Design Edition Project Feature: Redefining Spaces with IDV Asia

Retail spaces has evolved to become more than just a platform to showcase products. In an era where customer experience is king, these spaces have transformed into a multi sensory and interactive environment to connect and excite shoppers with more than just products. Priding themselves as “creators of immersive interior experiences”, we sat down with the woman amidst this scene of growth and creation Jen Lee, director of IDV Asia, where she shared her views on design, how the pandemic has affected retail spaces, as well as their recent project: The Sincere Fine Watches boutique at Jewel Changi Airport.

1. Tell us more about your brand.

A full-fledged retail and commercial interior fit-out specialist, IDV Asia is a dynamic league of vibrant and established designers, producers, project managers and engineers. We are innovators of experience. We believe that an interior space should not be of mundane spatial creations. We manifest your vision into a multi-sensory dimension for your consumers.

With proven history and experience of more than 2 decades in the design and manufacturing of localised and customised furniture, fixtures of wood and other construction installations, IDV Asia today has evolved to be one of the leading and most trusted luxury retail and commercial Interior Fit-out specialist in the Asia Pacific region.

We pride ourselves in being an innovative and integrity-driven full-fledged design-and-build company. By virtue of having a 360 capability, we ensure efficient workflow, communication and quality. Our team of designers, engineers, project managers, and producers consistently produce results that exceed expectations, enabling us to deliver on what we promise.

With an expanding portfolio that includes local and international projects, IDV Asia is looking forward to leaving and making an indelible mark in the industry worldwide.

2. What does design mean to you?

I will borrow the quotes from two distinguished & renowned personalities :

“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” – Charles Eames, American designer, architect, and filmmaker

“Design as a means of expression stems from a sense of identity.” – Mike Lim, principal designer of DP Design

From an industry where I often come across with the word “design” as in a piece of creative drawing/product/art, I am very captivated by the beautiful lines or strokes that a designer/artist was able to sketch to form a great drawing. I, not even able to match up with a stroke. I am personally drawn to believe that design is not necessarily about a space or an item or a transient thought that is yet to be fulfilled.

I have always considered design as change. A matter that will take place in its own form. Whether good or bad. In my humble opinion, the importance of design here is that it should be about improving a certain situation, as design should eventually be about making things work better in its place. An action.

To cite an example: in IDVAsia, we experienced huge difficulties in getting information from a single source of data, where we can collate to do analysis. We decided to go on an adventure to acquire talents, design & develop an in-house IT software solutions product (titled “CADENA”), to provide as an Enterprise Network Application to integrate our internal operations. Through this, we took steps to be responsible to accomplish a purpose in our company.

This to me, is a design in action. A purposeful design where we focus on change to improve, leveraging on technology and expression from a sense of identity. To me, change is inspiring.

3. Do you think there is a Singaporean Design?

Certainly, there are plenty of great Singaporean Design. 

Big shout-out to our infamous Irvins snack products, which made its way from Singapore to Salt Lake City! 

4. Is there any project of yours that embodies the Singaporean Design?

We are in the progress to launch the IT software solution, which was wholly developed by 6 Singaporeans who are passionate to elevate and change the way local carpentry projects managed their processes. This industry is our first outreach stop.

5. Tell us more about a particular project you’ve done that you think showcases good design.

I believe one particular project we’ve done that showcases good design would be our previous office unit. We designed it with the intention to have multiple social areas to create space for staff training, social interaction, and collaboration. We felt that every space should serve its purpose, thus we decided to have just a single meeting room for corporate discussions, so that no space is wasted due to under usage. In addition, staff work areas are within an open concept design, where their tables are fabricated in-house using open desk design. The open concept idea is to foster collaboration and interaction. 

Single meeting room to reduce the wastage of unused spaces. Photo courtesy of IDV Asia.

As we wanted to create an industrial design concept, we played with a mix of wood and metal materials to achieve that effect, along with grey hue walls and flooring. We also emphasised the importance of having a separate greenery area in the office space so that we could be close to nature.

IDV Asia’s previous office unit transformed for their annual Christmas party. Photo courtesy of IDV Asia.

6. Tell us about the Jewel project.

Jewel was a special project which our client (Sincere Fine Watches) wanted to have a complete different design from all their flagship boutiques in SEA. IDVAsia was given the complete freedom to design and propose a concept which is suitable at this location. As the project was a complete turnkey fit-out project, we were appointed as Design Consultant, Products manufacturing, and Interior renovation contractor. Thus, we took on the full implementation, from interior design, furniture design, manufacturing of the furniture & fixtures locally, interior renovation, project management & site supervision, installation, completion & handover to client and Landlord. 

