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[SOUTH KOREA] Inno's Kim Young-se / Korean Design Consumer Products

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  • madchinaman
    Inno s founder sees love in design Kim Young-se is the brain behind several of South Korea s hot consumer products. By Anna Fifield, Financial Times
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2006
      Inno's founder sees love in design
      Kim Young-se is the brain behind several of South Korea's hot
      consumer products.
      By Anna Fifield, Financial Times
      http://www.latimes.com/business/la-ft-kim11dec11,1,3310035.story


      -

      He established Inno first in California's Palo Alto 20 years ago and
      then in Seoul, but the business revolves around designing products
      for Korean companies or American products, such as Microsoft systems
      or Wilson golf clubs, for the Korean market.

      Inno now employs 50 designers in three locations — more than half in
      Seoul, with a large office in Palo Alto and a smaller team in the
      newly established Beijing office — and has just established InnoMan,
      not a men's clothing line but a subsidiary to promote the Inno brand.

      -


      Walking into Inno Design's new minimalist headquarters in the ritzy
      Seoul suburb of Kangnam, visitors are greeted with white lettering on
      the white wall behind the white reception desk. "Design is loving
      others," it says.

      "My philosophy is a strange one," admits Kim Young-se, Inno's founder
      and self-styled father of Korean design.

      "But if you love consumers, you're going to design something from the
      heart," says the Gucci-clad Kim, the brain behind several of South
      Korea's most eye-catching consumer products, from the prism-shaped
      IRiver MP3 player to the pioneering Samsung mobile phone with
      swiveling screen, which is perfect for watching television on the go.

      "It's not just about technology, it's about designing something that
      is top quality and functional but that also makes you feel emotional.
      So the best design in my book is something that looks and feels good
      but also is easy to make so that manufacturers can make good profits."

      The rise of Kim and his Inno Design company in many ways exemplifies
      the development of South Korean business across the board — from a
      copycat manufacturer of inferior cars and household appliances only a
      couple of decades ago to a producer of cutting-edge products.

      Samsung Electronics, one of Kim's clients, in particular has been
      focusing on the mid to upper end of the technology spectrum — indeed,
      it hardly even bothers to produce the cheap phones popular in
      emerging markets — to make wider profit margins and increase its
      brand value.

      "Design is becoming more and more important for Korean companies and
      they are looking for total creative solutions and building design
      into their strategies to ensure their competitive survival," Kim says.

      He established Inno first in California's Palo Alto 20 years ago and
      then in Seoul, but the business revolves around designing products
      for Korean companies or American products, such as Microsoft systems
      or Wilson golf clubs, for the Korean market.

      Inno now employs 50 designers in three locations — more than half in
      Seoul, with a large office in Palo Alto and a smaller team in the
      newly established Beijing office — and has just established InnoMan,
      not a men's clothing line but a subsidiary to promote the Inno brand.

      Kim declines to divulge even a ballpark figure regarding Inno's
      revenue, saying his clients would not like it, but ambitiously adds
      that he would like to be the head of a billion-dollar company within
      10 years.

      He has been behind many cool products. The prism-shaped IRiver sold
      more than a million units for the then-unknown Korean company, and
      Kim's pendant-style IRiver N10 MP3 player — made to be worn around
      the neck and with headphones combined into the necklace part — won
      the prestigious Red Dot design award last year.

      "I was in Starbucks watching people wearing clunky, ugly MP3 players
      around their necks and had the idea to make an MP3 necklace," he
      says. "It's become a fashion accessory, not just a consumer
      electronic product. That's why I say design is loving others."

      Meanwhile, IRiver Inc.'s iFP-1000 — a combined MP3 player and digital
      camera that occurred to Kim while he was in a restaurant in Hawaii —
      won a silver medal at the Industrial Design Excellence Awards last
      year. Inno also designed the case for the Laneige Sliding Pact, the
      Amore Pacific make-up that is hugely popular in Asia and whose sleek
      cases feature in the advertisements.

      Kim distills the Korean innovative edge into an equation — D plus D
      equals D (that is, design plus digital equals dreams, although he
      agrees the final D could also stand for dollars).
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