Founded in 2010 by Singaporean designer Dominic Chong and his Australian wife Alex Gilmour, Sydney-based Evie Group is a young design studio that’s gaining notice at home and beyond. Dominic tells us more about what they do.
4 February, 2014
How did you end up living and working in Australia?
I had a strong curiosity for product and graphic design from a young age. As product design wasn’t offered in Singapore at the time, I pursued manufacturing engineering in Nanyang Polytechnic, which was closest to product design. However, the course concentrated on the technical, back end aspects only and not the aesthetics or usability of design. After my National Service, I decided to pursue a Bachelor and subsequently a Master’s in Industrial Design at University of Technology, Sydney (where I met my wife Alex).
I started working in Sydney within the industrial design industry across product, furniture and graphic design and after a while decided to settle in Australia. I’ve been here for 13 years now.
Returning a few times every year to Singapore, I have to say that it now has a much more vibrant and exciting design scene. I am actively looking to get more involved in it and give something back to the growing design community if possible.
Why did you and Alex decide to establish a design studio together?
We were really competitive when we were in university but we have complementary styles in both our aesthetics and outlook. We always wanted to make our own products, to work for ourselves and to share our passion with others.
So after working for quite some time in the design industry, where we built up our experience and contacts, we felt ready and decided to form Evie Group… Alex turned to me one day when we were sketching and said, “Why don’t we start our own company?” I shrugged and said “Okay”. And that was that!
Tell us about your studio and what it is that you do.
Our studio name, Evie Group came from a modification of “Eve” as we wanted it to be a sort of ‘start or beginning’ of a new design. The “Group” part was referring to our different areas of expertise and service.
There are two parts to our business. One is the consultancy side where we provide graphic and product design services to our clients. We work for a range of major brands as well as medium and small companies, so there is always a mix of interesting and diverse work. Projects range from small run print collateral, to apps, 3D modelling and prototyping, global presentations, branding and product launch events.
The other side is our own product collection which we design, manufacture and retail ourselves and through select outlets. In addition to our own designs, we have recently started Evie Presents in which we represent up-and-coming designers and select certain works to sell under our brand. For example, the Moo stool and coat rack. This provides emerging designers with an opportunity to sell their wares and a platform to uncover their design process.
What influences you as designers and how do these influences translate into your work?
Simple, classic designs. A minimalist approach inspired by American modernism, and Scandinavian and Japanese elements. The output depends on the project but as a general rule we aim to have our work simple and polished. After a considered approach on how to remove or combine unnecessary elements, we take a step back and ask ourselves: Can this product be better and would it date quickly?
Which do you see as one of your most significant works to date and why?
I would say it is our Spun lamp. This brought us a lot of international media exposure and to date is still our best selling product.
It won the Australian Object and Lighting design of the year in 2012 IDEA Awards and was a top 10 finalist in the Bombay Sapphire Design awards 2011. It has been featured in many commercial and residential spaces including #1 Bligh St Sydney – Prime Minister’s Office, Westfields UK and Café del Mar Sydney to name a few. It is also a permanent collection in the Shanghai Museum of Glass.
You’ve a young studio but have already received quite a number of accolades. How do you see the progress of your studio from 2010 till now?
We are very fortunate to have received quite a bit of media attention locally as well as internationally which has strengthened our reputation within Australia. Overseas, we seem to be especially popular in the Scandinavia region, France and Germany.
The studio is growing every day. We have built up a clientele for regular design services and have expanded our product collection and retailers within Australia and abroad. This includes outlets in Singapore, which we are looking to further expand with new products, projects and services.
You state that the studio works with ‘responsible manufacturers’. Can you elaborate? How does sustainability factor into the work that you do?
We want to be involved in every step in the production, not just in terms of strict quality control but how our products are manufactured and who makes them. We specify materials durable for long-term use and the practicality of the product. Products are produced with minimal waste and all packaging used is minimal and recyclable. Products are also designed for users to hold on to. We hope to reduce the throw away aspect of consumable products in the long-term.
For any overseas manufacturing, we take note of the factory’s conditions and practices as well as talk to the workers to ensure the manufacturers we use are socially responsible in their practice and to their staff.
What will you be busy with in 2014?
We will be busy! Designing our new products and furniture ranges will be priority as well as expanding our international retailers. On the graphics side we will be doing a branding and product launch event for a high-end European luxury car brand and a set of eBooks for a leading supermarket chain.
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