Unconventional Design

We are a York based design and build practice who specialise in all things creative. We were formed by husband and wife team Clare and James Palmer in 2017.

A business built out of marriage, friendship and a love for our craft is where UD began. We are made up of local craftsmen and artisans with extensive knowledge and over 20 years’ experience in the heritage, theatre and leisure industry.

We love being creative and care deeply about our clients fulfilling their dreams. Both Clare and James’ philosophy is to offer their clients a first class, attentive, hands on service; to be able to listen, respond and act on a client’s brief. To then develop that idea thoroughly, through discussion and design, with upmost focus and attention to required specifics and detail but always with the budget clearly in mind at all stages of the design phase.

With the design agreed and budgets established, Unconventional Design will pull a team together to facilitate your vision.  We can accommodate countless trades and disciplines within any given project and therefore can utilise and include any of these trades and professions within any job we are assigned: Design development; full design; estimating; project and site management; bespoke and scenic joinery; CNC; scenic painting; prop making; model making; light engineering; interactives; graphic design; graphic production; A/V; electronics; show and exhibit lighting; full installation service; maintenance service/contracts offered post warranty.

As a small family business and being able to call upon trades as and when we require them, we can offer highly competitive prices to any of our clients, whatever the content and size of the project may be.

Our clients pay for their project and not for unnecessary overheads bigger companies have to absorb. Because U.D. are small it does not mean we cannot undertake larger projects, we can and do, to exceptional standards and importantly at highly competitive prices.

We pride ourselves on offering a service that will deliver a project that we and our client will be proud of and that importantly has totally fulfilled the client’s expectations at handover. Your joy is our goal and we excel in offering an excellent service that stands out.

“We only promise what we know we can deliver.”

“You get a sense of a company and its people by how they respond to seemingly outlandish ideas regarding buildings and design.

Unconventional Design believe in the daring, the adventurous and the game-changing.”

Sam Leach
Director at Spark York CIC

nice to meet you!

Clare Palmer Founder of Unconventional Design

Clare Palmer

I’m Clare and I bring the creative edge to Unconventional Design. My artistic flare, great eye for colour and an ability to get inside a client’s head and see the project from their view truly means I can make dreams a reality.

Not just a creative mind, I have a skilled history in sculpture, design, illustration and scenic art meaning I’m a prominent part of the workshop team. Not afraid to get messy, I’m at the forefront of the finishing side of all UD projects. I have gained an extensive knowledge of materials and finishes and a keen eye for the right product.

Prior to starting Unconventional Design I enjoyed freelancing for local scenic companies specialising in the museum, heritage and entertainment sector. Here, as well as many creative friendships, I gained 18 years’ experience in this field working on high profile jobs both close to home and internationally.

James Palmer

Hi I’m James and I am the hands on part of Unconventional Design. A skilled joiner with an alternative way of building means I put the Unconventional into our projects. I give every project my all and you can trust that I will deliver the best possible version of your dream.

Having spent most weekends growing up working with my Dad on various building sites it was clear I would have a hands on career. This was honed in the arena of performing arts where my passion for the more creative side of things came into blossom.

I played a key part in set construction and have continued in this area for many years freelancing for local theatres and companies as well as working for corporate exhibition companies. I have been in the industry since 1997.

James Palmer founder of Unconventional Design
Dave Johnson Project manager of Unconventional Design

Dave Johnson

I have spent the last 33 years working within the museum/visitor centre and family entertainment industry.

I have personally overseen, over the last 20 years in excess of 200 projects in the UK and world wide , including ‘Titanic’, Belfast, Land Of The Lions at London Zoo, Khalifa Park Visitor Centre in Abu Dhabi , The Bacardi Museum and Visitor centre in Puerto Rico, numerous ‘Jumpin’ Jak’ music venues for what was Rank Leisure, and projects for both the National Trust and English Heritage amongst others

My experience gained over the last 30  years has given me the knowledge and confidence to take a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to projects, in that I can help to advise and develop a job creatively at the outset of a project , to then be able to price it, and then both production manage and project manage it and finally deliver it.

tell us about your unconventional idea!