Tim Kobe on designing experience

When Tim Kobe and his Taiwanese business partner started their own architecture and design firm in 1989, the duo decided to name their business KobeOu Associates, an amalgamation of both their surnames.
“It was a very bad decision,” Kobe tells EdgeProp Singapore. “No one could pronounce my name, or her name, and when we put them together, it was even worse.”
This year marks Kobe's 30th year with Eight Inc, which he founded in 1989 (Credit: Samuel Issac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
It wasn’t until the devastating Kobe earthquake in Japan – also called the Great Hanshin Earthquake – in 1995 that the name “Kobe” was brought to global attention. However, Kobe and Ou knew they had to come up with a new name for their company.
Ou suggested the number 8, which according to her, stood for good luck. Kobe likes the infinity symbol: “I like the symmetry and balance, and it would be great to have a name that people can remember.”
After incorporating Eight Inc in 1996, the company was hired by Steve Jobs CEO and co-founder of Apple work on the company's events. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group which controls more than 400 companies, also engaged Eight Inc to design Virgin Atlantic’s airport lounges.
For most of the 1990s, Apple computers were sold through authorised retailers and chain stores, recounts Kobe. He wrote a white paper for Apple on why the company should have its own retail concept. That led to the advent of Apple Stores, a partnership with Apple that has spanned more than 20 years.
Apple store debut
The first two Apple Stores debuted in May 2001 in the US – in Glendale, California, and McLean, Virginia. The stores featured clean lines and hardwood floors and featured demo models of Apple’s iMac computers then, such as the iBook, Powerbook G4 and Power Macs. They also had music, movie, photo and children’s sections. It was an interactive store, where customers could play with the computers, make a movie or burn a CD in store.
The original incarnation of the Genius Bar – a tech support station within the Apple Store – was introduced then. If the in-store “geniuses” were unable to answer a customer...