Matthew Humphries Design
Matthew Humphries studied Automotive Design at Coventry University commencing 2001. In 2004 he sent his portfolio to Charles Morgan at Morgan Motor Cars and was offered a work placement. He ended up working with Morgan for 8 years and amongst other things designing the Morgan Aeromax, the LIFECar, the Eva GT. The Plus 8 and the three wheeler – not to mention much of the marketing collateral accompanying these product launches.
He has recently left to start up his own design business, Matthew Humphries Design.”At present my time is split roughly 50/50,” he says, “between automotive design and my new watch design business, well, and I do some lecturing too for the Royal College of Art,” he adds.
He has been working with a small niche vehicle company for the past year but is unable to reveal who they are as this contract is confidential.
He launched his custom watch business more recently, following a five year interest in this area. “I am Head of Design for Lonville Watches who do a classic car rally in Switzerland. My parents had been to this and were so impressed they spoke with the organisers, the watch company. It’s been a real education learning about watches. But there have been transferable skills from auto design. Watches are made on a platform and then you decide which elements to include or leave out.
“Funding has not been a big issue and the business model has meant that I have been able to fund this myself,” says Matthew. “People purchase the watches online and then there are 14 working days whilst their choice is hand assembled and customised.
“The process relies on a blend of craft and technology, something we are good at understanding. I do see this as a growth sector for the UK. I see it especially clearly at the RCA where we have a lot of students from the Far East – Korea and China. They are generally unaware of the coach building tradition in automotive in the UK but when they learn about it they love it. They take it back home with them and take it forward.
“We tend to underplay our special skills in design and blending craft with technology in this way. Perhaps we take it for granted. It is easy to overlook but it is something to nurture for the future.
“I believe that the web enables micro-specialisation in terms of design segments. You are able to use this platform to get to an international audience with a highly refined and specialised offer. That is what I am able to do here. I have been able to meet a lot of people through my experience at Morgan, such as the Top Gear Magazine. They have given me editorial for this new range. This has spun off into articles on specialist watch blogs, in the US, in the more general press. I have been selling watches – two months into this new business – in Australia, Korea, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore. In two months we have sold 130 watches which has been very satisfying.
“I think there is much more opportunity here. The best thing the government could do is incentivise more creative investment and collaboration within and across lifestyle oriented sectors. More funding should be made available, and not simply match-funding which is difficult for SMEs to come up with and often open to varied forms of minor manipulation to fit the criteria. But we don’t want people to chase the money but to come up with genuine ideas that enable innovative new markets to be created and developed. Government should be supporting entrepreneurship, not trying to overly engineer it.
“In automotive we are seeing some interesting areas of collaboration through the Niche Vehicle Network . We do need much more collaboration as it is increasingly hard to get new ideas off the ground. Government should incentivise more investment, especially where it is focussed on sustainable technologies and outcomes.
“If I had started my business straight out of university I would have found it much more difficult. It was a good starting block providing me with a good grounding in technical design skills and had gained some good all round employable skills – team building, communications, etc. But the commercial skills were best learnt through experience on the job. I was lucky that Charles gave me the opportunity and I was able to get such a wide experience of the Morgan business.”