DESIGN CONSULTANTS are tapping the growing ranks of talent and better technology to help businesses improve their functionality and aesthetics, said Sasivimol Sinthawanarong, design principal of Jarken Co Ltd.
“Design initiatives should be able to carve out new markets, creating new opportunities through the fusion of business, art and dynamic tech,” she said. “Design should bring about such convergence, making it possible to help boost businesses through the use of key differentiation strategies for the creative economy.
“We should not be just part of them. We should engage businesses or even transform businesses into design-driven integration linkages. That’s where I think Thailand should be heading as we approach becoming a single sharing economy.”
Sasivimol, 36, graduated with an interior architecture degree from the faculty of architecture at Chulalongkorn University in 2002. She and her husband Kuldej Sinthawanarong set up Jarken Co in 2003 as an interior and architecture design company. Kuldej graduated with a PhD in design management and building engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK in 1999.
Sasivimol said that in the following few years after opening Jarken, she and Kuldej opened JK Builders as the second firm under the group, to provide both architectural and interior construction services.
“My husband and I also opened pye as a new business unit about five years ago to deal with the change of technology towards the digital realm and social networks,” she said. “With the emergence of the globalisation trend, individual consumers are more educated and demanding. We needed a new branded business which provides a solution that caters to consumers’ changing demands as well as differentiating ourselves from our competitors.”
She said that pye, as an interior and architectural design service with an emphasis on quick turnaround times, maximised a business’s efficiency.
She said that pye offered a highly customised approach to each client’s individual needs, incorporating a range of factors, such as lifestyle, taste, personality, and behaviour, into its designs. The brand communicated with potential customers via social media as its main publicity channel.
Another run by Sasivimol is Tiger Lily, which was set up four years ago as a brand agency to provide a design ecology service – from the creation of a brand’s identity to marketing strategy, logo graphic design and packaging.
Last year she also set up pye Design School to teach design to beginners. She then set up pye Palette as a maker of branded fashion apparels to be distributed via online shopping and exports.
Her latest company is Di Concept Store, which offers creative home and office materials.
All this activity has resulted in Sasivimol posting about Bt10 million in total revenue and employing five staff in her first year of operations, with a forecast of Bt400 million this year. She now has 130 staff.
She said that Thailand needed to lift its design game.
“We need to accept the fact that we are far off becoming a leading design and experience nation at this stage,” she said. “We have layered, sophisticated market and consumer bases with the vast majority of the public not fully aware of the value of design and the significance of design infrastructure – such as design education, cross-collaboration and national strategies – to develop unique Thai iconic design solutions that are good enough to keep up with our friends and competitors internationally and domestically.”
She said that industries like hospitality, retail and entertainment – where design was critical for consumers, ergonomics, lifestyle and decision-making in terms of buying something – were not fully integrated cluster-wise.
“I would say we could help set a standard of excellence in order to promote design to enterprises, delivering global benchmarking for those clusters,” she said. “We could also develop a global standing for designers, establishing a global reach, raise the profile of design professionals and support and nurture young talent in continuing their education and starting and sustaining their businesses.”
She said design was embedded everywhere but at a superficial level. The design industries were fragmented and so were the trends.
“We don’t need to just follow trends – we follow them, study them closely and work something out for our own,” she said. “Design should not be just a part of those initiatives to help businesses grow. We should be leading those [initiatives].”
She said that the country’s development towards a Thailand 4.0 economy was a gimmick. However, it was a good sign and a sound approach for Thailand’s so-called creativity economy.
But she said that the government and the public needed to work harder to lay a solid path towards public awareness and a true belief in design.
“You don’t focus just on achieving a high income; money always comes later,’ she said. “What we could do is actually form an ecosystem of design across society … from upstream to downstream. Also, the very first and continuing initiative should be letting people think about design, develop through design and sustain with design.”