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State of Design: Kyung-won Chung

Listen to State of Design: Kyung-won Chung

Kyung-won Chung is the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s chief design officer and the deputy mayor of South Korea’s capital city. In 2010, the former industrial design professor oversaw Seoul’s status as the World Design Capital. During State of Design 2011, he joined panellists Soumitri Varadarajan, Michele Azzopardi, Robert Nelson and Alex Lawler via Skype to discuss his unique role in one of the world’s most affluent, technologically advanced nations.

Chung establishes early on that his ethos is an egalitarian one, offering Korea’s “design for all” ethos as a way into a mindset that emphasises design’s role as to “create appearance or artefact, as well as to improve the quality of life of the people”. Design, he says, should address “social imbalance and public health issues”.

The discussion often touches on the relationship between design and real social and economic outcomes. Azzopardi prompts Chung to explain his term “designomics.” Chung traces its meaning and explains how it has been enacted as policy. In the same breath, he explains South Korea’s “design clusters” and describes their benefits and efficiencies. Following Seoul’s appointment as inaugural World Design Capital in 2010, Chung assesses the tangible outcomes and economic effects of that UNESCO designation.

Looking toward the future, Chung predicts a shift in emphasis from hardware to software, and agrees with Nelson that services will rise in prominence and importance. He notes the specific challenges of dealing with “invisible and intangible” realms of design as opposed to the comparatively straightforward problems of measuring user problems and interactions with hardware.

Chung discusses innovations in design education in his homeland, and responds to Nelson’s enquiry about the differences in style between Eastern and Western design approaches (Chung studied abroad in his earlier years). He probes the idea of fostering a collaborative, collegial “design culture” in South Korea, rather than a more territorial, competitive nationalist approach, bringing his social agenda to the fore once again.

In part two, the panel swells to include Geoffrey London and Carolyn Barnes. Barnes facilitates the discussion between her four fellow panellists and the audience, unravelling various threads of the earlier discussion.

Part of the 2011 State of Design festival, the 9 to 5 Talks Program was a series of live, Skype conversations in a Q&A format. Melbourne’s leading designers posed nine critical questions to five of the world’s most important design thinkers.

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