Distinction Built a Design Thinking Process for Pentland Brands

Distinction has supported Pentland Brands’ innovation team with the empowered design thinking process turning their idea into reality. They built a successful digital product and designed an exceptional experience that delights and converts.

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 the consumer experience for each brand and its 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.

They came to Distinction for external expert help in proving their concept so the Distinction design team worked in-house with Pentland’s innovation hub to make their dream a reality.

Proof of Concept

Distinction joined the innovation team to kick off the ideation phase, where the online kit-building idea – ‘Made By You’ – was explored in depth.

There were 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 to 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, Distinction 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 Distinction 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.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a process of 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, Distinction 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


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


Employing design thinking to solve Pentland’s challenge allowed Distinction to look at how best to implement the Made By You proposition which was part of a larger program of innovation.

Their approach influenced and helped define the program’s direction for the current and future phases.

About Distinction

Distinction is the digital product studio that’ll make you stand out. They work with clients to disrupt their sector, challenge the competition and capture market share by delivering experiences users love.