Chris Ballard knew what he wanted to do, studied it, and has been working in the design industry for 20 years. In November this year, he started his own agency, Lex Design.
What’s your story?
I’ve always liked taking things apart, just to put them back together again to see how they worked, so it was a pretty natural decision for me to study industrial design. That was 20 years ago and I’ve been working in design ever since. My career has focused on retail design and commercial interiors and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of Asia’s biggest retailers. In November this year, I took the leap and started my own agency, Lex Design. So far, it’s been equal parts exciting and scary – but we’re doing it anyway and I couldn’t be happier.
What excites you most about your industry?
I love that industrial design is a part of every industry. It’s about problem-solving and that can mean commercially, ergonomically, environmentally or aesthetically. Every brief I get is unique and that makes the enjoyment of my job sustainable.
What’s your connection to Asia?
In 2016, I moved to Hong Kong as Design Director – Asia, for an Australian-based design agency. I oversaw design teams in Shanghai, Singapore, Jakarta and Hong Kong and worked with clients based in China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia. It was a crazy-busy two years and I met some incredible business leaders.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I really love the Singapore business scene, I think those guys have nailed the work/life balance with their thriving economical scene and their outdoor lifestyle. I work with some great multi-national clients there and it was always a pleasure to visit and see how the projects are coming along. On a side note, I’m always very envious of everyone with electric scooters, those look like fun.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
‘Just worry about what you’re doing, don’t worry about anyone else, focus on you’. It sounds overly simple, but I draw on it when I’m at crossroads with a problem. I know as soon as I focus on what I need to do, the rest is easy and will sort itself out.
Who inspires you?
Ayrton Senna. I think he was an amazingly talented Formula One driver and he succeeded in a sport that is renowned for politics and hierarchy – not unlike the corporate world.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve learned that creating your own business and working for yourself is completely liberating and the thrill is worth every ounce of the stress.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have trained harder to become a Formula One driver!
How do you unwind?
To be honest, with a beer on a Friday afternoon, perched on a stool at a pub – any pub.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I like the energy of Bangkok. After years of working in high-pressure environments full of deadlines, I need to go somewhere where there’s still momentum around me and I can dip in and out of it before I fully unwind. I also love the anything-goes vibe there, if you can’t find what you’re looking for in Bangkok, you won’t find it anywhere.
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘He died with a falafel in his hand’, John Birmingham. It has nothing to do with business, but it does make me laugh, and I think laughter is the only thing that will keep you sane in business.
Shameless plug for your business:
Lex Design Agency – design it, create it, let’s do it. We specialise in retail design and commercial interiors, balancing brilliant design with practical application.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.