Aynsley China Research and Impact via Flux Stoke on Trent
Submitting InstitutionStaffordshire University
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Built Environment and Design: Design Practice and Management
Summary of the impact
In late 2010 Professor Sanderson decided to form the Flux ceramics
spin-out company at Staffordshire University in order to exploit a
significant market gap he had discovered via his KTP research project for
Aynsley China Ltd., Stoke-on-Trent. Flux has been able to exploit the
market gap discovered in a way that Aynsley China was unwilling to pursue.
Flux has produced cutting edge ceramic tableware design that has been
successful in terms of both sales and recognition as a valuable
contribution to contemporary tableware design. Flux won the Home and
Gardens Design Award in 2012.
Professor Sanderson has a great deal of expertise in ceramic design. He
was short listed and highly commended for the Prince Philip Designer of
the Year award in 1992 and was commissioned by the British Ceramic
Confederation to design the Queen's gift to commemorate her Golden Jubilee
in 2002 on behalf of the British ceramic industry.
Sanderson's role within the 2006 Aynsley China KTP was officially `Lead
Academic Supervisor' but he functioned as a principal researcher with two
MA Ceramic Design graduates as research assistants. Within the project
proposal he set out to carry out research in order to provide a design
strategy for the company. Research was carried out over 24 weeks.
The first task was to conduct a feasibility study, identifying strengths
and weaknesses within existing design procedures at Aynsley. One objective
was to obtain a detailed overview as to how the company valued design. A
second objective was to engage in market research examining competing
brands. Questions were posed: Did the brand identity of the company truly
reflect Aynsley's position within the marketplace? Were their existing
product ranges perceived as being in unison with what the company stood
for? These questions led to a thorough and extensive design audit. The
result of the audit was that Aynsley China lacked sufficient appreciation
of the value of design within the company and that a more design-led
culture needed to be encouraged and facilitated.
To engender an appreciation of the value of design and to research market
trends Sanderson organised visits to international design trade fairs with
the Aynsley associates. He focused on key global brands to be studied as
direct or potential new competitors of Aynsley. Maison & Objet, Paris
and Ambiente, Frankfurt, are the leading global trade fairs for this
industry and were pivotal in this market research. Such visits made
Aynsley design staff aware of cutting edge products produced by their
competitors and the dated character of their current product lines.
Prof. Sanderson's research pointed to a significant gap in the market
that was not being addressed by Staffordshire brands/factories. The
proposal to Aynsley was a design strategy that would exploit the
`traditional' qualities and values of the fine bone china produced in
Stoke-on-Trent while at the same time taking on board contemporary trends
in tableware design. However, there was resistance within Aynsley to
embrace a contemporary design approach on the basis that traditional
design played an integral role in the Aynsley brand. As such Aynsley
adopted a half-way approach updating their design but not to the extent
that Professor Sanderson's research recommended.
Another aspect of Sanderson's research not exploited by Aynsley concerns
the capabilities of CAD (computer aided design) technology for ceramic
design rapid prototyping. Sanderson found that CAD and 3D software enable
visualisations of designs that accelerated local, national and
international market research evaluation of designs prior to production.
Informed by his research and disappointed with Aynsley's response
Sanderson decided that there was an opportunity within Stoke-on-Trent to
venture into cutting edge tableware design. It took Sanderson four years
of development to set up `Flux' an in-house spin-out company within
Staffordshire University utilising all the findings of his research for
Aynsley China that Aynsley felt unable to adopt.
References to the research
Sanderson, David, `Aynsley China KTP' chapter in Vision and Values in
Design Management, ed. David Hands, Worthing: AVA Publishing, 2009,
The KTP between Staffordshire University and Aynsley China Limited won
the Achievement in Innovation Award at the West Midlands Lord Stafford
Awards held on 13 November 2008 at Worcester Cathedral. The KTP team
consisting of Mr Paul Hulme, Head of Design, Aynsley China Limited,
Professor David Sanderson, Academic Supervisor, Staffordshire University
and Clair Renn and Adele Barnes, KTP Associates. ktponline.org.uk, `Lord
Stafford Awards', KTP E-Transfer, Issue 14, December 2008. Online
resource accessed March 2012:
The KTP Grading Panel awarded the highest grade of `Outstanding' to the
KTP for achievement in meeting KTP objectives.
