Pentland Brands

How design thinking helped a global retailer’s innovation team turn their idea into reality.

Services: Experience Design

Sector: E-commerce

Male bike rider at front of cycling race

Pentland Brands is a global fashion retailer building a family of brands for the world to love, generation after generation. Counting household names like Speedo, Berghaus, Mitre and Ellesse in their portfolio, Pentland’s innovation hub is constantly looking at ways to improve consumer experience for each brand and their unique identities.

The idea

Pentland’s innovation team was looking at new direct-to-consumer (D2C) propositions for their sportswear brands and the different ways they could service customers looking to kit out their sports teams.

The Pentland team thought that one particular idea had legs, namely a build-your-own sports kit for rugby, football, swimming and cycling teams. They’d identified that this needed to be a player-led design proposition – a digital platform where consumers could put together their own team’s sports kit.

Distinction is a brilliant digital product agency, always putting consumer needs and engagement at the forefront of everything they deliver, whilst linking back to the project goals and objectives.

Male and female standing in front of a white board covered in post-its

Proof of concept

We joined the innovation team to kick off the ideation phase, where the online kit-building idea – ‘Made By You’ – was explored in depth. We had two questions to answer:

Would a design-your-own-kit digital product be desirable for the target consumer groups? And would it be technically and economically viable?

To build a digital product that consumers actually want you need a consistently user-centric approach to UX and UI which is where design thinking comes in. More on that later as proving a digital product concept starts with asking people what they really need and think.

User research & insights

Gaining insights, along with deploying quantitative and qualitative research, is essential to building a successful digital product and designing an exceptional experience that delights and converts. So, together with the Pentland innovation team, we ran a number of discovery workshops with stakeholders and target user groups – the team player and the kit buyer.

Creating personas for these audiences allowed us to compare the feasibility and desirability of a D2C model with a B2B (business to business) model. It also helped test the Made By You proposition in key markets for football, rugby, swimming and cycling.

White board and flip chart with design thinking project ideas written on them
White board with post-its and pictures of sports kits
Overhead view of desk covered in post-its and UI designs

Design thinking

Design thinking is a process for creative problem solving. Employing design thinking means you’re combining what humans like and need with what technology can deliver in a way that makes economic sense. All digital products should be built using design thinking as it mitigates the risk of failure.

For Made By You, we used a lot of tools and techniques from the design thinking toolbox:

  • Design jams
  • Empathy mapping
  • Card sorting
  • MoSCoW matrices
  • Storyboarding
  • Customer journey mapping
  • Low-fidelity wireframing
Mobile prototype layout
Design layout for mobile prototype


The project culminated in a mid-fidelity prototype that helped us rapidly validate and refine product concepts and designs with stakeholders and user test groups.

Design layout for mobile prototype


Employing design thinking to solve Pentland’s challenge allowed us to look at how best to implement the Made By You proposition which was part of a larger programme of innovation. Our approach influenced and helped define the programme’s direction for the current and future phases.

Distinction is a brilliant digital product agency, always putting consumer needs and engagement at the forefront of everything they deliver, whilst linking back to the project goals and objectives.

Tom Fox

Product Manager | Pentland Brands