During the months of March, April and May, KAIST’s Department of Industrial Design (ID KAIST) is hosting a seminar series called 2011 Catch The Future. Dr. Pierre Lévy is an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) in the Netherlands. He gave a seminar on March 8, titled “The Origin of Experience.”
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I studied mechanical engineering at Compiègne University of Technology in France and received my Ph. D. in Kansei Science from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. I worked as a research and development designer at the Japanese branch of the French sports company, Decathlon. I worked with many other companies until I became an assistant professor in Industrial Design at the Designing Quality in Interaction Group at TUE.
What brought you to give the seminar at KAIST?
I met Professor Ki-Young Nam at the University of Chiba in Japan when he came to give a seminar to the group of students I was teaching at the time. He contacted me about the 2011 Catch The Future seminar series and invited me to give a seminar at KAIST.
What is your seminar about?
The motivation behind “The Origin of Experience” is the fact that we are surrounded not only by too much information but also by movement of information or information flows. These days it seems like we are solving problems by adding another information channel; we are solving complexity with complexity, which is not sustainable.
What can design do to facilitate this complexity? To answer this question, I talked about what I call theory-inspired design, where phenomenology and ecological psychology are the main fields explored. Phenomenology deals with the primacy of the body and the psychology behind it, and we should analyze the interaction engendered by our senses and perception. This way, we can get a better understanding of how we interact with the world, and thus create a better design.
In the seminar, I discussed these ideas and presented the various projects (e.g. Mustick, Dancerail) designed to explore these ideas.
Do you have any advice for the ID KAIST students?
There is one extremely important method of learning that design schools and its students must consider. You have to fuse and balance the academic side and practical side of learning design. Rather than trying to fully understand or ideate a concept, making prototypes within the process is crucial. Even if the prototypes are very rough and unrefined, we can analyze the interaction of the design and the user to find new ideas. This experience can give us insight into how we can improve the design.
Do you have any last comments?
This is my first time coming to Korea, but I have met quite a few KAIST students and professors before my visit. One thing I noticed was the high competence level of KAIST students, which I was reminded of when they asked such intellectual and complex questions in response to my seminar.
However, when I looked around the industrial design labs and exhibitions of Korea in Seoul and Busan as well as at KAIST, I thought to myself, where is Korea in design? Western countries have been leading the world for a long time from an economic point of view. Consequently, we have come to see design as originating from there. And if we see a certain design, we can usually distinguish its originating country. For example, the Japanese brand MUJI is easily recognized as a Japanese design and is very much appreciated in Western countries. My question is, when will Korean design have its distinctive style? There is much depth in Korean history and culture, but there seems to be a lack of such expression in designs coming from Korea.
I think it would be beneficial for Korea to develop Korean designers instead of designers designing for Western countries. And judging from the strengths of KAIST students as I mentioned before, I believe that ID KAIST is fully capable of accomplishing this goal.