fishing line with weights, swivels and hooks, a scalpel blade, fire flash, and sewing needles (one for darning, one for sail making). Oh, and it can be used to collect and purify water.

CSK 185 (Combination Survival Knife)
CSK 185 (Combination Survival Knife)

Royal Mint (2013)

Final design
Final design

The Royal Mint was looking for a special edition set of 50-pence piece designs to commemorate the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Tangerine appealed to its international community of designers, and pooled 50 designs, before selecting four to present to the Mint.  The final design was the idea of graduate designer Alex Loudon.

Secretary to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, Dr Kevin Clancy says: “What the committee loved was the tone of what Tangerine did – the spirit, the imagination and the intelligence.”

Second stage of development
Second stage of development

Tangerine: 25 insights into extraordinary innovation and design is published on 6 November by Goodman, priced £30

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