Designing DEN: Q&A with Alexi Robinson

June 8, 2016

Drawing on experience working in Hong Kong as well as in London, Alexi brings a wealth of design smarts to her role as creative director of DENFAIR. The interior designer gives her insight on our local design culture and the process of creating impactful temporary installations.

Alexi Robinson is a Sydney-based interior designer, creative director and freelance writer with global experience in commercial and cultural design. Having worked with Tom Dixon to build his interior design brand, and on the creative vision for 100% Design London, Robinson’s recent portfolio mixes residential and hospitality projects where she specialised in translating brands into boutique interior environments across South-East Asia. As creative director of DENFAIR, Alexi spent much of 2016 developing the creative vision and ensuring cohesion and quality across the overall experience.

ADR: Can you share a little about your path through the design industry, and what led you to join the DEN team?

AB: My path has been as varied as it has been far-reaching, guided by blind intuition and the necessary risk-taking. As an interior design graduate in an architect’s office sketching up building façades, I quickly came to the conclusion that I knew nothing of my place and to truly grasp the industry I was entering I needed exposure to as much of it as possible. So began a 10-year journey of travel, design, writing, and the endless encounters that go with it.

Gravitating to Denfair on my return was a natural extension to the experience I’d acquired along the way; I’d attended trade fairs all over the world with different hats on – creative director, exhibitor, target audience, press – and with this came an understanding of the culture of an event in its entirety and an empathic approach to its many layers.

How has designing in London and in Hong Kong informed your approach to design?

The sheer density of both cities and the pace of Hong Kong is something that never quite leaves you. Being presented with opportunities to work with scale challenges any preconceived notions around what is big, or possible, expanding the confines of the next project.

I had the good fortune of working with a designer in London who saw no bounds, whether it was a mass installation in Trafalgar Square or a chamber in the Houses of Parliament. Think bold, think the impossible and see where you end up was his unsaid mantra.

What are the ways that Australia’s design culture distinguishes itself from Europe and Asia?

The thing I love about Australia’s design culture is that it does not outwardly distinguish itself, it is inherent, steady yet untamable.  It emerges not from a rich design heritage but from a fractured cultural heritage against a backdrop of isolation and relentless natural beauty. What is it exactly? Does it matter? What is clear is that it is growing, and there is an increasing demand for it locally, and a bubbling infatuation for it globally.

Can you give an insight into your process of working with a brand to ensure their identity is clearly communicated, and stands out among others at a fair exhibition?

In three words research, communication and relationships. Understanding what a brand is trying to convey and to whom is fundamental, and then understanding that audience not as a demographic but as human beings. People do not want to be preached at or patronised, they want to be informed, inspired, enlightened. A brand’s ability to stand out is more about its ability to create an emotional connection, often beyond conscious thought, that imprints well beyond the encounter.

What elements of this year’s fair were you particularly satisfied with?

The content, without a doubt, but also the scenography that went with it – I was consistently impressed by the dialogue between product and setting. The restaurant was a particularly lovely example of a great collaboration – up to ten different brands across four countries contributing everything from furniture to photography to floral arrangements and table ceramics. There was a collective willingness to understand the concept and work with it and an appreciation that by doing so, the dining experience would be elevated presenting each individual object in a unique and contextually fitting light.



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