From Apple to APAC: how Eight Inc is pushing experience design in Asia

Eight Inc has hired Andrew Au to its APAC team

Eight Inc is adding to its leadership team in Asia Pacific, with the appointment of Andrew Au as executive director for APAC.

The agency, which was born from a reputation as being 'Apple’s secret weapon', has spent almost a decade building its Asia office around its experience design offering.

Au has joined from Imagination, where he was managing director of Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific board director. Prior to that, he's spent time at Fluid Design and at The Economist.

The new hire of Au represents a renewed focus on strategic partnerships and business development efforts, with Au based out of the Singapore studio and reporting into founder and chief executive officer Tim Kobe.

“Like our best experience architects and designers, Andrew possesses a certain degree of humility, emotional intelligence and sensitivity in bringing unique insights to the conversation. Coming from Imagination, Andrew understands how we, as human-centered experience designers, approach challenges and will no doubt contribute to the evolution of the dialogue from a design-led approach with our clients,” said Kobe.

According to Kobe, this need for particular talent types is because the studio refrains from viewing clients and projects via “standard industry or business categories”. He adds, “This alternative approach in going beyond the verticals, is why Eight Inc. is affectionately referred to as “Apple’s best secret” and “the most progressive design firm”, because of the preference in doing things differently from everyone else.”

The studios are limited to a headcount of no more than 30 business creatives and strategic designers, led by a small management team. This is opposed to operating large offices that often face large overheads and operations costs, which are in turn supported by taking on many small projects, according to Kobe.

The Singapore office is a significant hub in the business's strategy, however, as Kobe himself moved to Singapore in 2010. He now divides his time between the Singapore and California office, as well as spending time at the other 11 Eight Inc offices.

Singapore’s importance is driven in part by the government’s investment into building the city as a global design hub.

“Singapore is at the centre of thought leadership, standing out in the growth and development of design education. In the vision of Design 2025, Singapore strives to be a thriving innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by design, just like the design hubs of Tokyo and Milan,” said Kobe.

Kobe references the current Singapore Design Week, of which Eight Inc has played a part.

“In support of the DesignSingapore Council, Eight Inc. launched Open Studios for the first time to discuss and celebrate collaborative projects alongside the client-cum-co-creators, who have turned into long-time friends through built projects. At the recently launched Singtel FutureNow Innovation Centre, the studio demonstrated how design can enable business transformation and at Shimano Cycling World, explained the role of design and branded experiences as the new face of marketing.”

The next steps for the studio will be to continue to build on its focus on experience design, particularly as brands in APAC see a strong shift towards omnichannel, according to Kobe.

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