Homegrown company Kingsmen has evolved from only creating exhibition and retail spaces to delivering experience design for clients. The catalyst for change was a major account it won in 2005 to develop omnichannel campaigns for a car manufacturer. Since then, Kingsmen has built up a 400-person design team and developed a specialised curriculum in design thinking, which is now a key part of every employee’s development.
Founded in 1976, communication design and production group Kingsmen started out in the retail and exhibitions spaces. Over the years, the company has evolved from creating exhibition and retail spaces to developing multinational marketing communications campaigns and designing a full experience journey for clients.
Interior of Kingsmen's Building.
The turning point came about when Kingsmen won a 10-year account with BMW in 2005 and became responsible for developing campaigns for a larger range of BMW showroom & events across multiple communications platform. Kingsmen had to transform from just an exhibitions and retail company to a full-fledged communication design and production group. This was unprecedented in the history of the firm in its complexity and scale. It required expertise that the then Kingsmen did not possess. However, the team adopted an open mind set and took the challenge to acquire the right skills through rigorous research and conscious effort.
Kingsmen began with no designers with a background in experience and service design. There was a need to change and stay ahead of competition. Kingsmen also began expanding its design capabilities by expanding the team with the right design talents and develop the skills of the Kingsmen design team.
The key designers were also sent to BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany for brand training. Separately, the BMW team also flew in staff to Singapore to assist with the new brand development to ensure that the team “gets it right” in the shortest time. As every BMW brief is different for each market, there was a need to customise the work done according to unique needs.
As a result, the company saw the need to create a multidisciplinary team that brought together different communications and design disciplines, including an in-house Research & Content development team. This helped to widen the company’s working knowledge of the different design disciplines. Some of the experiences designed by Kingsmen include designing the BMW Series Pavilion in Asia Pacific and the BMW World Stories in Motion event – where instead of a typical motor show, the event was designed to tell the evolution of BMW cars over the years through interactive activities and immersive elements.
Another example of experience design done for BMW is the launch of BMW i series, the electric mobility solution in Singapore in 2016. Instead of a typical brand activation, Kingsmen designed the launched through the telling of stories that form bonds with people, not “consumers” or “clients”. Kingsmen worked to enlighten the public about the reasons behind BMW’s solution of electric mobility. This meant working with environment design experts to create visual cues, design symmetry and imaginative exhibit. This also meant that the exhibition of the new cars had to be public-friendly – with full-length windows for the public and guests who were queuing outside to view the activity inside the exhibition.
Furthermore, they also limited the number of guests inside the exhibition to allow for greater interaction between guests and the exhibition.
Leveraging the work with BMW, Kingsmen saw the opportunity to transform even more.
MINI Habitat at Leng Kee.
The company worked with design thinking consultants to create a specialised curriculum in design thinking that is now a key part of every employee’s development. All employees have access to design thinking courses and developing a design mindset is now a key part in every employee’s development.
The team changed the ways of interpreting and engaging with a brief. Instead of taking orders and working within the limits of a brief, the team now undertakes an extensive research process, which includes focus group interviews, insights from the end-user, and multiple site visits to get a spatial sense of the space. The team then ideates with the goal of creating a unique and transformational experience for end-users.
Driving the change was Deputy Chairman Simon Ong, a design champion in Kingsmen, alongside the team of Creative Directors. Ong is one of the Group’s two founders and is focused on improving the design offerings of the company and for placing design at the core of Kingsmen’s business strategy. The company has transformed its offering which is evident its current portfolio.
One of which is Buds by Shangri-La, an indoor and outdoor immersive play space for children at Shangri-La Singapore. The space is filled with curated installations that takes children on a journey of exploration and self-directed learning. Spanning 2,150 square metres, the play space is divided into various themed zones, catering to the different age groups and interests.
Buds by Shangri-La, an indoor and outdoor immersive play space
for children at Shangri-La Singapore.
Kingsmen started over four decades ago in Singapore as a local communication design company. Today, Kingsmen has expanded beyond our shores to 21 cities worldwide. Breaking new ground, it has since grown its capabilities to be a creator of experiences, exploring new business opportunities. The biggest change is the shift of its business revenue composition. Whilst retail projects and exhibitions still form the largest source of revenue, experience design now makes up about 10 per cent of the company’s revenue. Since the BMW contract win, the experience design team has grown to a team of 400 designers which makes up more than 20 percent of Kingsmen’s total number of employees.
Riding on the influx of tourist attractions to Singapore, Kingsmen used the design lens to conceptualise experiences at world class attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore, Legoland Malaysia, Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay Singapore. More recently, Kingsmen redesigned the Singapore General Post Office which won the SG Mark 2018. The following year, it also received the SG Mark 2019 for Singtel@8George.
Singtel Learning Centre, at 8 George Street, that was redesigned by Kingsmen.
Continuing into its next phase of transformation, Kingsmen will focus on providing differentiated experiences with the opening of the world’s first NERF experience in Singapore in the fourth quarter of 2019. The company has pivoted from being a production house to becoming the brains behind intriguing and memorable experiences.
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