A 360 Approach

Co-founder of Plus Collaboratives

by Elizabeth Lavis


16 Aug 2023

Gold Winner in Packaging Design for Graphic Design 2022
“The softer side of things other than design is as important as the design itself” 

Mervin Tan and the company he co-founded, Plus Collaboratives, employ an immersive, 360 approach to design using curation, construction, and the ability to capture a moment to deliver outstanding designs that hit at the heart of the client’s needs in a fresh way. With clients like Grab Holding, Inc, the Singapore Tourism Board, Snack by Income, Fujifilm Business Innovation, and the People’s Association, Plus Collaboratives is a powerhouse.  

Tan’s advice for aspiring designers is simple; “try, fail, and try again,” and as the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Plus Collaboratives, he and his team have certainly employed this approach to streamline their systems and execute great design. “It’s important to understand the client's needs and care about their workflow and processes,” he says. “The softer side of things other than design is as important as the design itself.” 

The process involves completing a comprehensive “BOSS form.” “The acronym stands for B- brief, O- objective, S- strategy, S- solutions,” Tan says. “You need to be able to read the form from the top down to the bottom and vice versa. I believe the structure of creativity is a balanced approach.”

Insecta Iridesse

Tan also has an intense research approach that’s highly goal-oriented and fully involves the clients’ desires. “Once we receive the project brief, we gather data or important facts related to the project,” he says. “We then find opportunities in the workflow and processes. By discovering those opportunities, we can position the objectives and goals. We need to ensure that we align with the client’s directions, and after that, we can let the magic of art meeting data happen.”

Singapore-based Tan was trained in architecture and interior design and credits his human-centric approach for allowing him to understand how design can move everyday people. “Caring about my client’s clients plays a huge part in determining the best way forward for most projects,” he says.

Tan’s tricks for staying creative under pressure include experiencing more, traveling, questioning everything, and working with younger folks. His wry advice to deal with harsh criticism is a little more direct. “Cry secretly in the dark,” he says. Although harsh criticism is par for the design course, Tan doesn’t believe that the client is always right, but he understands that getting to the root of a great design that suits their needs starts with total understanding. “By caring about what they believe, we can establish a way forward that doesn’t have to result in shoddy work output,” Tan says.

Tan’s tools of the trade are simple; his paper and marker pen, and he remains skeptical of new software that promises designs in less than five minutes. “A full campaign can take between four months and years,” he says. He also attends plenty of shows and exhibitions but doesn’t follow the latest flash-in-the-pan fads. “I absolutely do not believe in trends,” Tan says. Some of his greatest inspiration comes from a very unconventional source, wrestling, and he considers his home his greatest design triumph. “My home is a balance of design, warmth, function, and aesthetic,” he says. 

Tan also practices being observant and mindful and fully believes that one of the keys to growth is to appreciate life. This mindset and goal of consistent evolution seem to factor into his advice for dealing with dreaded burnout. “You die, resurrect, and come back even stronger,” he says. 

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