The London Evening Standard's got a great profile piece up on black+blum, featuring our favorite element of any successful design firm's history: The origin story and navigation of their early years, when promising designers either drive off of cliffs or learn to skillfully navigate the precipices.
The design duo of Dan Black and Martin Blum first met while studying industrial design at UK's Northumbria University—which, having produced both these guys and Jonathan Ive, probably scrambles to be sure all their names are wedged into the brochures—then started their own consultancy after discovering their good design chemistry. The next step, a tricky one to navigate, was getting into production themselves:
"Lots of the ideas we came up with wouldn't work for the clients, but we particularly liked our idea of lighting held up by little people—this was before Alessi started doing its famous injection-moulded people—so we decided to design, make and market the lights ourselves."
Three lights launched at a design fair in Earls Court in 2000 sold out rapidly. "From there, it was a steep learning curve," says Black. "We had no experience of supplying retailers, and didn't know anything about mark-ups or making a price list. So we had to go around trade fairs looking at what others did."
There's much more to the story: Applying for government funds to travel to international trade shows, landing Target, saying no to other big-name retailers in the name of brand integrity, and why they only do four products a year. Dive into their story here.