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Don Characters

Don Whitley Scientific

Don Whitley Scientific Ltd develop, manufacture and sell equipment and associated products for microbiology and cell culture applications worldwide.

Don Whitley established the company in 1976, Don himself invented many of the products still in production today and he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree in 2010 in recognition of his services to microbiology. Don passed away in 2019 and the company is now run by his two Grandsons who came up with the idea of producing a Don shaped stress ball as a fun way of remembering the work he did. 

This case study shows how we transformed the Don shaped stress ball visuals into final the finished product.



Producing a stress ball based on an individual person can be very problematic as it can be hard to capture the characteristics of the person that we are basing the design on. Fortunately in this instance we were supplied with a caricature of Don that had been created by their graphic design team.
Some changes were required for the shape to made into a stress ball, the feet were made bigger and the hairline needed to be simplified a little. Don was known for his love of red wine and wearing his signature braces so it was imperative these were included in the design. The original images showed Don wearing a jacket but we could not spray the jacket and braces without compromising on the quality so the Graphic Designers amended this giving us fantastic final images to work from.


Using these images our team of master sculptors sculptured by hand a resin sculpture showing all of the moulded details and sizes. Images of the sculpture were sent to the client for approval, in this instance no changes were required and the mould was quickly approved.


Using this sculpture the master tooling was made, allowing us to create a couple of samples for approval from the client. Spray masks were required for the coloured detailing and printing for the logo and web address on the back. Images of the final coloured and printed Don Characters were sent to the client and again were swiftly approved with no print changes required.


With the samples approved we progressed to the bulk production of the stress balls. They were sprayed and printed before being checked by quality control, and being shipped to the client.

Due to the popularity of the Don Stress balls we have since been commissioned to create two more designs. We created a "Safari Don" due to Don's love of travel and photography and a ˜Dr Don" as recognition to his achievements within microbiology.

Client feedback

We thought we were asking for something impossible: a stress toy in the shape of our late Chairman and founder, Don Whitley.

In the first contact with I realised they saw this not as a problem but as a challenge and were determined to provide us with a solution. Working with our designer, they suggested sensible improvements such as making the feet larger so the product would stand up.

Communication throughout the order and manufacturing process was excellent with regular calls from Charlotte to update on progress, and visuals from the factory to make sure the product was as expected.

Don would have been very pleased with the end result – he had a great sense of humour.

I attach a photo we have just taken of Don peeking out of a Whitley Workstation (this is one of the products we manufacture).

Deborah Robinson
Marketing Manager, Don Whitley Scientific

Stress Ball Don Peeking out of Whitley Workstation