Atilla Keskin

Founder of DesignScene

Attila Keskin is the founder and CEO of DesignScene and has always had a passion for discovering how things work. Targeting a career in product design, he studied Mechatronics at the University of Leeds. While studying, Keskin got into the college’s live entertainment scene; he led the events technical department, sat on the stage management committee and produced a range of theatrical productions. Having caught the live entertainment bug, he set up his first business in music and event production before graduating in 1996.

With 28 years experience in live event production, Keskin has activated at hundreds of unique venues with A-list talent and business leaders around the world. Building DesignScene from the ground up, Keskin started the agency in 2005 from a spare room at home. It has since grown into an international operation with offices in London, New York, Los Angeles and Singapore, specializing in activating global brands. As a lighting designer, production and 3D designer, Keskin still plays an active role in many of DesignScene’s more complex projects, particularly around the integration of technology and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Where did the idea for DesignScene come from?

DesignScene was born from a desire to create impactful, design-led productions and events where creativity drives every brand decision.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

We don’t often have “typical days” at DesignScene, which is what I like. No two days are the same! With the business of back-to-back client, vendor and team meetings, I try and take advantage of every moment I can work — whether it’s downtime during my morning commute or jumping on a plane to another country. Working across a number of time zones (LA, New York, London and Singapore) we try and practice strong internal comms in order to stay organized and productive, setting clear priorities for solid planning throughout.

For a typical weekend, if I have it off, I try to relax and re-energize usually involving a pub lunch, box set binge watching and cuddling my dog.

How do you bring ideas to life?

That is always a team effort. DesignScene is a fabulous, diversely talented team, who lead the process and are involved from the initial brainstorm to execution. As we move through the process we collaborate with experts and vendors dependent on the project scope for both design and manufacture, ending with brand moments we are collectively proud of.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The space where design and technology meet excites me, but not the use of tech just for the sake of it. We love to utilize technology to deliver beautifully crafted experiences that are led by design — particularly 5G and mobile technology. They are already starting to have great importance in the industry and it’s exciting to see the growth.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Refusing no for an answer. What people deem as “problems” we see as challenges. We are constantly told “that’s not possible”, but pure grit and determination enable us to deliver through the trickiest circumstances.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It took some time figuring out what I enjoyed and wanted in life through trial and error. I do believe that you are a product of your range of experiences, not all of them are brilliant, but each shape your future. Don’t be afraid to jump in and experience things.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. I think once you earn above $100,000 you grow unhappier the more you earn. More money brings more problems.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

We always push the boundaries in what DesignScene does and challenge the way things have been done — we don’t like Groundhog Day. My personal and professional mantra focuses on the importance of seeking out the new, and experiencing it, whether it be personal travel or work ventures (like our new Singapore office)

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Being fearless and eager to learn and develop. Starting and running my own business has been very exciting but also (at times) scary to do. You have to be confident, yet adaptable as there are always curveballs. The need to be flexible and nimble is important. You have to read and anticipate industry conditions and move with it, predicting trends and behaviors before they happen.
Through this, our relationships with our clients are one of openness, collaboration and partnership; this has allowed us to grow and produce great work together.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Thankfully not a total failure, but the economic downturn of 2008 was an event to overcome.
I had just committed to a new office when the economy hit and impacted the events business. Our industry is always one of the first affected in any downturn or crisis — such as the one we are facing now with coronavirus. Events are the first to be cancelled when clients are feeling the pressure, making 2008 and 2009 very tough years. The hardest part for me was having to let some of the team go. In this situation the only way up was to be resilient, push through, keep the team tight and the work well! We came out the other side more knowledgeable and stronger.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Some of DesignScene’s best events have been fully-themed destination experiences. I would love to see the merge of cutting-edge immersive theater into a 3-day unique destinations event.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Smart switches for my home; so simple and practical!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Vectorworks. I think in 3D and use Vectorworks to develop and explain my design approach.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Sapiens. It is an amazing book of fascinating history and future insight.

What is your favorite quote?

One plan is no plan.

Key Learnings:

  • Be ready to adapt to whatever may be thrown your way.
  • Don’t take no for an answer, determination and fearlessness can make great things happen against all odds.
  • Design is essential in creating and delivering amazing experiences.
  • Evaluate what you are doing and why it keeps you on track.
  • Keep pushing boundaries to improve and grow.
  • It’s all about relationships. People buy into people!