Connect with us


The Design Partnership: Callie Van Der Merwe & Francois Van Der Merwe

An innovative team brings together branding, design and architecture

Juliet Pitman



Callie Van Der Merwe & Francois Van Der Merwe of The Design Partnership

The ability to adapt to a changing environment is a key success factor for any business but there are those that do more than simply adapt. Working at the cutting edge of their industry, they are continually moving forward and opening up new frontiers. Instead of merely adapting to change, they bring it about. These are the true thought-leaders and visionaries.

In the complex, fast-paced and ever-changing world of design, keeping up is difficult enough. Setting trends is an ability found in an exclusive few and it is to this elite group that The Design Partnership belongs. Co-founded by architects Callie van der Merwe  and Francois van der Merwe, the business has broken new ground in forging a cohesive new discipline that combines architecture, design and branding.

Callie explains the company’s evolution:“Francois and I both studied architecture but as time marched on, retail commissions seemed to roll in at an ever-increasing pace. Retail and Hospitality design chose us. It is almost as if we had no say in the matter.”The partners launched The Design Partnership Retail & Hospitality division,anticipating and exploiting synergies between retail and architectural design.

“The boundaries between the design disciplines were purposefully eroded to encourage more interaction and yielded great results,” continues Callie, adding that one of the most defining trends in the world of design today is that of blurring the lines between design disciplines.

The lines between architecture and interior design, graphic and product design, even fashion and food design, are less clear than they have ever been in the past.Understanding the interaction between the disciplines, particularly in the retail and foodie markets where fashion trends dictate what’s vogue, The Design Partnership has excelled at delivering innovative retail and hospitality projects, among them Doppio Zero, Mugg &Bean and Carducci.

The more entrenched the company became in the retail design space, the more they recognised the need to tie the location, interior and exterior design in with the brand. Callie explains: “It dawned on us that because each business is developed around a very specific target audience we should logically communicate a very clear single message to this audience.”

The launch of the Brandertising  Division followed and with it, a new concept in design and branding. John Gordon,divisional director, explains, “If the brand is not to be diluted, you need to strap everything relating to it in with one belt. That’s what brandertising does.”

He adds that everything about a retail or hospitality space should follow on from the brand.

The process he and his team follow starts with the essence of the brand and where it would like to be positioned in the market. As Callie outlines: “A project generally begins with a brainstorming session about a current market offering, its competitors, where it is hoping to penetrate the market and where it would like to position itself in that market.”

The team then comes up with a single-minded message – a ‘soundbite’ –that reflects the essence of the brand. “The soundbite is the thing that will help a brand to penetrate the market, so that’s where you need to start.

It’s the thing that draws people to a place. When they get there, the interior and the furniture and the location will have an impact and play an important role in reflecting the brand, but the soundbite is what gets them there in the first place,” he elaborates.

One of their more recent projects is FSH, a seafood restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg. John explains how The Design Partnership developed its soundbite: “Major competitors in the same market already owned words such as ‘ocean’ so we had to come up with a soundbite that would get as close as possible to the restaurant’s core offering.

We couldn’t use a generic word like ‘fish’ so instead we used FSH – when people read it they automatically fill in the ‘i’. It gives them ownership of that word in that market.”Brandertising projects such as this one have taken The Design Partnership’s business to a new level.

This is a team that understands that to be a leader in business is not about carving a niche for oneself in an existing cliff face; it’s about discovering a new mountain and summiting it before anyone else realises it’s even there.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



Prev1 of 26


“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

Prev1 of 26

Continue Reading


Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

Continue Reading

Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.