What are the building blocks of meaningful connections between brands and consumers today? Where do brand-consumer relationships begin and end? And just what is the role of the designer today in shaping those relationships?
Founder and Creative Director of Parable Studio Ken Yuktasevi is a great person to look to for answers. Ken lives and designs with constant consideration of the human experience. He’s a storyteller at heart, which arms him with an intuitive understanding of the importance of observation and engagement. So it’s no surprise that he has developed considerable skill at strategising encounters of brands that have the capacity for deep and lasting impact.
In a few short years, Parable Studio has etched out an impressive position as an arbiter of meaningful experience and distinctive interior design in the retail, hospitality and F&B sectors. Ken will be lending his valuable perspective to our Saturday Indesign ‘Design Conversations’ series as a speaker in our retail-focused session, ‘Today’s Retail Dynamics: Who’s Driving Consumer Experience?’
We caught up with Ken ahead of 12 October to find out more about the Parable perspective on retail design.
In general terms, how do you think the retail experience in Singapore could be improved?
Singapore’s retail experience can benefit from a massive shift of mindset. Yes, we are presented with constraints of costs, space and market volume, but that should make us return to the fundamentals of what makes telling genuine stories and being passionate about engaging people the heartbeat of amazing retail.
The question should not be just about efficiency, how to cut costs or how to be the loudest ‘Instagramable’ design. We should be asking ourselves something more like, “What’s the best way I can use 1,000 square feet to build meaningful relationships with my audience?”
How have you explored this in your projects?
Interestingly it started with me knowing that on paper I am not critically the most talented, most groundbreaking designer in the room. This led me to be committed to understanding my client and customer as deeply as I could. Over the past 15 years, this has created a process where we explore design from a different perspective at the very genus of a project. We ask the right type of questions and we have a very certain type of designer in our studio that knows what to do with the answers.
Parable’s team members are first and foremost storytellers and artists. We cannot do what we do if we don’t have a mixed-discipline bunch of open-minded and humble professionals operating at the top of their craft.
“We ask the right type of questions and we have a very certain type of designer in our studio that knows what to do with the answers.”
– Ken Yuktasevi
This has led us to very interesting outcomes of space usage and expression. Lee Hwa has new stores now in Bugis Junction and Suntec City, which feel a lot more open and part of the surrounding mall rather than a secured jewel box. Staff now have spaces specifically designed to talk and connect with customers however they wish to experience the product – from a craft table to a dessert bar.
And most importantly, a new generation gets to shake hands afresh with an old local brand.
What does the future of the design studio look like from your point of view?
The future will inevitably make way for studios that are not defined by design discipline or scope. Businesses and the world will expect creativity and the ability to create to be part of almost EVERY value proposition. So humans will not just need creativity to get ahead of the game, but they will plain need it to survive.
But what I find a lot more challenging and interesting is the changing relationship between design studios and their most immediate community – which consists of designers and clients. In order for this future to be healthy and full of vibrancy and promise, the connections will have to change DRASTICALLY.
“The future will inevitably make way for studios that are not defined by design discipline or scope.”
– Ken Yuktasevi
How does Parable Studio progress the offering of the design industry?
I have always believed if I can’t first be committed to designing a better future for the designers on my team, then I can’t expect them to continue to design better futures for our clients. The heart of everything we do is to ‘architect’ the most brutally open relationship with each other and to be in it for the long run with our clients.
Please elaborate with reference to some of Parable Studio’s projects.
I’d like to be totally weird and talk about what projects mean to my staff and what clients mean to me.
Doing an Hermès window has been a dream of one of our graphic designers ever since she was a student. I treated our Hermès projects as a way to connect someone to their dream. We’re pouring studio resources into doing everything we can to make that the best outcome possible.
My heart for our involvement with the URA’s City Hall BID (Business Improvement District) development program is not just to tell an amazing story and build a global district for Singapore, but an opportunity for our story strategist to make a difference in her hometown and to make her my ‘most poachable’ team member. I genuinely want to see everyone who is in Parable progress in their craft.
Creating a new brand experience for Banyan Tree excites me not because of the portfolio or fees. But I think about it day and night because I truly believe what my client believes about the world around us and NOTHING comes close to translating the dreams of someone I can say is one of my best friends.
My hope is that the design studio of the future feels like this on a normal day.
This will be your first appearance at Saturday Indesign. What are you looking forward to on 12 October?
I’m excited to be sitting with and hearing from the people on the panel who I deeply respect and would love to engage with. Woods Bagot’s impact on the world is something I could only dream of achieving. I’m also excited to make new friends and meet people who hopefully will become a part of what Parable is doing in our industry!