The Birth of Belong – How Different Departments Collaborated Over a Pandemic Induced Design Brief

At the start of 2020 before the pandemic took hold, heritage office furniture designer and manufacturer, Bisley, were producing over 15,000 items a week at their Newport factory and exporting to over 50 countries. Their 2020 workflow and projects were planned and underway. But we all know what happened next.

[Find Bisley on BCFA Product Finder]

The pandemic meant that the Bisley factory closed for the first time in living memory. And for a company whose raison d’être is to design and manufacture office furniture solutions, when every office in the country had closed indefinitely, the future suddenly looked rather uncertain.

However, what was immediately obvious was that Bisley was going to need to pivot and innovate, and fast.

And so new Bisley CEO Richard Costin asked four of Bisley’s in-house designers to propose ideas for products that would work well in a flexible home office scenario.

Financially Costin knew that this was the right approach as while the corporate order books had paused, Bisley were witnessing a 300% spike in e-commerce sales as office workers looked to quickly set up home offices.

Costin also advised that the firm needed to be able to work independently of outside influence and limit all design and manufacturing capabilities within their own supply chains and sphere of expertise. He also needed the collection to be conceived and rolling off the production lines within six months.

This was unusual, as not only could the conception of a new collection often take years, but ordinarily Bisley would often consult and collaborate with external companies and organisations. However, as the world had stopped functioning in its normal fashion, and no one knew when things would revert to ‘normal’, then in-house collaboration across Bisley’s numerous departments would be the key to delivering a fully released collection at speed.

Despite the task at hand, the team were confident that Bisley’s decades of design expertise in developing office furniture solutions meant that they could channel all of that history, knowledge and expertise into developing a new collection that would help them endure the Covid storm.

And in September 2020 Belong was born; a flexible furniture collection entirely motivated by the evolving requirements of the 2020 workplace.

Chris Fowler, Head of International Projects at Bisley, said of the new collection: “From initial sketches and renders, our team worked closely with the factory floor to develop prototypes, which were then developed and perfected over the course of summer 2020. The role of our wood processing plant was an additional strength to our bow.

“With Belong, we weren’t tied to any particular material – referring back to the brief from our Board, we could use our imagination and select the most suitable mix of materials for each element of the range. Being self-sufficient was a real advantage, compressing both development and supply chain timelines.”

Highlights of the Belong collection include the Hideaway wall desk, a space-saving, wall mounted desk that folds down to provide a practical worksurface, as well as somewhere to store desk accessories; and the Outline range – a sleek, steel-framed collection of desking and storage that has a strong, minimalist style.

And in a nod to the heritage of the award-winning Bisley MultiDrawer, the new Belong collection features the MultiRange, a number of pieces that put the MultiDrawer at the centre of the design – including the MultiDesk – a customisable desk stacked neatly on top of a MultiDrawer that’s intended for compact spaces.

The creation of the Belong collection happened in just three short months, and true to the brief from Bisley’s CEO, it was also the first time in a long time that the full process, from inception through to launch, was conducted collaboratively by Bisley’s in-house design and production team, with no external influences.

Contact Bisley on BCFA Product Finder

The BCFA Product Finder is a unique search engine created especially for interior designers to source contract furnishing companies. Utilising this platform will support your findings for upcoming projects, with over 200 members profiles showcasing the latest product launches, new materials available, industry news, and design trends.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
View all posts by Phoebe Train →