Breaking Through: How savvy Singapore-based workplace design firm Space Matrix emerged and overcame the challenges of the Chinese market to create its own brand

SHANGHAI, Nov. 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Cynthia Chan, Regional Managing Director of Space Matrix North Asia, recently received an internal company interview about the development of the company.

Breaking Through: How savvy Singapore-based workplace design firm Space Matrix emerged and overcame the challenges of the Chinese market to create its own brand
Breaking Through: How savvy Singapore-based workplace design firm Space Matrix emerged and overcame the challenges of the Chinese market to create its own brand

Who is Space Matrix? Founded in 2001, Space Matrix has relevant project experience in over 80 cities and 15 office locations in Australia, China, India, Thailand, Singapore (HQ), and the United States. As a design consultancy that specializes in workplace design, Space Matrix’s design practice has evolved into a dynamic, agile, 21st ­century digital enterprise. They comprise over 500 professionals globally and continue to push the boundaries in workplace transformation.

With a commitment for design excellence, Space Matrix consistently ranks in Interior Design Magazine’s Top 100 Design Giants and has won multiple International Property Awards for projects such as Prudential Singapore, Airbnb Gurgaon, Omnicom Singapore, Northern Trust Pune and CapitaLand bridge+ at Ascendas Plaza.

Entering the competitive and complex Chinese real estate market in 2018 with the big challenge of being the "new kid on the block", Space Matrix was unheard of then, and simply did not have enough credibility locally. Quickly differentiating itself and determining its value propositions to local Chinese clients were of top priority. Cynthia Chan, Regional Managing Director of Space Matrix North Asia, shared ‘that in hindsight, tracing back to our roots and analyzing our brand DNA was essential how Space Matrix started 19 years ago in Singapore became the same approach we adopted in China. Space Matrix was first established by faithfully focusing on relationship-building. We grew quickly in Singapore and regionally because of the long-lasting relationships with our clients. Repeated businesses were our pride. We knew the only way to re-create this approach is to stay "boutique" so we can remain always approachable to all of our clients and essentially, this served as our value proposition, as opposed to being a global and impersonal firm with a large presence in other parts of Asia.’ It was through this soul-searching process to establish Space Matrix’s unique position in a competitive Chinese landscape that resulted in the following: Space Matrix is now distinctively equipped to do the same for clients in China, and is deeply invested in the process of brand discovery and brand building with the client, all of which informs design. They now have the knowledge, expertise and resources to help clients dig deep and uncover the DNA of their brand.

Over the past decade, the sophistication and level of design expectation in China has grown significantly. It can be easily seen in every aspect of life here – from fancy cars, stylish fashion, and trend-setting restaurants. The value and appreciation of design talent has also exponentially grown.

While carefully positioning the strategy in China, Space Matrix made a conscious decision to place design as the priority. Being boutique and client-focused, Space Matrix spends quality time with clients to thoroughly understand their goals and challenges. Space Matrix brings alignment between business vision, brand and design. Aside from attention to detail on design aesthetics, the quality time spent with clients means that Space Matrix also understands how the client’s workspace can further support and influence long-term business plans, for true return on investments. In the last two years, Space Matrix has worked on numerous product differentiation ideas with emerging property developers such as DaHua, Lenovo, Landsea, SCPG, Vanke, etc.

"We are lucky to have had many opportunities in the last two years to work closely with clients on their business, brand and design. We bring about our business acumen to every design idea, essentially bringing ‘business design intelligence’ to the table. To us quality design is far more than just beautifying a space, it is about connecting the company’s vision and brand with design", Cynthia states. "Our approach to our clients is unique to us as it is exactly what we went through to position ourselves in the Chinese market, by diving deep into the core of our own DNA. In just two years, we are proud to report our positioning in the market has helped us significantly, with an increase of 278% in our Gross Profit since our acquisition of our local partner, Muraya in China. We also grew in size to help deliver more projects, which increased the square footage coverage we designed and built by 152%."

Cynthia also shared Space Matrix’s approach with clients, before the design process even begins:

  • Firstly, gaining the client’s trust is important in this business. Space Matrix wants to be engaged in the client’s overall business vision, and have a seat at the table to provide the client with Business Design Intelligence. Hence, Space Matrix has deep, engaged conversations with the client, sharing with them their experience, thoughts and ideas, and this is how trust is built.
  • Space Matrix has been building exceptionally strong relationships with clients in the real estate property industry, particularly those just starting out in this sector and those who are revamping or upgrading their brands in this field.
  • Space Matrix begins the collaboration with clients by showing them the big picture of how Space Matrix can assist them. The first step is to engage together with clients and their branding team in an exercise to streamline the client’s brand to its core DNA.
  • From the DNA, Space Matrix builds on the client’s differentiators and incorporates the goal/measure of their Return on Investment. Design conceptualization only begins when the alignment of the above objectives is reached.

Space Matrix is further powered by a "big engine" of international support and resources – trained at world-class standards – and this has helped Space Matrix to make great inroads in China. These internationally trained but locally established resources include experts in interior and architecture design, professional graphic design, effective project management, integrated technology development, efficient construction techniques and site management, marketing, and teams that develop global research reports with strategic partners, etc.

Currently, Space Matrix is in a unique position as a design-and-build firm in China, offering expertise in not just design, but also construction. While it is unfortunate that there currently seems to be a clear segmentation between design and construction in China, where Chinese companies highly value good quality design but subsequently tend to work with lower-priced and subpar builders, this results in a compromise of the build quality. It is Space Matrix’s hope that there would be a gradual shift in the mentality of Chinese companies, to place an equally premium value on the quality of construction, just as they have grown to appreciate and embrace the value of good design over time. The value and potential of good quality design can only be truly fulfilled with high quality construction that realises the client’s vision, and high quality construction enables the client to stay as true and faithful to the design that is proposed for their brand as possible, rather than risk any disappointments at the build stage. Cost agreement is something that can be agreed upon at the beginning of a project so that the end product is in line with the brand, beautifully designed, with construction well-executed, and which meets the budget while ensuring the return on investment is fulfilled. The one-stop integrated project delivery service by Space Matrix combines transformational design strategy with unparalleled speed, quality, flexibility and cost certainty, all delivered using best-in-class digital technology.

In the last two years, the success of Space Matrix’s approach to their business and their clients mean that business leads have increased a whopping 319% since the acquisition of our local partner Muraya in China. As a dynamic, agile, 21st­ century digital enterprise, Space Matrix has developed a unique client focus that creates and delivers profitable, sustainable and future-­ready workplace solutions for companies around the world, including China. With innovation in its DNA, Space Matrix will keep evolving to offer more advanced design and strategy plans that can cater to the ever-changing needs and future development of corporations. 


Source: Breaking Through: How savvy Singapore-based workplace design firm Space Matrix emerged and overcame the challenges of the Chinese market to create its own brand