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Make way for the Design Economy - A Seoul Design Festival Report


Make way for the Design Economy - A Seoul Design Festival Report

The December weather has been kind to visitors at Seoul Design Festival that just wrapped up last Monday (11th Dec). While outdoor weather plummeted below freezing point, the crowd inside COEX exhibition Hall B however, managed to conjure up a warming atmosphere with their enthusiasm and excitement.

With the aim of helping companies, brands and designers of diverse fields cooperate and find their creative partners, Seoul Design Festival, now in its 16th year, has stationed itself as an important exhibition that suggests new trends and values. Hence the theme of "Design Economy" seems to indicate a gear toward a greater soft power that the country already had with its electronics, K-Pop and drama series that are known around the globe.

Exhibitors at Seoul Design Festival ranged from independent designers (L) to big corporates like Audi (R). 

But here's the catch: Design Economy is just one part of this year's theme. The other half, not surprisingly, is "Single Economy", i.e. a term first coined by Japanese Sociologist Masahiro Yamada and now made even more unavoidable by Taobao's Singles Day sales.

According to the country's statistic, "Single Economy" now accounts for over 1/4 of the total number of households. It also embodies their consumption trends and lifestyles which cannot be explained merely through prolonged low growth or late marriage, low birth rate, ageing society, etc. It is no longer a trend, but a wide-scale phenomenon that transforms the flow of politics, economy, society and culture.

And so, as much as the world likes to think that Singles Day/Economy is only creating wasteful and unnecessary designs, what Seoul Design Festival has to offer is a more refined palette regarding design culture, traditions and sustainability. Hence some of our favourites are discovered in the aisle of the Young Designer section and also from some of our favourite designers.

LUMBER (T), DRESS (L) and DUMBO (R) by designstudio PESI.

Founded by designers Byounghwi Jeon and Seungjoon Song, it's hard to believe that designstudio PESI is just two years old, and yet their projects (or technically prototypes) have more commercial potential than most young designers in the show. PESI - which stands for Possibility, Essential, Standpoint, Interpretation - aims to "find new possibility by reinterpreting an object from our point of view without losing its essentials."

They've designed LUMBER, a self-assembly side table collection by using only simple processed cardboards and PVC rivets; DUMBO, a collection of stools and tables designed for heavy-loads that can be easily manufactured at a low unit price through a simple process with only cutting and bending; and DRESS, a table lamp that comes with a shade that shows its lace pattern after it's lit up - all in all, successfully delivering a lively and cheerful experience of industrial design in daily lives.

YANG BAN (L) by Lee Junghoon, CUENCO STOOL by Lee Junghyun of Yolllley Studio (R).

Lee Junghoon (Studio IGI)
Taking inspiration from South Korea's traditional Korean hat and table, Lee has come out with YANG BAN, a side table that combines both the decorative feature of a hat and the shape of a table. "Although its overall figure looks simple, the decoration that seems like jewellery is hung on is made of gold, rose gold and silver to emphasise an object, " explained Junghoon. "Also, this trend is very similar to the nowadays relation between fashion and jewellery, so the design of YANG BAN was meant to apply those specialities."


Lee Junghyun (Yolllley Studio)
The CUENCO STOOL by  Lee Junghyun of Yolllley Studio is all about happiness. As the designer explained, "Sharing with others, especially during meal time, can be 'infectious 'and spreads through friends and family. " Thus, the stool took its form of the traditional rice bowls and then stacked repeatedly to represent Korean aesthetic quality and formative value. The stool is made out of lacquer wood and can also be used as a side table.

MOON, LIGHT by found/Founded (L), MOONLIGHT IN MILAN by Amel Studio (R).

Amel Studio
Amel Studio first project MOONLIGHT IN MILAN is a collection of lamps and side tables that initially might look like they're made out of brass, but instead, they're created with stainless steel. "For the side tables, there are also two tray designs. And to give them a moon shape texture, I've used a traditional Korean ingredient called Jyagae which is essentially a paint that gives them a marbling effect." As lead designer Anna Suh explained more, her concept of the collection came from her five years' time spent in Milan -  hence the name - and got inspired by the bright moon that gives her the warmth and comfort while on foreign soil.


Fresh off of winning iF's Design Talent Award for their Permeate Collection, they now have come out with a whole new series of home accessories designed based on basic shapes. Among them, we can't help but noticed the similarities of the "moon inspired" MOON, LIGHT. This so called "mood" light was designed to reflect the emotions of moonlight. Lead by Kyuho Song found/Founded is a graphic design studio based in Seoul that suggests design products that can contain reasonable strategy and sentimental values through the diverse views and expansion of the thoughts which arise from blending different areas of design. A missed opportunity though is not presenting their second Smart home furnishing collection made with Samsung.

Basics by H I, is a collobration between designers Heejin Lee and Ilya Chaynikov.

The SHADE Collection by Jinsik Kim for Korea Traditional Culture Center.

Special Mention: Basics by H I
H I (or Hypothetical Identity) is a creative duo founded by current Studio Urquiola designers Heejin Lee and Ilya Chaynikov. Their very surreal-looking exhibition is an offline show displaying their process of exploring basic forms of environment. "We pushed boundaries of the visual identity of familiar objects by giving them a new language. It was important to us that everything will be exactly as we imagined. Especially, special print technology on acrylic surfaces that before we were experimenting on in Europe. Considering that production was in Seoul and we are based in Milan, we are pleased with the outcome. The more it looked unreal for visitors, the more it looked real for us, " explained Heejin.  


Special Mention: Jinsik Kim
A surprise appearance from one of our favourite designers Jinsik Kim was at Korea Traditional Culture Center's booth "The Hotel". As the name suggested, all the designs were guided by the fact that the hospitality industry is getting more and more eager for exclusivity and customisation. Among his three creations, the SHADE collection of closets presented a new usage of weaving bamboo to hide clothes inside furniture. Although at first glance it might remind us of a Campana Brother's creation, the biggest difference is that the design utilised naturally two textures from weaving and unweaving of a bamboo, creating a familiar Korean furniture structure that is traditional and avant-garde at the same time. A new and fresh departure from Kim's heavier stone creations.


For more info about Seoul Design Festival, you can follow them here.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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