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What are the Anthill Cool Company Awards?
The Cool Company Awards were launched in 2006 as a way for Anthill to acknowledge and celebrate Australian organisations that are doing things differently to bring about positive change. Cool Companies stay one step ahead of the rest. They breed leaders who are rule-makers and rule-breakers. They are trend-setters in attitude and action. Quite simply, they are … cool! More.
Forward Thinking Design
Company: Forward Thinking Design
Categories: Commercial Creativity
Forward Thinking Design is hardly new to this site. The sole owner of the commercial interior design company, Vanessa Cullen, was an Anthill 30under30 winner in 2009 and 2010. Cullen’s focus on quality, practicality and ethical business practices are hard-wired into her company.
Cullen said Forward Thinking Design is equally focused on aesthetics and the client’s business needs. Flighty, design-for-design’s sake attitude is absent here, replaced by Gen Y creativity. “We aim to eliminate ego by testing every element against the question: ‘Will this design feature support profit generation?'”
Forward Thinking’s target clients are sharp business owners who have control over the physical premises (preferably multiple sites). The company’s website showcases some of its best design work, enticing businesses to come aboard. Among its jewels is Sergio’s Cake Shop (pictured below) in Western Sydney and Blue Plate Bar and Grill on Neutral Bay’s main eat street.
This year the company changed from a sole trader structure to a corporation and more than doubled its staff. Turnover increased by more than 250%. Forward Thinking moved into a new home, in one of Sydney’s top business parks, with a floor space three times larger than the previous premises. Forward Thinking won the Excellence in Customer Service award at the 2010 Suncorp Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence.
The cake shop is a strong case in point. The client has 40 years in the business. The goal was a design that would be rolled out to future sites. Sergio’s wanted the space to be warm and inviting, with dark tones and domed ceilings that harken to the client’s homeland of Cyprus.
By any measurement, the store is a hit, Cullen said. “People who walk by just stop in mid-step and gawk. We couldn’t see why a cake shop in Blacktown shouldn’t have design as good as in Bondi, so we created an environment that feels like a big comforting hug that customers sit inside.”
Forward Thinking’s website has a portal where clients can log in securely and see all their design documentation, drawings and other data. Oh, and another cool thing: If staff successfully complete all of her work, they knock off early on Monday and go to a life drawing class.
The best way to conclude this profile is with Cullen’s answer to the question, What issues keep you awake at night? Though the subject is a bit somber, it speaks to her resolve to follow ethical practices and not follow the pack:
“It seems I’d be a whole lot richer, and the business would be a whole lot more successful, if I just abandoned my moral compass. Collusion, bribery, defamation and unqualified practices are endemic in our industry, and this means no one works together for the greater good of the industry or to improve the public’s perception of us. Our services are perceived as an expensive luxury, and the public is poorly informed about what we really do.”
Sergio’s Cake Shop, Western Sydney
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