Is Japanese or Korean more useful in ID?

I’m a high school junior aiming for a design career, and I’m pretty okay at learning new languages. Which would realistically be more helpful - Japanese or Korean? I’m able to start one my senior year of high school, and then probably get a minor in it in college.


ditto - Chinese (Mandarin not Cantonese)

My friends are learning Chinese.

Koreans are going to cram schools to learn Chinese.

They are clearly going to be the dominant super power this century and China has the fastest growing economy and largest population to design for not to mention the technical and manufacturing know-how and soon, will lead the world in technology infrastructure. It’s all being newly built so they can skip thinking about legacy infrastrusture and use the latest and greatest.

Japanese and Korean borrow a lot from the ancient Chinese cultures. Most things Westerners think are Japanese actually have their roots in China. In fact most of Asia is influenced by China in their history, language,and culture.

I don’t see much point in learning Japanese for ID. Most Japanese (katakana) these days are sounds that are phonetic English. Kanji is actually Chinese (Hanzi). Han characters.

learn chinese.
after that, you can easily branch off into japanese.

If you know Chinese, Spanish and English, you would be able to communicate with most of the world.

Mandarin, Mandarin, Mandarin…

I have to agree with all the previous posts… there are more mandarin speakers than Korean or Japanese.

You not only have to think about the current state of things… china will keep on growing and improving their design capabilities.

Still… it all depends where you want to work, or who you want to work with. I hear that in Japan is close to impossible to get a job if you don’t speak Japanese… so… if you want to go to Japan, learn Japanese.


Hi Guys,

I agree Chinese or Mandarin is a much better language overall, but the author is asking which is better in ID?

If it is in ID you might like to consider what the country where the language is from is doing for our profession.

Japan has a strong and long history in design, and on par with much of the design though leadership in the west. It is a good place to learn, though much of their work is Japan specific with little exportability to the west, thought that is starting to change.

Korea, imho, is the place to go if you want to experience, a pressure cooker of design and fast turn around and low cost. Just look at where and how brands like Samsung or LG have come from and you can get the picture of where they want to go and nothing is going to stop them. However if you come from the west, there might be some cultural shocks in the way people work in Korea.

China, has a huge market, and lots of opportunities, but till now even though many companies and brands know where they want to go with design, but are not willing to take the risk to do so. Something is holding them back into true innovation. A Follower product strategy runs rampant in China, and designers need to ask themselves if that is what they want, or an environment they are happy to work in.

I’m in a factory in China RIGHT NOW so, i’d have to say:::

“ditto, ditto - Chinese (Mandarin not Cantonese)”

I think Japan has the best design literature out of those languages including mandarin. Otherwise I wish I knew mandarin so I could be like one of those bosses that bullies factories for bargains.

Such a i am learn the chainess…

I speak Japanese, and that opens up a lot. Culture there is rich. People super talented in many areas. But to be braced for the future, definitely Mandarin Chinese. My daughter (6) has this wonderful opportunity to go to school in Shanghai for 3 years. I put her in a Hong Kong-based British school known for Chinese language instruction. She’s been at it for nine months, and she is already conversing without much hesitation. Learn Chinese, then you feel comfortable dealing with Japanese characters. It is your ticket to the world of splended wonders! I m envious of you. All the best.

Hi - my first post here on Core77.

I’m an IDer working in Japan, and am fluent in Japanese and speak intermediate level Chinese.

If you’re aiming for a career in industrial design and are hoping that the languages might help you get there, then Chinese will give you the best range of options. If you really must choose between Japanese and Korean (as per your original question) then I’d choose Japanese. Remember though that if you want a job as an industrial designer in a Japanese firm, you will need to have a very high level of Japanese ability for the firms here to take you seriously over other Japanese graduates. The standard here is very high, and a lot of Japanese ID graduates are very very talented (I should know… I work with them!)

Hope this helps. Good luck for the future.

I would have to agree with all the above, and say Chinese.
If you learn to read Chinese, you can at least read parts of Japanese and figure out the rest, even if you can’t speak it.

Honestly, Chinese will be the most useful language out of all those mentioned if you plan to pursue a career in design within the next few decades.

I am fluent in Japanese, and now working in Shanghai. I would take Tokyo over Shanghai anyday as a place of employment or to live. I’d say you’d be more inspired there. But is Tokyo the best place? I have not covered the entire world, but with the exposure I have I had, it would rank high. In the end, the reason for locating in a place determines the value and preference. So, choosing a language is fine, but this language preference has to be driven by other factors in life.