5 Mins With DesignOffice on The Future of Retail

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5 Mins With… DesignOffice On “Retail 3.0”

Is new-gen Australian retail taking a cue from our Asian neighbours? Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice talk branded environment design across cultures.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.

  • Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill of Melbourne-based studio DesignOffice. Photography by Matt Harvey for Indesign magazine #69.



BY Sandra Tan

July 14th, 2017


DesignOffice, Retail 3.0, Australian Retail, Asia Pac Retail, Design, Interiors

In countries throughout Asia Pacific, the mall is elevated to utopian status. Think Manila’s Mall of Asia, being expanded to reinstate its former status as the largest in the Philippines, perhaps the world. Or the opulent Suria KLCC at the base of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

These air-conditioned temples to consumerism are havens for people taking refuge from tropical climes. Lavishly appointed, militantly sanitised and designed to cater to your every whim for hours on end.

But while the East may remain a devoted ‘Material Girl’ subject to neon dreams of a fetishised West, Australian retail hubs are looking towards its glamorous regional neighbours for inspiration.

“We’ve always been fascinated by retail psychology,” says Mark Simpson of DesignOffice. “There is a shift here towards more luxe mall experiences which, from a retail perspective, does have strong ties to Asia”.

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Today’s consumers are faced with the question: why venture out when you can Add to Cart? Thus we expect more impact from our shopping experience than ever, pushing high-end retailers to deliver self-contained and holistically considered environments, where good food is fundamental to retaining a crowd.

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“In Australian malls, a high quality and diverse food and drink offering is being presented as an equal draw to retail – not just a supplementary necessity,” says Damien Mulvihill. “And the standard of our local hospitality is something that we see driving design in the wider region.”

Established in 2008, the prolific DesignOffice team have since deftly navigated projects ranging in scale across in retail, residential, commercial and hospitality. Through Platform, their design strategy service, DesignOffice is able to showcase their expertise in crafting finely articulated brand narratives. Encompassing work for longstanding clients Mud and Witchery among others, the practice strives for “consistency and legibility in tone of voice”, a priority for high-profile brands working in a global market. “We are excited by the prospect of creating design languages that clients can use to inform their direction,” says Mark.

Straddling both food and retail, DesignOffice’s cellar door for Handpicked Wines in Sydney incorporates a tailored shopping experience within a lounge bar setting, imbued with a relaxed contemporary elegance. Crafting the first physical space for an online wine production group is “exactly the kind of challenge we like. It’s been great to see their brand become tangible with a response tailored towards growth and evolution,” says Mark.

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DesignOffice’s work for Little Bean in Shanghai is an exemplary Platform project representing a convergence of cultural identities. “The clients were specifically looking for an Australian undertone as they wanted to capture some of what they had experienced when living here,” Damien explains. The brief sought “an environment which was confident, tactile, simple and contemporary,” traits characteristic to the Australian food scene, which begin to touch, perhaps, on a kind of national design identity. A second project for the Little Bean crew is now in the works at DesignOffice.

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“Our process is not necessarily about the creation of custom signature forms or patterns,” says Mark. “It’s driven more by the physical journey of a customer, and the translation of emotional brand qualities into space.”

 


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