WORK / Article / Consumer / Healthcare / Professional How simple ideas can have the biggest impact

Share this

Brian Stephens

Chairman & Founder

Brian Stephens is chairman and founder of Design Partners. He graduated in Industrial Design from Birmingham City University in 1978. He is Member Institute of Designers in Ireland, and recieved the Lifetime Achievement Award from IDI in 2012.


By Brian Stephens, CEO, Design Partners

When you tell people you run a design company you are regularly asked if there’s a product that you are particularly proud of. My answer often surprises them because it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that give me the greatest satisfaction.

I have always liked the robust little plastic clip we designed some time ago for Addgards, the safety barrier company. It clips plastic protective barriers together and is the key component in a system that greatly improves pedestrian safety.

Not ergonomically striking like a well-designed gadget, or technically accomplished like an effective man-machine interface, but perfect in its simplicity and functionality. So much so that this humble clip has been copied by manufacturers of protection barriers all around the world. It’s very flattering for Design Partners and tells us we came up with exactly the right solution for the job.



Solving a problem

Plastic protective barriers didn’t really work until we came up with our design. They fell over and were difficult to link together. With the clip you can turn individual barriers into a proper safety system, enabling single workers on site to quickly cordon off hazard zones.

I fondly remember the people who designed it and enjoyed the evolution of the idea from concept through to production. We ended up with an obvious but essential piece of design that will go on generating revenue and solving a real problem for many years to come.

But what I really love about the clip is what I love about design. Because design is so common and touches every aspect of our lives, it is easy to take for granted the everyday products that surround us, the unnoticed designs that quietly do their job without fuss or being showy; vital tools that can significantly impact on moments in our lives.

Opportunities to shine

I have always loved these simple products and I am always curious about the anonymous people behind them, their thought process and how they solved a previously unnoticed problem. It was looking at the little details in buildings that got me interested in design in the first place.

Once you see or experience this kind of design, you use it and you forget about it – and that is how it should be. No fanfares or hype, just a solid, well-designed product doing what it’s supposed to do.

This thinking has been instrumental in the culture I’ve tried to cultivate in the Design Partners studio. Over the years, we have encouraged up-and-coming design talent to keep a lookout for these small but surprisingly interesting opportunities, because it can be the little ideas that have the biggest impact.

See the clip in action

Learn more about big impact products from Design Partners

Related content