Derek MacKenzie

Derek MacKenzie is managing director of designphase dba. With over 35 years of experience working in the region, he brings a tenacious, pragmatic and client-centric mindset to design issues.

As a seasoned Asian campaigner and designer for both public and private sectors in Singapore and Southeast Asia, MacKenzie relishes using his tremendous wealth of experience in his role as managing director of a multi-award winning interior design company. With over 35 years in Singapore and the region, he brings a tenacious, pragmatic and client-centric mindset to design issues. MacKenzie is a staunch advocate of the immense contribution that open-minded, imaginative designs bring to all businesses. To that end, he has assembled a like-minded team of thoughtful, highly original, creative thinkers and producers to critically assess and implement solutions in partnership with clients. A tireless campaigner for professionalism, MacKenzie remains thoroughly engaged in his field and continues to believe that both people and businesses perform better in well-designed, carefully curated environments.

Tell us about your design philosophy and how would you describe your signature style in managing clients’ expectations?
Interior design is all about crafting spatial potential. But success in this endeavour is never one person’s enterprise or opinion. The crafting requires orientation, an aspiration towards a preferred future. And the ‘enterprise’ necessitates collaboration. In our profession, there are often many stakeholders; they all have opinions that vary and compete for attention. Central to this environment, however, are the objectives, expectations and dreams of the client. Empathy with the client and their team will weigh heavily on the opinions and desires of others involved. So, design-phase dba builds storylines or narratives that capture, weave in and reframe the client’s proposition, gently bring them on board through a process of mutual understanding.

Could you give an example of a recent successful interior project that you have led from inception to completion?
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) assignment: the bank’s business profile in Singapore was blended with a design aesthetic that emphasised its Australian heritage. This was stylistically contemporised and infused with CBA’s brand identity.

Spatially, the needs to accommodate the various business groups, technologies and conference facilities coalesced around the staircase connection that was introduced to link client-facing areas, encouraging the physical ebb and flow between the different spaces. This planning strategy anchored the plan together with the placement of the bank’s partner First State Investments, and the positioning of the trading room and made space-planning priorities easier for the flow between operating teams.

The abstracted Federation styling through these public areas helps to visually unify the bank’s two main entities (CBA and First State Investments), providing a distinctive Australian look and feel that identify strongly with the bank’s cultural background.

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