It's two decades since Apple's first iconic glass cube store marked a shift in the way we saw and experienced retail. Yet the mind behind it, designer Tim Kobe, continues to transform many other brands worldwide, accelerating and revolutionising the industry as we know it.
The most notable element of his work under his studio Eight Inc., co-headquartered in Singapore and San Francisco, is evidently the underlying concept of having human experience at the core of the business. Here's what we learned.
Great brands are only about one thing
Like every other relationship, the foundation is trust, which Kobe acknowledges as a two-way thing. "Not all companies put trust on top, by the way," he says. Companies have to question whether they are focused on building a trusted relationship with their consumers. As every brand would have their own set of values, consumers would be able to see when they are communicated successfully through the various design touchpoints.
Most companies extract rather than create value
Many companies emulate the competition to feel part of the game, but that only creates parity in the industry. Consumers won't be able the distinguish the difference between each brand. Once a product or service offering becomes a commodity, it becomes less valuable. It is human nature that emotional connection justifies a purchase.
They almost weren't hired by Apple
"First time (Steve Jobs) looked at our work, he said "Why should I hire you guys? None of this work looks like Apple."," Kobe reveals, "My business partner got a little nervous but I said, "Well, you should hire us, because none of this work looks like Apple"." To Kobe, Design at Eight Inc. is not about bringing a style into a brand, but finding the appropriate qualities to show the brand's character. "I don't think that he honestly knew upfront (what Apple should look like in terms of design), he wanted to go through a process to uncover it."
Creativity feels less tangible in Singapore
There lies an innate pragmatism that appears to run against valuing creativity; because creativity involves trying many things that may not work. "The culture rewards those who follow structure, and creativity doesn't," Kobe states, "Growing the left and right brain capability is critical for any successful culture going forward."
Best design is for the long-term
With the limited resource in Singapore, everything tends to be considered here. Yet late minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew looked beyond the practical approach. While most tend to invest in near-term solutions, he was sensitive to how an initiative like this would impact a broader group in the future.
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