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HASSELL + FreeState merge to offer world-leading user experience design

International design practice HASSELL has strengthened its offering to clients by merging with London-based firm, FreeState, a multi-award winning group of user experience designers founded by Adam Scott, Ben Johnson and Charlotte Boyens.

The merger, effective immediately, will bring together the collective creativity, knowledge and resource base of the two practices for the benefit of their clients.

Based in London and working internationally, FreeState has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest brands including Sony, Nokia and Virgin Atlantic, as well as world-class property developers including Brookfield Property and Exemplar. They are experts in developing user-focused stories, designed journeys and immersive experiences that connect people with brands, each other and places to create a more valuable end product.

“What we’ve seen really clearly over the past 20 years is a shift into the era of experience. By that I mean that people are increasingly placing value on ‘experiences’ over ‘things’ and their expectations of those experiences are very high,” said FreeState Creative Director Adam Scott, citing a recent survey by Harris Group that found 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things.

“What that means is that brands – and places – now live or die by how well they inspire attraction, involvement and a sense of belonging,” he explained.

HASSELL Managing Director Rob Backhouse said the merger is about responding to this significant disruption by expanding the HASSELL offer beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture and design to encompass new and innovative ways to deliver value to clients and end users.

“Globalisation, rapid urbanisation and fast changing technology are fundamentally changing the way we live, learn, work and play. Our clients and cities are grappling with these dynamics daily – and it’s increasingly vital to understand and design for the ‘human factors’ associated with these changes,” said Rob.

“Our shared vision is to design the world’s best places – places people love. This merger adds a new dimension to our practice – market-leading capability in user experience – which will give us and our clients a valuable competitive advantage.”

Adam Scott agreed. “In everything we do, we start with people – imagining what their ideal journey might be as the basis for designing their ideal future environment.”

“So we can work with clients well before the traditional design process would start to define individual user journeys and map ideal experiences of places ‘moment by moment’ to create engaging, meaningful and memorable experiences, events, buildings and places.

“This process is really powerful in connecting brands and places with target audiences – whether they be customers, commuters, employees, students or members of the public – in completely new ways and ultimately transforming everyday places into extraordinary experiences,” he added.

HASSELL + FreeState have already started working together on client projects, with Arup engaging the practice on its workplace strategy for the Australian region.

“Arup engaged HASSELL to develop its regional workplace strategy and is now implementing it across our various offices. As part of the strategy in Melbourne we were keen to engage clients as well as our staff in the design process. We wish to truly capture what’s great about working with and at Arup within our new workplace,” said Arup Buildings Principal and Office Leader, Dr Joseph Correnza.

“We were aware of FreeState’s past work, and their merger with HASSELL has allowed us to take a different approach to our workplace design. We stepped into the shoes of our clients to understand their experience and how that impacts us as a business. This, in turn, helped the HASSELL design team to deliver the most innovative, engaging and experiential workplace for us. In our opinion, it’s the great merger because it delivers the best results for Arup, our people and for our clients,” he said.

FreeState will continue to operate under its own name and leadership but as part of HASSELL, sharing people, knowledge and projects.

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