Back when I was first starting out as a designer, we all wanted to be different. But today, designers want to conform and be part of a tribe or a movement they can say they belong to. The downside of this is that you’re not offering a new perspective – you’re just adding to the noise.
With interior design especially, but also with branding and graphic design, you see the same styles over and over again because everyone around the world is working off the same Pinterest mood board. The global design aesthetic has become very homogenous. On the flip side, it challenges us to find ways to stand out.
“Today, designers want to conform and be part of a tribe or a movement… [but] the downside of this is you’re just adding to the noise”
At Asylum, every project we do has to embody a sense of surprise, delight and originality while conveying a compelling narrative. We’re living in the global age of geekism. People want to know the stories behind products – about who grew the corn they’re eating or who made the shirt they’re wearing. To me, this sort of storytelling isn’t going out of style any time soon – it adds a deeper layer of context to what you’re experiencing, which works to create a memorable interaction.
It’s one of the techniques we employed when working on The Warehouse Hotel in Singapore, where we drew on the rich industrial history of the space to underscore our design process. For instance, the lights in the lobby feature pulleys that hark back to when people hoisted spices through the space, which was once a warehouse for the country’s spice and grain trades.
When it comes to my creative process, I live by this quote we used a lot at my old company, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH): “Good is the enemy of great.” There are so many familiar concepts that we regurgitate without even realising. Regardless of whatever good ideas my designers initially bring to the table, I’ll always push them to come up with new, potentially great ones. It can be painful, but I want us to push ourselves harder than anyone else.
Having a global client base allows me to travel a lot, which is another way to discover new trends and stay inspired. I travel to London often, and also count New York, Tokyo and Berlin among my favourite cities. Being in an unfamiliar environment and just soaking up the energy and culture of a city always excites me – it really forces me to look at and think about things differently.
– ILLUSTRATION BY STUART PATIENCE
This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.