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The penultimate section draws attention to the significant fillip to business success provided by the media in proclaiming the design-led benefits of the new products as essential to high-profile British mountaineering successes. The article concludes with a summary and a review of the contributions to design theory.

Conclusions are drawn that demonstrate the strong relationship between design processes and outcomes, the development of the outdoor sector, social, industrial and sporting history, and physical geography. This article uses the term design to refer to all activities associated with the creation of a design as a specification for a solution, product, service, system or organisation. Design activity involves a broad range of processes, each of which contributes to the ability to produce a specification for a preferred outcome, and these are cumulatively referred to in this article as design process.

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Design activity occurs in many different fields that, as a whole, form three distinct groups. Fields such as engineering design and software design form one group. The second comprises the art and design fields. The third group contains the increasing number of design fields such as business design and organisational process design that do not fit under either of the first two groupings. This is because the focus of the article is a review, via case studies, of the social and technical path-dependent factors shaping success of design-based businesses that depend on design activity for competitive advantage.

Industrial districts are hubs of design and manufacturing activity distinguished by a closely interrelated evolution of skills, knowledge, technologies and products based upon path-dependent characteristics. David, in Magnusson and Ottosson , explained path dependency as follows:.

Tacit knowledge based on learning by doing, a central component of creating design knowledge, is embedded in communities and is at the heart of theories of path dependency Gertler, , p. Learning by doing within industrial regions is reinforced by communities of practice in which shared experience reinforces learning and shapes product design and technology development Wenger, , p. This is different from saying that there is something fixedly predetermined about the development of innovation or design.

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Instead, it emphasises the ways that history matters in the evolution of design and innovation, and the effects historical factors have on design choices. Regions, their technologies, organisations, designs and products have distinctive histories shaped by the knowledge and experience of those working within them. This means that responses to change and its initiation are based on social processes, which are also shaped by the past.

In the northwest of the United Kingdom, design and innovation have been intimately related to the industrial legacies of two overlapping 19th-century industrial clusters. The other was centred on Sheffield in Yorkshire, with its expertise in specialist steel production, cutlery and machining. By the late 19th century, Lancashire had evolved into the most sophisticated and specialised industrial district in the world. It had significant vertical, and particularly spatial, specialisation.

The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air, and children learn many of them unconsciously. Good work is rightly appreciated, inventions and improvements in machinery, in processes and the general organisation of the business have their merits promptly discussed; if one man starts a new idea, it is taken by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further good ideas. And presently subsidiary trades grow up in the neighbourhood…. Conducing to the economy of its material.

In 19th-century Lancashire, the primary focus was textile production, and individual communities concentrated on producing distinctive yarns and fabrics using machines that were designed and evolved synergistically Rose, , pp. In design terms, Manchester was far more than an industrial town. As a city, it was the commercial heart of spatially-specialised manufacturing and design industries.

Its numerous commercial knowledge-based institutions facilitated information flow and acted as a conduit for intermediate goods and services, with numerous shipping houses linking manufacturers with diverse national and international markets Hudson, ; Rose, , p. A wide range of merchant textile converters and fabric finishing companies in the environs of Manchester were at the very heart of the Lancashire system. This meant that very few textile manufacturers had direct contact with their customers Chapman, , thus reducing opportunities for user-driven design in cotton manufacturing itself.

This contrasted strongly with the close design connections at that time between machine makers and their client users, the textile manufacturers. These latter relationships were early examples of a tradition of lead-user contribution to design von Hippel, that is found even more strongly in the later outdoor clothing and equipment industry that is the subject of this article. In terms of design and innovation theory, this is a significant point. The path-dependent approach of this article describes how commercially successful design-based innovation can result from integration of design activities based on lead-user innovation with longer term innovation processes resulting from industrial knowledge networks involving communities of practice.

In the 19th century, the development of communities of practice in the northwest of the United Kingdom was especially linked to accumulated and distinctive capabilities tied to specific products, geared to particular markets. Such interaction and skill building within individual Lancashire towns was reinforced by relationships between machine makers, and by their input into the curricula of local technical colleges Rose, , p. Technology develops in an evolutionary path-dependent manner, being shaped by past skills and the transfer of knowledge within industrial communities. In the 18th century, after centuries of craft-based evolution, the first machine shops were closely linked to the need for precision parts for improved designs of the steam engine.

