Young-Ill Kim (Hyundai/ Kia Motors) talks about differences

Last week I had the pleasure to meet Young-Ill Kim (Executive Vice President of Hyunday/ Kia Motors from Korea) at the Design & Emotion Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden. I interviewed him shortly, just after his key note presentation.

Young-Ill Kim talks about the differences between East and West and explains what he means with adding the K-Factor to his new car designs.

Have a look at the interview here >>>

I dunno, I thought it was a pretty good piece. Statements like this are right on track:

We can not build western looking cars as well as western people can, moreover we should not want to do that either. It is true that we are following the trends from the West right now, but trust me, we are definitely aware of the need to create our own identity. The new “Art Nouveau” is coming, but this time perhaps in a very unexpected way from a very unexpected direction.

Thanks for posting it up Marco, it kind of dovetails into some of the things we have been talking about lately as far as design that is relevant to the culture it comes from. In the auto industry it seems that the Germans, French, Italians and British all have strong national identities. Now the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep is owned by a German corporation it seems they have found their American design language.

I think you can see that across other types of industries. Adidas’s approach vs Nike, Mororola vs Nokia.

actually it is a lot more common (and easy) to point out the negative… but you know that.

Anybody with eyes can see those cars are heavily influenced by market best sellers (again, the easy thing is to focus on that because everyone will agree and it is pretty objectively true)

The cool thing is the guy is trying to make a difference not only in a company that is going to fight him, but within a culture that has been successful at operating in a different way. From what designers in similar positions at Samsung, LG and other Korean companies are saying, it looks as if we are going to see a major shift in the design philosophy of a nation instigated from the designers themselves. Remember designers in these corporate environments are working 3-5 years ahead, so while we may be comparing their words to what we see today, it is an unfair thing to do, though very tempting, I give you that.

If you have ever gotten a design through a large corporate structure you understand how delayed things are and how many people want to be safe, there’s lots of money on the line… its a tough game.

man, that really KILLED this thread, too bad, its a good article…

Hi Michael,

thanks for the great comments. I think it is interesting to see what the interview evoked here. Nevertheless, your insights were perhaps too insightful and people are now afraid to share their opinion! :laughing:

btw. Check the huge difference between the modest Young-Ill Kim and the arrogance of Chris Bangle! Talking about cultural differences?


First, some visual context for Bangle and Young-Ill Kim:

That handle is pretty cool.

This is more Korean than what?

With regards to designers, I do see a difference in my asian friends. Most asian designers I’ve worked with (not many) have been really good at styling. They would work out the details to a much greater degree than the American designers. However, the Americans seemed really motivated to break the mold of the product. If every product in the category was square, they wanted to draw circles. Perhaps that trait is evident in asians drawing the eyes first, westerns drawing the outline. Although, I draw a head both ways. I don’t know what that means.

To bring it back to product, take a look at the following photos. I think Koreans/Japanese customers want to buy western-looking cars (and many other products). Look especially at China. Half the cars are US/European models built locally. Why? I think it is because there was a window for developing a national-style in the early 20th century that is now closing due to globalisation of trends.

This is Toyota’s first car. It looks straight off the drafting table of Chyrsler (think airflow). Why does it look that way? Because that was the competition. Toyota competed by delivering the western-look customers wanted at superior prices with superior quality. They have never really broken away from following the trends.

The different western companies could break away though. Duryea, Benz and others set the standard with a carriage look, but soon companies started to experiment. Nationalistic consumers and high tariffs meant that local companies could experiment with styling without thought of what the next country over was producing. Today, the Koreans/Japanese/Chinese do not have these luxuries.