IHA speaks with Colin Gilchrist, co-founder of Articulate (Scotland) Ltd, creators of unique picture frames for displaying children’s dimensional art. Articulate Scotland makes its first appearance in Discover Design at the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show in Discover Design in booth N8610.
Colin, tell us about how your company began.
“The Articulate Gallery” is an award-winning range of slot-sided picture frames especially for the display of 2D and 3D children’s artwork. The frame takes the children’s pictures off the fridge door and places them in their rightful place, in a frame, on the wall, in an instant.
The idea for these really simple picture frames came about because of my wife Eona’s frustration with “fridge door” art. Simply sticking the mini-masterpieces created by our then-two-year-old son onto kitchen appliances seemed inappropriate. Instead, this creative mum had the idea for the frame to celebrate children’s creativity in a way that is fun as well as functional.
We established Articulate Scotland to manage the sales, production and distribution of these frames. Our sons—Todd, now 13 and Murray, soon to be 11—are the artists who inspired the founding of our company.
Where is your company based?
We work from Glasgow in Scotland and the internet has allowed this business to thrive. We sell in Europe, Scandinavia, the United States, Singapore and Brazil and we keep growing our lovely global partners. We have taken some time to establish roots in Europe before launching in the U.S., but our growth has been significant. As they say, it takes a long time to become an overnight success!
Was there a pivotal event or product that propelled the early success of your business?
Nine years ago, surviving “The Dragon’s Den” (the UK reality TV show like the U.S. “Shark Tank” for budding businesses) was a pretty big moment. The investors told us we’d be OK and to just go and get on with it. Most entrepreneurs are torn limb from limb if they don’t get an investment, but we had some fun with it. The investors loved the product but at that time we had only sold a few hundred frames so there was nothing to invest in. The local newspaper reported shortly thereafter that “local couple secure record investment on Dragon’s Den”—because it was the smallest ever, just £30.00! You can see a bit of the clip here.
The following year I was on another TV show on BBC2 called “Britain’s Next Big Thing,” so I guess I wasn’t alone in thinking we were on to a potential success.
How did you learn about our Show?
We’ve been exhibiting in the UK since 2010 and launched in the U.S. in 2014. We heard about this Show from our New Jersey warehouse owner/manager, who works with some big wholesalers. He suggested that this Chicago Show would be a good fit for us. We took his advice and this will be our first Show. We are looking forward to it immensely.
Where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
I studied design when I was younger and Alec Issigonis was influential. Form follows function is a favorite of mine – so many designers try to bend the rules to make things look funky but ultimately a thing has a function and it won’t work unless it functions properly. I like less frills too.
Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
Picasso said, “Every child is an artist,” and never were truer words spoken. It took him a lifetime to learn how to draw like a child or so he said. I get that. I also know how important creativity is in early years.
How do you choose which idea to develop?
I have loads of products waiting to be developed but The Articulate Gallery just seemed to be such a no-brainer. Everyone just seemed to love the idea and the design.
As a manufacturer I designed the product with simple production in mind; I even designed the jigs in which the component parts are stuck together. The frames are made by hand for the most part. This is a very low-tech product with a very low-tech function.
How do you identify the key user audience for your products?
Every child is an artist so every parent has the same dilemma of what to do with the children’s art. We seek to solve this problem at the same time as encouraging the children to be creative. Creativity is at the heart of all problem solving so by encouraging it we make smarter kids.
Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?
The Articulate Gallery allows for the display of flat and dimensional artworks (like the ones with cotton or pasta stuck on) so it has no glass and is in one piece so there are no parts to open. The simplicity of it allows children to frame their own art and lets them feel like real artists when they see their pictures framed. This builds their self-confidence and reinforces that creative learning is a vital part of their development.
How do you use social media?
Not enough– we hope to engage with our users more and have them share their favorite pictures online.
How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
Craft and design are exactly what we cherish—without it we’d still be living in caves. Creativity is at the heart of all problem solving and it is essential to our progress as the human race. We also care very much about children accessing and participating in the arts and so Eona has founded the Articulate Cultural Trust, a charity that promotes engagement in creative learning. Preschool and primary school education are key interests for us, and we’re proud to have received numerous awards from organizations of educators and parents.
Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?
Our website features our frame assortments and includes information about our activities and several years of blogs about crafting ideas.
Thank you, Colin, for introducing us to Articulate Scotland and the story of your company’s growth. We look forward to seeing your products that recognize and encourage children’s creativity in Discover Design N8610. Welcome to Chicago!
Discover Design is the premier destination at the International Home + Housewares Show for trend spotters who make design their priority. Retailers looking for the unique will find nearly 200 design leaders at Discover Design located at the front of the North Hall.
Anchored by renowned brands such as Alessi, Cookut, Joseph Joseph and Koziol, Discover Design welcomes new exhibitors, such as Witloft Bv, Ritzenhoff and Sovaro Coolers, and introduces 11 emerging companies in the Design Debut incubator. Additional fresh offerings from veteran design-focused exhibitors such as Kikkerland, French Bull and Magisso will also inspire your choices for the coming year. Find more information on Discover Design exhibitors online.