How Design Can Create Post Pandemic Business Resiliency

Small Business Canada

The recent pandemic has shaken away strategic business models for small and large businesses alike. Therefore, Stanley Sun, a Partner at Mason Studio talk about how design can be that deciding change in creating a post-pandemic resiliency. Sun discusses the future of design in the retail business and how his venture will help young entrepreneurs who are still finding their feet.

Stanley Sun, Partner at Mason Studio

Stanley Sun’s design vision is informed by a unique blend of formal studies in human sciences, fine arts and interior design training. Approaching each new design challenge with a combined scientific and humanistic perspective, he first observes how people experience and react to the built environment to then create a rational and intuitive design solution. Of particular interest to Stanley’s practice is the science of light, and the physiological and psychological response people have to light. Throughout his career, Stanley has led major interior design projects across Asia, North America and Europe. He recently led the award-winning Jing’An project in Shanghai. As an advocate for Canadian design, Stanley has been published widely and has participated as a keynote speaker at leading design conferences. He has also lectured as a sessional instructor at his alma mater, Ryerson School of Interior Design

What is the inspiration behind the launch of Mason Studio? And what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Mason Studio is an established, multi-award-winning international architecture and design firm. We create luxury hospitality, retail and multi-unit residential design projects, and experimental exhibitions. Based on our core value of “less but better”, our work blends art and science with the aim of delivering meaningful and unexpected experiences to our clients and end-users.

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What is your vision of the future of retail and service businesses, and how can design help them adapt to not only the current crisis but future economic, physical, social and environmental impacts as well?

The pandemic has presented us with many challenges, notwithstanding having to rethink the way we interact with our physical spaces. However, we believe that with great challenge comes great opportunity: retail and service businesses can now rethink the way they use design to create long-term resiliency.

It’s clear that digital now plays a leading component in our shopping experiences, even in physical environments – for example, ordering products on your phone for curbside pickup.

But often, an online experience is very disconnected from a physical one. One opportunity to leverage design lies in more deeply connecting our virtual and physical experiences. What if we were to create reimagined, hybrid businesses, where physical and digital aspects are more intertwined?

Additionally, having more flexible thinking around different modes of selling and location, such as creating mobile retail environments, can enable businesses to reach and sell to their customers in fast, safe and convenient new ways.

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Why is it important to change the way we think about design and consider how it can be used to facilitate innovation?

Design is not just an object or space-based; it can actually be utilized to rebuild businesses, promote wellness and contribute to the bottom line. As a result, it is incredibly important that we shift the mindset to better appreciate how design can facilitate innovation. We are seeing more and more disciplines converging, so we are looking at how we are going to use design to merge these different programs – be it health and wellness, retail or technology – to add value, not just from a revenue standpoint, but from a lifestyle standpoint as well.

Design can be used to blur the lines between segmentations in the market to create more cohesive, experience-based shopping environments.

This could be in the form of using the common areas in residential units for pop-ups and concept stores or transforming the space from a hair salon by day to a cocktail bar by night. A lifestyle based on this type of convergence is not only reflective of the times where people are wanting to stay closer to home, but it also presents the opportunity to create a more comprehensive brand through multiple interconnected experiences. Design is a crucial aspect of this from both an aesthetic and functional perspective.

What are some ways that businesses can effectively implement design thinking principles?

Design thinking helps test assumptions, ask questions and use experimentation as part of the process – and these principles can be applied to any business. It is a more flexible, less regimented approach that encourages seeing things from a different perspective, drawing upon concepts from other disciplines and allowing this to teach us new ways of thinking or looking at things. It’s about taking a step back and looking at the business as a whole, for example, how businesses are framed and developed, and using design to create better solutions. Businesses have an opportunity to rethink how design can help sell products and services in a way that’s resilient and engaging for the customer. It’s more than design solutions – it’s business solutions. For instance, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to see how we interact with each other and how important that human interaction is in a physical environment.

What is your key advice to small businesses during these challenging times?

I think some people are more fearful to start a new initiative because the future is so uncertain. Design can help fuel flexibility and can be used as a powerful tool to provide comfort, confidence and resilience.

Thinking ahead enables us to design with ideas that are relevant for the future and not just 3-6 months down the line.

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