Design and innovation in technology is crucially related to personal networks and the exchange of knowledge. Within Lancashire, this was especially true for engineering designer and innovator Joseph Whitworth. According to Rolt , Whitworth was:. Whitworth gained knowledge as a mechanic in the Manchester cotton industry in the s. He combined this with knowledge gained from employment with Henry Maudslay, the London-based originator of screw cutting lathes Rolt, , pp. For example, his machines of the s could detect differences of one-millionth of an inch 0.

This is more accurate than many current production machine tools. The Whitworth thread form proved robust, easy to manufacture and, in spite of its relative coarseness, was the primary screw thread standard until A Manchester design and manufacturing company, Mather and Platt was another early industrial player that shaped the Lancashire industrial region and had path-dependent impact on design evolution in the later outdoor clothing and equipment sector.

Colin and William Mather were designers and entrepreneurs who had established a business as engineers, machine makers and millwrights.

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They joined with the Platt family, who had leased Salford Ironworks, and designed and manufactured dozens of new types of textile finishing machines. In the early days, because of its foundry, Mather and Platt preferentially focused on designing and manufacturing larger-scale machines for the textile finishing trades rather than the smaller machine elements for spinning and weaving.

The Mather and Platt business had a strong international focus, with Colin and William making many trips overseas. These activities resulted in Mather and Platt having central roles in the international development of the textile industries of many countries, notably Russia, India and America. This was to the point that Matherplatt became a generic term in textile printing Matherplattieren in German and Plattning in Swedish. The design and business decisions of Mather and Platt, and the closely related evolution of frame, shaft and roller-based machine technologies that they developed, had a significant effect on design in this region.

Part of this evolution of technology was a shift in the materials of machine-making from wood to iron, and thence to steel. This was another path-dependent factor that shaped the development of industries in the northwest of the United Kingdom. This shift in materials, aided by the move away from the wooden gearing of mills, combined with and supported the design of new types of machinery. It brought changes in power transmission crucial to the design of large, complex multi-machine arrangements that distributed power from a single source throughout large textile mill buildings.

In addition, the design of high-speed linked shafting made possible the later development of effective systems using process control to manage multiple sub-processes in, for example, cotton spinning, fabric treatment, linoleum manufacturing and the printing of fabric and paper. The Industrial Revolution was, of course, not confined to Lancashire. Close relationships evolved with neighbouring industrial districts such as Sheffield, the home of specialist steel-making. Joseph Schumpeter, the father of entrepreneurship studies, saw innovation as evolutionary and path dependent Schumpeter, New combinations of new and old skills, new and old materials and new and evolving outdoor sporting pursuits lay at the heart of the emergence of the design-driven internationally competitive outdoor sports companies that appeared on the Pennine fringes in the s.

Innovative products were designed in which industrial and technical knowledge from Lancashire and Sheffield was combined with sporting skills and needs at a time when the market for climbing and outdoor products was growing strongly. In the 20th century, external changes, along with market and technological shifts, undermined the industrial buoyancy of the Manchester and Sheffield industrial clusters. The start of the decline of the Lancashire cotton industry predated the First World War.

It gathered momentum during the interwar period. Absolute decline, when output, capacity and employment in spinning and weaving declined, began after These adverse forces and factors included wartime utility schemes, inexperience in Continental European markets, collapse of the Indian textile market, supply side weaknesses, structural changes and government policy.

However, not all sectors of cotton textiles declined, nor were all skills and accumulated knowledge lost. The textile finishing trades expanded during the s and s as demand for specialist, protective and high-performance fabrics rose. Nevertheless, the legacy of decline was more than decay, demolition and industrial museums. Some skills, such as cotton spinning and weaving, became redundant as the cotton industry shifted to Asia, but other skills combined in new ways with new materials and uses in ways that would later contribute to design processes in a newly emerging sector—clothing and equipment for outdoor sports.

Path-dependent aspects of social and industrial histories, and evolving communities of design and manufacturing practices, played crucial roles in the development of both Lancashire and Sheffield in the 19th century and in their later decline.

Network preferences and the growth of the British cotton textile industry, c.1780-1914

The recent development of a strong design-focused outdoor clothing and equipment industry provides, however, evidence of creative entrepreneurial responses that combined the industrial and social legacy of the area with lead users involved in new outdoor sports pursuits, to develop innovative designs.

