Phnom Penh | Concepting and Branding for Architecture + Design

Design Kompany is often asked about architectural design services especially since relocating Headquarters to Phnom Penh, in Cambodia. We are not architects. But we work for them, often, sharing our creative chops in InDesign and brand identity design for their marketing teams.

15-second overview of DK’s services for the A/E/C sector

We can help with brand identity design or branding for development projects

This is why.  I have a lot of personal feelings about architecture, when it comes to the creative fields. I worked for a couple of international architecture firms in Tokyo and Research Triangle Park. I got to see the inner workings of them, so it made sense that when I opened Design Kompany in Seattle in 2006, that we would naturally attract the kinds of people who would enjoy (and make) beautiful buildings. Often, residential buildings, but not limited to just those, of course.

Many of our AEC-industry clients were in Seattle, as we began there. Architects who have hired DK include:

Salon |e| Aspire, Seattle WA
Joji Minatogawa Architects, Seattle WA
C’ODA Design Build, Seattle WA
Case Design + Project Management, Seattle WA
D+A Studio, Friday Harbor WA
Group3 Architects LLC, Seattle WA
WRP Associates, Seattle WA

It was fun. Simple. Straightforward. We just ‘got’ each other. So I think it makes sense for DK to have this page here, on this site update. Just in case someone in the Southeast Asia or ASEAN region is looking to team up with to hire ax experienced brand identity designer to do branding for their clients. Building a building is great and everything but its graphic identity should look nice, too, right? That mark—it can do a lot of work for you in terms of setting expectations and earning the first toe-hold on customers’ trust. I’m looking for forward-thinking and open-minded architecture or design-build firms to work with together on this part of things. Designing brand, branding, brand identity, or even collaborating to discover a great concept. I love that.

SEATTLE 2006. In Seattle, when we first got started as an LLC, I had just left a job at newspaper in the architecture and engineering trade industry. The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce had hired me as their environment editor, so for two years I got to know a lot of people and go to bunches of industry events. Rooftop mixers, AIA seminars, conferences, networking meet ups, and of course architects and engineers whom I would interview for my stories. That was how I met DK’s first client in Seattle, D+A Studio. We subsequently got referrals and met more people, me blogging really seemed to do a lot of heavy lifting as search led to us and meetings. They usually said omsething along the lines of ‘I just wanted to make sure you really ar who you say you are, that you check out,’ which, struck me ih those day as funny, but I get it now. I get it now more than ever, strange times we are in that you have to proves yourself as what ou say you are. Because so many people are lying. Anyway, these gigs were our start, in Seattle. Relocating to a home office happened in 2007 and to virtual in 2009 when we switched coasts and still got queries from Oregon because… search engines. It was Skype, in those days.

Read more about the virtual office for a piece I wrote about naming and branding Oregon-based Million Monarchs

So many people were like, ‘Don’t you have a job? An office?’ Too many. They included so-called friends, and the usual ‘haters.’ Naysayers will be there, they will be there no matter what, but the best thing to do is go away from them. Far. Very far is good, too. I decided enough was enough and relocated DK to Asia in 2013. We moved around looking for the best place to set up—settling on Cambodia when some lucky breaks came our way.


Issue #3


I know this sounds like I’m going to tell you I’m an architect. I’m not. I trained in civil engineering, though, and my first idea was to become an architect. But after real world experience in two offices, I felt differently. Architecture wasn’t what moved me. The dialogue that could bring about something new—that’s what did. Concepting became my focus, from there.

Ideally, I can do what I used to do in Seattle for people in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, and maybe even Ho Chi Minh City one day. I  just love working with some of them on conceptual design. Only. That means, coming in at the early stage of a client project and talking through the things we talk about for branding. Who it is this is for. What it wants to be and do. Those things lead to tools like moodboards and shortlisted keywords lists that help people involved on a team to get on the same page, vision-wise. This is my favorite part of all that I have done at Design Kompany: focusing in on a tight branding concept. It’s not about selling it, it’s about really outlining the heart of it and setting an intention so people can go and be what they say they want to be. The entire process that I have built over the years revolves steadfastly around one thing: realness. Be real. Be yourself, but be real. So yes. Here we go. A new chapter, for our studio, in Southeast Asia. Ah, but then we didn’t just get here yesterday. We showed up in 2014. The story of how DK stayed is a long one, but the short version is this.




In 2014, I was hired by a cool architect and his partner to think about ‘creating a logo’ for a new ice cream shop. I remember the brief had ‘ice cream shop’ in the working title and we were going to think together about possible name ideas. I love naming things, so it was exceptionally fun to work things out together in our signature Design Kompany way to arrive at “NUK”.

Read more about the discovery and design process for NUK



Design Kompany Phnom Penh, the 2002 edition

Fresh starts. It was a time of new beginnings for DK and we were curious about the scene here in Cambodia. What would be evolving? What could emerge? We created a facebook group, Design Phnom Penh, along with the help of a few new friends in this city. People who make things. People who love trying things out together as we go. That evolved and changed and took on its own dimension, because we didn’t want to ‘own’ it. It was just… a space. More happened, like the e-mag S P A C E, in the last few years, for example.

Architects, designers artists, writers, software developers, professional service folks, nonprofits… these were the people who might have reached out to my studio in my early years making Design Kompany. That is mostly likely because I was blogging, like all the time, about topics related to design and creative process and learning and flexibility, trying things, agile design, what I learned from software developers about that, the beauty of skylines, mountains, air and space, light, textures, that trip to Copenhagen, and another to Venice, the feeling of going up to Vancouver BC on a train for no reason at all except to look at art in a museum and maybe reach some new insight because that’s how it was then. Very, very free. Now that I think about it, it’s the playfulness that drew people to DK, too. Not just our skills or portfolio, but our approach. If it’s not fun, what’s the point? Fun. Fun is the point. From 2006-2014, DK did that jam. And we loved it. But you know, what, I think you need to walk away for a while from everything you care about, though, and let it have time to breathe, change, and grow. That’s why I left DK where it was, in 2014, in virtual space, turning it into more of an opaque thing with A. Spaice. Okay that was fun and everything but now I’m done. And I am re-opening DK again, this year. Because: time. Change, and… more.





PHNOM PENH 2022. So this brings me back to the point. Realness. I want to share with people how to get to real, instead of how to deal with the feeling you get when you are being asked to prove your traveling-years are actually real instead of you trying to impress them with a story. Gosh, so boring. Anyway, I am in Cambodia and things are going well, with the world of settling in and regrouping and rebooting and finding a new groove. So I want to bring back the classic branding service that I had built Design Kompany one, way back when. For smaller sized firms that can’t afford the rockstar superstar edition of Brand Designers, who are they again?, let’s just talk. Talk informally. And get to something new and good. Real, too. That’s important.

Many times I will be asked to just go to bat every time as the designated hitter. (If you don’t know what that means, sorry. I use a lot of baseball idioms. They don’t land well, in Asia, but I loved talking to fellow fans when I used to live in Seattle.) So now, where are we heading? In 2022, and beyond, while based in Phnom Penh and this region of the world, mostly, most probably, here is what I am thinking. I hope to meet some new people in Cambodia and Phnom Penh and in the region, who feel the same way that I do about design, branding, and concept design. It should be a wonderful experience of getting deeply involved in thinking, imaging, and visioning something extraordinarily real.

Let’s get started.


15-second overview, ‘Make branding work for you’