Details of the impact
The cutting edge approach to design and design methodology that was not
fully adopted by Aynsley became fully realised in Flux with resultant
impact on the non-academic users of the vanguard bone china tableware
designs produced by Flux.
The Flux Company Stoke-on-Trent Limited (http://fluxstokeontrent.com/)
was set up using money from the Higher Education Innovation Fund. In 2010
Sanderson set up a small batch production/research unit in the
university's business village. Partnerships were set up with the Co-
Creating Value Collective in Brussels and Duchess China Ltd,
Stoke-on-Trent, who manufacture Flux's designs. When the first tableware
products were produced Sanderson launched Flux at the prestigious Maison
& Objet trade fair, Paris, in January 2011 and secured £40,000 worth
of orders (see: http://staffslive.co.uk/2011/10/21/new-stoke-on-trent-ceramics-firm-flux-launches-at-spode/).
On 26 March 2012 Flux Stoke-on-Trent won the `Ceramics and glassware
designer' category at the Home and Gardens Designer award. In addition, it
caught the attention of numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian
and Monocle. Veranda and Elle Decoration have
featured Flux tableware and Flux was nominated for a tableware award in Elle
Decoration in 2011 (http://staffslive.co.uk/2011/10/20/success-for-staffordshire-university-ceramic-design-firm/).
date over £100,000 of orders have been received for the cutting edge
designs produced by Flux.
Flux is sold via a broad spectrum of channels from online to the
prestigious BHV department store, 52 Rue de Rivoli Paris; Mint, an
interior design store in central London (2 North Terrace London SW3 2BA).
Flux also has also developed outlets in Switzerland and Russia (see:
Flux has been showcased in the British Embassy in Bern in 2013, and
ceramics trade fairs such as Tent, London (http://www.tentlondon.co.uk/node/1268);
Maison & Objet, Paris; NY Now, New York.
Flux has also facilitated valuable opportunities for Staffordshire
University MA Ceramic Design students. After working for Flux
Brazilian-born Neusa Basso, was approached by the Portuguese company Vista
Alegre to head a project for their company (see:
Another MA Ceramic Design student Sarah Callard came to the attention of
two well-known French companies via Flux who offered her positions as a
Sources to corroborate the impact
BBC (online), Flux fires up Staffordshire University ceramic students
13:29 GMT, Friday, 18 February 2011: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/stoke/hi/people_and_places/arts_and_culture/newsid_9401000/940185
Midlands Business News (online), Ceramics company inFLUXed with orders,
17 February 2011: http://www.midlandsbusinessnews.co.uk/2011/02/Ceramics-company-inFLUXed-with-orders/
Homes & Gardens (online) Designer award winners 2012 http://www.housetohome.co.uk/product-
PraxisUnico's Impact Awards (online) Announcing the finalists http://www.praxisunico.org.uk/news/detail.asp?ItemID=1412
The Style Examiner, `Flux Ceramics: Revitalising British Pottery
Traditions', Tuesday, 11 September 2012: http://www.thestyleexaminer.com/2012/09/flux-ceramics-revitalising-british.html#.UaThDyvTX6A
Rebecca Smithers, Graduates bring life back to the Potteries, The
Guardian, Friday 18 November 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/nov/18/graduates-bring-life-back-to-potteries
Luke Powell, Success for Staffordshire University ceramic design firm,
October 20, 2011: http://staffslive.co.uk/2011/10/20/success-for-staffordshire-university-ceramic-design-firm/
Katy Cowan, Ceramics company in`FLUX'ed with orders, 11th February 2011 http://creativeboom.co.uk/ceramics-company-influxed-with-orders/