Partnering with Designers? Huh?

April 2011, by So-Young Kang
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Many people ask us, how does a leadership development and consulting firm (The Awaken Group) partner and work together with an architecture and design studio (UNION Experience)? We recognize that it is an unlikely partnership, yet it came about organically in our desire to bring our clients unique and innovative solutions. The Awaken Group launched the Creative Collaborative, a network of our unique partnerships, as one of the ways we live out our values for working together by integrating a diverse set of experiences to design beautiful solutions for our clients.

Today, we’re excited to introduce you to one of our Creative Collaborative partners, UNION Experience; the interview is based on our conversation with Mark Wee and Ken Yuktasevi, Directors of UNION Experience. The photos are of some of UNION’s projects.

How would you describe Union Experience?

UNION Experience is a multidisciplinary research-based design thinking studio founded in Singapore that provides integrated services in the areas of architecture, interior design, branding, communication, user research and business strategy. We collaborate to build thoughtful environments and experiences.


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Woodlands Bloodbank, Singapore

We integrate many different design aspects to bring holistic solutions for our clients in the commercial and public sectors (including hotels, restaurants, residential) that are not only beautiful, but also sensitive to the environment, people, and culture.

How did you decide to become part of the Creative Collaborative with The Awaken Group?

The way we think is necessary to craft great experiences for our clients. Great experiences are a combination of products, services and environment. We recognized that The Awaken Group, with its specialization in human capital, development and ability to innovate processes and productivity in organizations, offered a great complement to our own services which is about building environments and communication.

“There is a strange change happening in the world, the empathetic can now HEAR, the childlike can now SEE, and the meek can now DO. Design thinking with its tenants of empathy, curiosity, and collaboration is bringing a fresh lens to how we can address the complex problems of the world through understanding it through the eyes and hearts of people. Beautiful experiences make life beautiful, don’t we all want that?” –Mark Wee

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So-Young Kang and Mark Wee at the Service Excellence Conference, Singapore (January 2011)

“It really is a joy to work with Mark, Ken and UNION given our shared values and desire to transform the world. It’s affirming to see that clients have also caught on to our unique value proposition!” –So-Young Kang

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking (DT) is a thought process that designers use when creating and innovating new things/ideas/solutions (e.g., for building environments, communication design, industrial design) and we look at how this way of thinking can be used outside their context to design new systems or to address problems.

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Krish Restaurant, Singapore

We work closely with our clients to understand their underlying needs (e.g., through interviews). Interviews with clients, for example, allow us to propose stronger briefs to design environments with them.

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Singapore Airlines Lounge

A big part of DT involves empathy and trying to understand people’s needs and their context better. At Union, that is something we’ve always been interested in–understanding people, because ultimately, they are who we’re designing for. DT is about understanding those needs and designing something in response to that.