Disrupting Before It Was A “Thing”: Nottingham Spirk celebrates 45 years


NS 45 Years

There’s an inherent contradiction in the phrase “reinvent the future,” which John Nottingham used when he and John Spirk accepted the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Northeast Ohio Award. But changing the course of people and companies has always been the mission of Nottingham Spirk, which marked the halfway point of its fifth decade in 2017.

NS Design Studio Juniper

The NS Design Studio on Juniper Road – Now CWRU’s Alumni House

The journey began in rented space in an old carriage house on the campus of Case Technical School (now part of Case Western Reserve University). That’s where John and John, fresh out of the Cleveland Institute of Art, founded their design firm with the intention of capturing the same spirit of collaboration and discovery they’d enjoyed at CIA. “What we’ve tried to do from that humble garage to our landmark building today,” Nottingham said at the EY banquet, “is reinvent the future.”

And they did. Among their first partner-clients was a custom rotational molder. John and John’s reinvention of that future led to the Little Tikes (now part of MGA entertainment) toy company — a case study in disruption, long before anyone called it that. Many of their partner-clients from the early days — like Manco Tape (now ShurTech) and Dirt Devil (now part of TTI) — are thriving businesses today.

That history is reflected in honors like the EY award and John Nottingham’s recent induction as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors; in our constantly growing “Innovation Firsts” that defined product categories; in the 1,000-plus (and counting) patents issued for products developed by NS and partner-clients; and in the 10-year average tenure among the more than 60 in-house designers, engineers, user/market insights, prototype specialists and other creative professionals who make these accomplishments possible.

But even after all of this, the spirit remains.

“This is the best job in the world,” said John Spirk at the EY banquet. “John and I, as he loves to say, we bound in and crawl out. It really is an exhausting day but there’s no better way to spend a day. We’re living the dream. The success that follows obviously is a nice thing to have, but to do what you love to do every day, all day, is just a blessing.”

We look forward to another 45 years of reinventing the future.

Contact Nottingham Spirk to discuss how your organization can take innovation to the next level.

About us: Nottingham Spirk is a business innovation and product design firm with an unrivaled record of delivering disruptive consumer goods, medical devices, and packaging design solutions to market. We collaborate with Fortune 1,000 companies, funded start-ups and non-profit organizations to discover, design and execute product programs and strategic business platforms that will wow customers, grow markets and generate new revenue streams. Learn more about what makes us different here.

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