Through our ability to listen, adapt and ideate, we balance aesthetics, sustainability and function to deliver positive design outcomes.
Upon commencement, a project-specific team is curated by our Directors to ensure available and scaled resources are dedicated from vision through to completion.
You receive big-firm experience and know-how, while being guaranteed boutique-studio focus.
“We focus on our client and the act of working together. We are a small studio and get to know all our clients personally – the relationships that are formed are important to us.”
Evan states his career highlight is starting Design Theory. However, his 20-year history in the industry is not without its fine moments. He studied interior design at Leederville Technical College after identifying his love of the creative (art and music) and the nerdy (technical).
Coupled with a knack for problem-solving, his path was sealed. Instead of stepping behind a coffee machine, he worked in residential design while still studying, then post-graduation joined Geyer (then Blake Thornton-Smith) and worked on the original Woodside project under Kim Thornton-Smith and Brendan Wong.
Meeting Lisa in 2005, the couple travelled to London, Dublin and Melbourne. Returning to Perth in 2010, he stepped back into Geyer as an associate and design leader before opting out to launch Design Theory.
He brings extensive local and international experience across retail and hospitality to the Design Theory team, and mentors the team to keep knowledge and innovation flowing.
Q + A
First design awakening? Working under Jeff Copolov and Kristen Whittle at Bates Smart in Melbourne. At the time they were demigods and world-class architects who were incredibly articulate in designing spaces and who taught me about the place of architecture in life.
What do you love most about the industry? There seems to be a natural optimism in making things and collaborating. I enjoy the energy of projects and the fact we are surrounded by a good quality way of life every day.
What do you see as being most important when resolving a design? I try to start with innovative thought and use new technology where possible. I think it’s important to engage all parties in any design solution. Without this, a design is just one designer’s thought and is not relevant.
How would you describe your position? Leading projects, co-ordinating and mentoring staff and maintaining a strong external focus with industry partners (consultants, builders, suppliers, makers, educators, researchers). I also nurture students through Curtin University and am committed to the broader design community through the DIA (Design Institute of Australia).
What is your creative process? I gave a lecture at Curtin University a few years ago on intuition and the role it plays on our design process; I believe there is a natural design solution in all our work and feel somewhat responsible to reflect on this constantly.
Design Theory’s strength? We’re diverse people and bring different interests to the table. We are accepting of a problem to solve and I think that says a lot. We’re also happy to do the hard work.
Office secret? I like to listen to really loud music when everyone has left the studio.
Your philosophy? Achieve a desirable and real connection between our work and the people who experience it.
“Keep it real. The space has to feel good – if it doesn’t feel good and doesn’t function for the user, we haven’t succeeded in our design.”
It’s got to be said that Design Theory ‘does good material palettes’ and that may come down to Lisa’s background in Visual Arts (Bachelor of Arts [Arts], Curtin University).
She’s also experienced a lifetime of design. The daughter of award-winning and much-respected Perth building designer Gary Keen, she grew up on building sites before working in small-to-large architecture and interiors firms in Perth and Dublin.
However, it was after managing the respected Melbourne-based Dianne Tanzer gallery that she returned home in 2010 to help set up Venn design store, which at the time was one of Australia’s most exciting retail-gallery-hospitality environments, and launch Design Theory.
With 16 years’ experience in the industry, today she wears many hats: joint director; lead interior designer; studio manager; art consultant; decorator. And she shares her Design Theory journey with her husband and co-director Evan.
Q + A
What is your creative process? Listen. It’s so important to know a client. We workshop that knowledge within our team. We always look for a story and a spark, then head into materials and technology research. We put ourselves into the space to understand how it will be used, then develop the concept, detail it, deliver it and review it.
How has your passion evolved? It’s about ‘creating’ and it’s about the people we work with. I find it rewarding to see how design can bring day-to-day and commercial benefits to our clients, and how sometimes small changes can bring so much joy to a space. It really is a powerful tool.
How would you describe Design Theory? Knowledgable. Creative. Grounded. Hard-working. Small but mighty.
Career highlight? Watching school children with clipboards wandering around Empire Village Shopping Centre in the sunshine for a school assignment. I really had a sense that the community was proud and had made the precinct their own.
Office quirk? Chocolate is my absolute weakness… and our Dutch cargo bike…
Your career philosophy? Keep it real.
“For me, Interior design is the perfect balance between creative freedom and integrity, while facing real-world scenarios and constraints.”
Whilst completing his Honours of Applied Science (Interior Architecture) degree at Curtin University, Liam also worked at Momentum Skateshop as their website manager. Next up was a three-month internship at Hassell in Hong Kong where he was immersed in a fast-paced world of design and culture. Here he learned to appreciate and understand the different values and attitudes of international design, daily lives and rituals. (“Not to mention the food is unbelievably good!”) On returning to Perth, he took up another web and graphic design position at Mobilia in Claremont.
While rather varied, he says that design is everywhere and everything is connected. Now seated in the studio at Design Theory, he’s working alongside the team in a design capacity, sharing his love for photography and savvy web design skills as a bonus! He enjoys being open to new design strategies that embrace Perth’s heritage and growing future. And finds the studio’s unique approach to each job exciting as he can constantly look at design with a clear mindset to create an innovative outcome… and always look to quality over quantity, while pursuing deeper and more innovative solutions.
Q + A
Describe what you love most about the industry? The knowledge of giving back to the local environment and seeing ways in which Perth as a whole grows and becomes more diverse – being able to experience this firsthand is highly valuable.
What is your creative process? I’ve always believed there is no singular way to approach a design process, as each project or path is different. As a very innovative person, I like to be very analytical and try to problem-solve where possible.
What inspires you? Being around people who are equally as passionate and creative. Having a personal creative goal is very important, but being pushed and inspired by those around you is fundamental. It drives collaborative teamwork and usually results in a more desirable outcome.
What do you see as being most important when resolving a design? Communication. It is essential for every project in our industry.
What do you love most about your job/career? Having the flexibility to embrace new technologies and design strategies, and seeing these progress and add to a localised environment.
Explain your quirk… I always get in early and make sure there’s always a fresh pot of coffee on!
Lastly, is there a quote or phrase that sums up your philosophy to what you do? Everyone is a product of their environment. As designers, we aim to understand the occupant, focusing on their background, which shapes an attitude toward a space. We have to be open to thinking like those around us and ask the questions others may not to achieve the best environment for the occupant.
Awards and Travels