The textile and steel-making industries of Lancashire and Sheffield created technological, social and institutional foundations that influenced future design and innovation and business development. These prior industrial conditions acted as evolutionary selection criteria that defined the mix of skills, resources and technologies available after the collapse of the textile and steel industries. This particular mix aligned well with the design, manufacture and marketing of innovative outdoor clothing and equipment. The mix of human and technological resources available after the collapse of the textile industry was not well-suited to other alternative uses.

The main physical technology resources mills with large roller and frame machinery were hard to relocate, and could not follow easy technological transfer paths to other commercial activities. This lack of an alternative use reduced the relative costs of these resources to new entrepreneurs in the outdoor clothing and equipment industries and thus increased their national and international competitiveness.

Specific aspects of the technology and skill legacies of Lancashire and Sheffield that shaped design capabilities in newly emerging outdoor clothing and equipment companies were the knowledge and skills that combined finishing processes, engineering and specialist metals. Residues from the decline of the Lancashire textile industry that impacted positively on the design of outdoor products were less the direct impact of the collapse of spinning and weaving than the skills embedded in the ancillary trades—both textile finishing and engineering.

These skill bases especially benefited companies like Karrimor and Troll. The factors that provided benefits to the new outdoor industry did not do so simply or linearly. Nor were they related to cotton spinning or weaving per se. In part this is due to the high level of 19th- century specialisation. An example is the consequences for the shift to nylon in outdoor products in the s and s. Waterproofing nylon was not a straightforward development. Nylon, invented by Du Pont scientists in , is not naturally a wet-weather fabric.

Unlike cotton, it does not matter how tightly nylon is woven. In addition, the nature of nylon fibres tends to prevent nylon fabric from retaining proofing. After reviewing the evidence,Young, Ashton, and Wilkinson agreed that Lancashire had nothing to worry about with regard to technology. Young noted that American textile machines cost significantly more than comparable British models.

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Macara, Recollections London, , , It is a commonplace in economic and business literature that American firms, faced with high labour costs and frequent turnover, substituted capital for labour. Faster machines like the ring spinning frame put more stress on cotton fibers, however. The International Cotton Federation tour of the US was supposed to focus on cotton fields, but tour guides in the South went out of their way to show factories to British and European visitors.

ICF members flattered local newspapers with positive comments about Southern industry, but their sincerity was suspect. Urbana, , Charlotte Observer, 6 October Lancashire knew what machines were available and what they could and could not do. Travel in the American cotton belt held many surprises for British visitors. Despite the best efforts of New South promoters to highlight the rapid growth of Southern manufacturing, Britons were most impressed with the physical landscape of the South.


Expecting to see orderly cotton plantations and cleared farmland, they found a sparsely settled wilderness of pines. MacAlister 26 Macara, Recollections. Farnie, ed. F Wilson Lancaster, , 83— American Cotton Industry, 54; see also Macara, Recollections. I mean as far as the negro is concerned. Samuel Knapp, a leading US Department of Agriculture scientist, left the delegates of the expedition convinced that cotton shortages of the past were flukes, caused by bad information and malicious traders in cotton futures markets.

Manchester, , — Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie Columbia, , Lamb, who visited Georgia to study plant breeding before assuming a position with the colonial Agricultural Department in Uganda, took a decidedly pessimistic view of what he had seen. Todd took an even more negative view.

The nomadic instinct and an easy-going indolence are characteristic of his race. If treated as a white man and allowed to handle the money he earns, he spends it recklessly in vicious ways, and does no work until it is all gone … On the whole, he is probably not so well off as in slavery days. It was hardly a reliable source of information for understanding the future of American cotton agriculture. Lancashire visitors were keenly aware of the changing structure of cotton cultivation in America, but the relationship between race and labour proved to be a serious blind spot.

Negotiating the future of cotton The most important element of the and tours was a series of meetings with American manufacturers and farmers. The Lancashire delegation was surprised when the Southern cotton farmers proposed the creation of a cartel, which according to South Carolina farmer and future Senator E. MacAlister reminded the farmers that their cotton was worthless until a spinner paid for it.

All sides agreed that the tare and moisture content of cotton bales were wildly inconsistent, indicating sloppiness and fraud. In Atlanta, Sir Charles Macara gaveled down long-winded Southern orators who tried to revive talk of a cotton cartel. A uniform standard for baling American cotton would have to wait until , but the conference nonetheless set in motion a wave of reform in cotton handling and marketing which reduced waste and transaction costs in the industry.

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