International design practice Hassell announces its merger with London-based user experience design specialist, Free State. Free State is a multi-award winning group of user experience designers founded by Adam Scott, Ben Johnson and Charlotte Boyens.

Free State has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest brands including Sony, Nokia and Virgin Atlantic, as well property developers such as Brookfield Property and Exemplar. The firm develops user-focused stories, and design journeys and immersive experiences that connect people with brands, each other and places to create a more valuable end product.

Referring to a recent survey by Harris Group that found 72 per cent of millennials preferred to spend more money on experiences than on material things, Free State Creative Director Adam Scott said there has been a shift into the era of experience over the past 20 years with people increasingly placing value on ‘experiences’ over ‘things’. He explained that this has led to brands – and places – now living or dying by how well they inspire attraction, involvement and a sense of belonging.

Hassell Managing Director Rob Backhouse said the merger was about responding to this significant disruption by expanding their offer beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture and design to encompass new and innovative ways to deliver value to clients and end users.

According to Rob, their clients are grappling with dynamics such as globalisation, rapid urbanisation and fast changing technology daily; it’s therefore increasingly vital to understand and design for the ‘human factors’ associated with these changes. The Free State merger will add a new dimension to Hassell’s practice – a market-leading capability in user experience, which will give them and their clients a valuable competitive advantage.

Hassell and Free State have already started working together on client projects, with Arup engaging the practice on their workplace strategy for the Australian region. The regional workplace design strategy is now being implemented across their network.

Free State will continue to operate under its own name and leadership but as part of Hassell, sharing people, knowledge and projects.