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Asia Pacific and The Office: How to Crack the Market

The Asia Pacific region continues to develop at an alarmingly fast rate. What might this new chapter in economic history mean for the A+D community?



BY David Congram

December 8th, 2016


It is often easy to forget that ‘the modern office’ – as both a workspace and a historical artefact – is only a little under 300 years old. But, forget that the office only officially begins to take shape in 1726 in London’s Old Admiralty, because there’s a bigger picture here.

Only 300 years old, The Office has seen the introduction of multi-storey purpose-built buildings, the development of commercial districts and the skyscraper. The Office has experienced the introduction of electricity and multi-national corporations; it’s experienced international stock markets (growing and folding and growing again) and the dot-com explosion; wheels on chairs; telephones with and then without cords; and finally, it’s experienced unbelievable ethnic and gender revolutions (the majority of which many in offices today still recall).

Never – and I mean never – has synchronicity been more integral to this ever-changing world of The Office. Where for us, the A+D community, the challenge lies in designing the workspace solutions today that won’t be obsolete tomorrow, it seems that the trick to success lies in mastering the skill of anticipation.

And, for those workspace solutions, the entire world is turning to the Asia Pacific region for indication of the future of commercial design. The most recent Asia Pacific Economic Update: October 2016 from the World Bank expects Asia Pacific to enjoy consistent and resilient growth beyond 2020, with the region’s commercial sector shouldering the lion’s share of this projection more than ever before.

Why? Consider the following evidence. The population of the middle class in the Asia Pacific region is projected to reach beyond 1.7 billion (just under 37% of the worldwide middle class population) by 2020. And with China, India and Indonesia heading up this mammoth growth rate, the commercial sector across the region is enjoying mass development. Heavyweight global brands – Apple, Chanel, McDonalds, Deloitte, among others – have recently demonstrated concerted interest in sharing in this growing sector’s profits.

In part, this is symptomatic of a much smaller revolution that has spread rapidly throughout Asia Pacific. With technology naturally being a major factor in changing economic patterns, Internet penetration within this burgeoning middle class has played a significant role in this sector’s growth. While 3 years ago Asia Pacific nations demonstrated the lowest penetration of the Internet across all social strata, since 2014 the region’s digital infrastructure has disseminated at an alarming rate.

But why should you care? Alongside the increase of the middle class, disposable income and the commercial sector in this region, the important thing for A+D to recognise is that consumers, working professionals, companies and brands alike are showing marked interest in personal preference. The increase in the number of options that the commercial specification market can offer is an enormous boon to our industry.

This is where our local brands are demonstrating pointed ingenuity. Take, for instance, Zenith Interiors who last month celebrated launching a full-scale operation in Singapore, with Shanghai on the cards in the months ahead. Currently with 12 showrooms across the Asia Pacific region (in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hong Kong) coupled with 4 manufacturing facilities in co-ordination, Team Zenith have demonstrated incredible design and market foresight.

Here’s what is staggering. They’ve turned ‘exceeding expectations’ on its head – going one step beyond merely appreciating the individual requirements of their clients to nurturing the value and distinction of their regional diversity as well. Here is a model that recognises that our working habits – and the workplace design solutions intended to serve them – are just as personal as they are cultural.

At the vanguard of workplace evolution, Zenith has embraced the evolution of The Office as not only historical but also international phenomena. They’ve zeroed-in on each national commercial sector of their 5-country operation, creating a wholly complete network of service centres. Each showroom celebrates their suite of products and portfolio of brands, backed by a sharp team of specialists, steering managers, service delivery and R+D specialists who all collaborate with local design talent and Zenith’s local manufacturing facilities to tailor design solutions for the commercial sector in a culturally-aware holistic brand service.

300 years. That’s all it’s taken to get here. The workplace is certainly not the thing it was 300 or 50 or 20 or 2 years ago. It’s certainly not the thing it was yesterday. Tomorrow, again, it’ll be different – and that’s fine. In fact, that’s wonderful! And that is the secret ace up Zenith’s sleeve allowing them to truly stay one step ahead of that pesky game of change. It’s not about solely distributing the product, but truly being alive to the concepts that drive them – and drive them all over the world.

Photography by Owen Raggett.


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