#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - ASIA 02

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Full Series information and registration for future episodes

#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.


Chris Bosse - Director of Architecture at LAVA, Adjunct Professor at University of Technology, Sydney

Dylan Brady - Conductor (Owner) at Decibel Architecture

Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand

Ophenia Liang - Director & Co-founder at Digital Crew

Julia Monk FAIA FIIDA - Hospitality Thought Leader, Architect, Interior Designer, former SVP at HOK

Bob Neville - Global Creative Director and Head of Retail at New Balance

Betsy Sweat - Head of Asia Pacific at Restoration Hardware

Michael Tam - Global Associate Design Director at IBM iX

Quote Bank

A lot of our clients around the world are really using this pocket of time to drive innovation - Michael Tam
For those of us who live and die on the relationships that we've fostered, this period of time has set us back - Betsy Sweat
There's definitely this pent-up need for us as human beings to actually interact with each other - Bob Neville
I always love these conversations because I get a feeling of the excitement of a lot of businesses around the world - Richard Henderson
The Cocoon Strategy... We’re in a cocoon and we're moving out of that cocoon into darkness and uncertainty. We're looking for the light and we move forward to beyond - Richard Henderson
I think the brand is absolutely critical because culture is connected to the brand and the market set up - Richard Henderson
I'm fostering a lot of new relationships. One on one relationships with people. It's been amazing to really get to know people that have just been kind of very tangential to my world before all this happened - Julia Monk
One of the great things about creativity and design is its universal language, and when people get together to create something from anywhere around the world, it's that DNA that binds everyone together - Richard Henderson
The fundamental purpose of human beings is to create - Richard Henderson
And I'm quite prepared as a business owner to take that slightly more optimistic, slightly riskier take on it, to not go back to what we were, but find the opportunities to take the things we really like and move on from the things that we don't miss - Dylan Brady
From a cocoon you don't go back to being a bug. You don't go back to being a Caterpillar, right? You go forward - Dylan Brady


Mark Bergin [00:00:00] Welcome to another DRIVENxDESIGN #BeyondCOVID Town Hall. It’s our second time in Asia and I've got a great panel of folks here who are going to be talking about the Three Phases. We've been through ReAct. We're now actually in ReBound and the next phase that everyone seems to be thinking about is Re-Imagining. Through the panel here we have architects, digital marketers, people in branding, graphic design, retail design, digital design. There's a really good mix here.

The first person I want to throw to is Dylan, you've actually got projects which you're seeing moving Asia at a pace that not used to. Has that acceleration continued on for you?

Dylan Brady [00:00:39] Yeah, it has. Because of not physically being able to travel, we've been able to accelerate the rate at which we have important meetings and reduce the amount of time that it takes us to get to and from them. One flight less, one hotel less, one taxi less, one flight less, getting home again, all for a 25 minute meeting. That's been extremely useful. Not in that it's a new channel of communication, but that it's elevated the importance of the channel of communication. So we're able to achieve a sign-off of a contract, or a variation, or deal digitally where we would previously have had to have had a dinner and a handshake, and as you say, a tea ceremony.

The accelerations has continued to a certain degree and the communication is still digital. The acceleration is often because of the lack of micro, medium, and major commutes – we're not trying to arrange our calendars to all get into the room, we're not trying to travel to two places to meet six people and we're accelerating definitely because we can put more people into meetings virtually, so we don't have to spend time writing minutes and recounting what happened in the meeting to the people who need to do the work. They're actually able to learn from and immediately spin off that. So it has progressed in that sense. It has meant that we've been able to navigate contracts much, much more swiftly in that we don't need to be posting things to one another. In fact, the delay that comes from posting the original contract or the original invoice is the longest delay, it's like waiting for the kettle to boil. So that four or five days of courier time turns out to be the longest delay we have now. Whereas I didn't even notice it before.

Mark Bergin [00:02:58] Yeah. And so I want to now throw across to Michael Tam at IBMiX. Michael IBM's doing really well. You've got lots of corporate clients. The pipeline would have been full. Has the nature of the work and the speed of the work, has that changed? We don’t need to know about particular clients, but how is the cadence of the projects going? Have you got to the point that people are now responding and they're working out how do we actually speed things up?

Michael Tam [00:03:18] I think a lot of our clients really recognise this is a time that they have to get things right. Get to a good foundation to be ready for the rebound, when the market picks up again. So, a lot of our clients around the world are really using this pocket of time to drive innovation. A lot of our projects are still going on very quickly. Working on the point that Dylan made, it seems like we cut short a lot of the the gaps in between, you know, signing a contract, getting things moving around in between different teams and all that.

That kind of pace in between people who are working remotely, people who are supporting from all around the world, from different studios, has really picked up. From that perspective I will have this period of time has just changed the way that we work completely. For example, I just move into a global role which means I'm extra supporting projects in the States right now. It has really filled up my calendar, I'm working around the clock to a certain extent. But also means my teammates from the states are adjusting to this new way of working as well - having people who are supporting from the other side of the world. It’s a really funny time, interesting time, but I think it really goes along with the theme that we talked about: ReBound. What are we going to do? What are our clients going to do? What are enterprises doing to be ready for when the market picks up again? It’s very interesting.

Mark Bergin [00:05:18] Ophenia I'd like to get across to you because you have clients in the digital marketing and digital brand space. When we did the first Asia Town Hall, you mentioned that some of the Western clients kind of dropped the ball when it came to actually keeping up their campaigns into China. Have you seen those respond back? Or is the West still dealing with its own problems in its backyard? Are people realising that China is basically back at speed?

Ophenia Liang [00:05:50] So something has changed in the past three weeks or so since our last discussion. Number one, China is almost completely back to normal in terms of Chinese people in mainland China and their day to day life. Students are back to school, people are back to work, all the transportation is open, domestic flights are open. I’m not saying that they're full, but travel is allowed, so there is no more restriction. And so we see more Chinese companies and Chinese brands that want to branch out because previously they would just get big contracts, export contracts from Western companies, but now they're not getting it in the usual way. They're not able to go out of China physically to do exhibitions etc. So Chinese brands are actually seeking digital means to do marketing and to attract and to build their brands in the outside world. We’re seeing a lot more attraction in that direction. And compared to our clients from, for example Australia or US, I think about a month ago we were still planning a lot of recovery – planning how do we do recovery and communication in terms of random marketing and the timeline we discussed was around June or July. But I think now a lot of Western, well, I would say outside of China, clients are starting to realise the recovery actually will take longer. So many plans have been postponed to September or October onwards.