Founder of Thinkscape, John Jong, has a knack for building better spaces and he shares with RAINA NG that it is his ability to change perspectives in the brand space that gets him far
“It is not what I want to do but what I can do that helped me decide on the path my career would take,” is John Jong’s response to the question why he took up architecture. The Miri-born Jong is inspired by the thought of being able to create something out of nothing.
“For me, it was not about the desire to be an architect, but the search for better living spaces and lifestyles. As a designer, I have the ability and knowledge to create a better living environment; I can engineer the way we live in our space.”
Jong chanced upon the idea of design through a friend. Fresh-faced and wide-eyed, he had come to Kuala Lumpur to explore his options when he bumped into a friend who was en route to becoming an interior designer.
“I saw how design was more than just about drawing. I saw how it could affect my life and the lives of others,” he explains. The two clicked – Jong and design. Jong breezed through university, graduating with a first class honours, and then sailed effortlessly through his masters in digital architecture.
“Design runs in my veins,” he quips. Jong founded Thinkscape, the company he now runs, in 1999. “I was working with a young fashion designer from RCA, helping to design the stage for London Fashion Week. I was so inspired by this project that I just wanted to keep on going, so I started a business that could provide better spaces.”
Jong was not keen on setting up just any design consultancy. Inspired by the Bauhaus design school, he adopted the core belief of bringing together talents from various disciplines to create ideas that work. He teamed up with architects Dato’ Ar Dr Baharuddin Abu Kassim and Chew Kok Fai to establish Thinkscape. Dato’ Baharuddin and Chew heads the firm’s architectural division, T3. “We share the same philosophy in that we believe that whatever we architect, we should always do with a purpose and a soul. This would be the heartbeat that keeps us going and this is our winning formula,” stresses Jong.
“So we saw the birth of a new model that fused brand architecture with experience. Conceptual designs can now be better thought through. I trust we are the first such design agency to adopt this strategy in the region,” he says.
Thinkscape has over the years built themselves up as a platform for clients to explore ways for them to create better brands holistically. Using architecture and design, Jong helps brands to create their identities through experiences that would resonate.
This is done from the design of their building and interior, their retail spaces, right down to the design of their website and logo. Of course there are challenges. Being the type of firm that they are, it takes courage tomake a stand when they believe that what is proposed is best for a brand. “We educate our clients when we need to, so that we can control how the brand is shaped and therefore perceived,” Jong says. There are clients who will dictate what they want and while they have valid viewpoints, Jong says that their perspective is of course only one side of the story. By insisting only on their point of view, they do not allow creativity to flourish and possibilities to be explored.
“I have noticed that this has discouraged many designers, limiting their creativity and possibilities,” says Jong. This, he says, stunts the industry as a whole, preventing growth and improvement. Jong believes that there is a need to encourage designers to think, rather than passively carry out briefs. “So we altered the way things are done a little and instead of just asking for a brief, we encourage our clients to first share their vision with us. From there, we write the briefs.” It is, for Jong, most important to first fully grasp the client’s objective before taking steps to get there. “It is not just about creating breakthrough designs, it is about bringing them into fruition,” he adds.
In educating his clients, one person at a time, Jong hopes to impart the appreciation he has for design. “Design determines the way in which we live. It shapes our space and helps us make better sense of the world,” he says. “We should know that we can engineer the way we live. Good design improves the quality of our lives.”
“But the thing is that it takes work,” Jong is quick to add. “You do not just wake up to perfectly manicured lawns. Things do not happen by magic; they take hard work. So we cannot stop working. We need to be relentless in our efforts and constantly evolve in the right direction so that we do not get stuck in a rut. Good design is never complacent. – Prestige
Photo credit: Prestige