Profile: Navigate Design

Maher Murshed, co-founder of Navigate Design.

Maher Murshed, co-founder of Navigate Design.

By Don Douloff

TORONTO — Despite being in business a mere two years, Toronto-based Navigate Design has, in that short time, cultivated an enviable roster of prestigious clients, worked on high-profile projects, and won a design award.

Launched in March 2015 in west-end Toronto offices, Navigate was founded by Maher Murshed and Ken Lam.

Murshed has been involved in the construction and design industries for over 15 years and Lam has been a designer for 15-plus years.

In addition to his role as president of Navigate, Murshed is chairman of the Ascent Group, a conglomerate that owns and operates a portfolio of companies in South Asia and is active in education, retail and construction. He is also president of ICON Legacy Hospitality, which designs and operates hotels and restaurants in North America and internationally.

A fully integrated design studio, Navigate specializes in retail, residential and hospitality spaces, but focuses almost exclusively on hospitality projects. From the get-go, Murshed and Lam had a specific vision for Navigate that sets the company apart from the herd. 

Navigate’s unique approach to design focuses on brand-centric, immersive experiences, and the firm strives to “materialize the identity of a venue, from the interior of the physical space, through to the digital space, digital marketing and design,” said Murshed.

To that end, Navigate’s braintrust has assembled a team of specialists from a variety of disciplines such as interior design, graphic design, product development and project management, offering clients a complete design solution, from beginning to end. The company follows a process called Integrated Inspiration, a project management initiative that aligns every facet of a project to express the essence of a brand.

Navigate’s projects have taken shape in prominent cities spanning North America and the Middle East, and of the 35-plus projects the company has been involved with, 20 are complete solutions, said Murshed.

Weslodge Saloon, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

Weslodge Saloon, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

Perhaps the jewel in Navigate’s crown is Weslodge Saloon, located on the 68th floor of the world’s tallest hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

Typically, Navigate’s projects “need to add value to a community and fill a gap there,” noted Murshed. Dubai “didn’t have a modern North American saloon that celebrates the cuisine and environment of North American culture.” That, coupled with the fact that more than 40,000 Canadians live and work in Dubai, convinced Navigate’s team that Weslodge would be a good fit for the city.

Indeed, since opening in March 2016, Weslodge Dubai has become a focal point of the city’s Canadian community, said Murshed.

Lam and his team worked to create a space that is whimsical, eclectic and dedicated to Weslodge’s origin (the first Weslodge opened in downtown Toronto in 2012), while infusing the brand’s identity into the thriving business district of Business Bay. 

Weslodge Saloon Dubai’s cutting-edge design caught the industry’s attention, earning the 2016 Commercial Interior Design Award for Best Interior Design: Bar & Clubs.

In January, Navigate’s most recently completed project, Morah, a 140-seat restaurant located on the 71st and 72nd floors of the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, opened.

In Miami’s South Beach, Navigate is designing a 180- to 200-room boutique hotel that will evolve in four structures, two new-builds and two existing buildings currently under renovation. That project is expected to start opening in phases beginning at the end of this year, said Murshed.

Looking ahead, Murshed says longer-term plans call for the company to build and add to its team and renovate its Toronto headquarters, and to continue building brands that can compete in the global marketplace.