Singapore was just 20 years old when Derek MacKenzie joined designphase dba as Design Director and set up the firm’s Singapore office. The country had yet to build the MRT system and Changi airport had yet to build its second terminal. And the nature of design practice was (even more) heroic – hiring a design consultant at the time was the exception, not the norm.
MacKenzie is an early pioneer and champion for Singapore’s need for an international calibre of professional services in the realm of interior design. A keen witness to Singapore’s growth and transformation, he has expertly navigated the changing waters of the design business, cementing designphase dba’s staying power in what is now a very competitive and vibrant market.
Today, MacKenzie is the firm’s Managing Director and more than ever, he remains an expert of wielding design as an effective tool to add value to businesses.
Can you share some thoughts on Singapore’s current creative scene?
The term ‘creative scene’ covers a wide variety of creative industries. Singapore’s current creative scene is definitely developing. It is better understood than twenty years ago, but we still need to adjust entrenched thinking for more open-mindedness.
A comprehensive and nationwide understanding of the design industry and its various professional manifestations, for instance, would be helpful for the industry to flourish.
Nevertheless, the rate of progress has been stellar considering the context of a very young nation that’s heavily trade-focused and creative education being a relatively recent addition to the high-priority learning landscape.
What are some of the things that drive your practice?
Our practice is driven by creativity and we will always do best where it’s possible to add value through design. Finding the right client is complementary to this goal because we need them to see that we’re achieving the ‘best value’ rather than simply executing the job within a restricted budget. Creatively, we strive to achieve the best value for our clients. This is more sustainable in the long run because clients know that you understand their business and act upon their real needs over time.
What are you looking forward to seeing and experiencing during SGID17?
SGID is always an opportunity to do two things: observe and discuss new elements of and attitudes towards design and be a part of the improving reputation and respect for the design community.
SGID is the beacon of professionalism and trust in the industry, as well as education for design. It is a professional reference point and a touchpoint of the community that provides the latest and greatest design works with in-depth information about products and services.
SGID sets the tone for the industry with the publication, awards and events, while observing architecture and design in Singapore’s and Asia Pacific’s design community. SGID is important for a design firm like designphase dba that has a global footprint but calls Singapore home – that there is an organisation that celebrates design in Singapore, and the industry around it.
Design in Singapore is evolving at a rapid pace, and an event like SGID allows us to keep up with that pace and with industry trends, and engage with other industry leaders and peers. The Singapore design industry is an evolving one, which honours tradition but also looks forward to the future.
SGID gathers the brightest design minds of Singapore, and one networking session could change your life. It’s a great opportunity for exhibitors to learn from their industry peers, be open to collaboration. So put yourself out there, be open-minded and absorb all you can. Be an agent for change.
What did you enjoy the most at past SGID editions?
We thoroughly enjoyed the discussions surrounding the landscape of the design community and observations made of the industry movements – exhibitions, suppliers, designers (as individuals).
SGID is always a great opportunity to experience new exhibits that the design community has put together, and have enriching conversations with our peers about anything related to design. As one of the pioneer interior design studios in Singapore, at designphase dba we believe that we have the necessary expertise needed to start leading these conversations.