Sincere Fine Watches Boutique store at Jewel Changi Airport. Photo courtesy of IDV Asia.

7. What challenges did you face in trying to fulfil the requirements of the project?

Being in a new shopping mall, within a high controlled area (Airport), has many restrictions. All machinery & hand tools are to be scanned and labelled for usage within the location. Monthly updates and renewal of entry permits of all site visitors/supervisors/workers were also necessary; which required more administration support.

Due to the design proposed which required significant quantity of metal materials, we had to outsource this process work to Malaysia as we are not fully equipped with the machinery for such fabrication. This resulted in a longer time cost due to back-and-forth coordination works.

8. What are some of the striking features of the project that you wish to highlight? 

The design intent is a clean, elegant aesthetics interspersed with geometric shapes and elements. From its store front to the various structures such as display counters and decorative elements inside the boutique, the design team took creative references from Jewel’s dome-shaped façade and its majestic and modern architecture to be in line with the look of the latest attraction in Changi. 

Display counters and decorative elements. Photo courtesy of IDV Asia.

The boutique design is also representative of our client’s brand’s ethos of being modern and luxurious and the retailer’s quest to welcome customers into an enclave reflective of its commitment to excellence and its spirit of tradition and innovation. This explains the generous use of glass and rose gold elements throughout the boutique to lend a luxurious, aesthetically pleasing touch.

The unmistakable combination of warm brown hues on the wooden panels and shades of copper as well as the soft hints of grey and blue of the carpet and upholstery that immediately gives a welcoming effect, much like visiting a friend’s home. The table vitrines and the soft, warm lightings were strategically positioned to allow customers to appreciate the top-quality products in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

Warm brown hues, use of glass and rose gold elements gave a welcoming, yet modern and luxurious feel to the boutique. Photo courtesy of IDV Asia.

9. How has having an in-house team design and build your projects benefitted IDV Asia?

Having an in-house team design and build our projects have several advantages over engaging external firms, including the team having a company-wide perspective, continuity into implementation and delivering quality results, higher levels of confidentiality, and greater cost-effectiveness. But raising up such a team was an unprecedented endeavour for us.

However, through the leadership training during our weekend volunteer service, myself and Vincent (CEO of IDV Asia) learnt the concept of creating a deep-bench culture, having a diversely talented team. As we’ve built our team over the past seven years, we’ve realized that even more important than first assembling a talented team is continuing to support them in their growth.

10. With the pandemic, and the potential dip in commercial projects, how has IDV shifted its strategy in projects now? How has it affected the way you design and build for commercial clients?

Even before the pandemic, in 2018, we put up a roadmap to pivot the company’s operations to build up on our technology capabilities.

We began acquiring some advanced machinery to better equip ourselves with digitalization transformation. The acquisition includes, job re-design of designer’s team, providing upskilling of their existing skills to adopt the new knowledge and advanced manufacturing processes.

We are also working to leverage using data analytics to assist us to better manage our clients’ projects.

One of our projects which we designed a boutique space in Singapore. Our design brief was to provide a fresh shopping experience to customers who will value the freedom of moving around the boutique while viewing the products. At the same time, provide an immersive experience where a digital panel constantly displaying moving images or commercials to hold the attention of the customer in the retail shop.

This concept was brought forward to their branch in Kuala Lumpur where we were tasked to design functionality which incorporates features suitable for the current pandemic condition where hygiene and safe distancing are paramount to their operations.

During this pandemic, we have learnt that interior design does not only evolve on the way that interior elements are being placed within a space but understanding the spatial design which works on the idea of the space being enclosed; focuses on the flow of space between interior and exterior. 

11. How do you think the Design&Build industry should safeguard themselves with the new pandemic, now that many commercial spaces are losing traffic/footfall? 

The future of Design&Build belongs to those who boldly invest in “innovative technology—not be concerned about how it affects the P&L but about how it’s going to affect the value of the business to the consumer.” 

Consumers are also purchasing more through e-commerce and smaller store formats, and the migration online is visible across all retail. However, being in the Design&Build industry allows the team to provide innovative solutions where design could integrate with the digital transformation and create value to the consumers.

1 September 2021