First Luc Donckerwolke, Chief Creative Officer of Genesis and Hyundai, and then SangYup Lee, Global Design Head at Genesis, were awarded World Car Person of the Year the last two years—an incredible achievement for the award to go to designers, and the same parent company, two years in a row. This wasn’t a surprise to those who have known the two for many years and who have seen their slow and steady work over the last six years since they arrived at the brand. These two acclaimed designers are responsible for differentiating Korean automotive design and positioning Genesis as an international leader in the industry.
Genesis partnered with us as our launch season sponsor for our new COOL HUNTING podcast, Design Tangents, and as part of that we had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Korea doing a deep dive into many aspects of design and culture. For episode six, we underscored our collaboration by sitting down with Donckerwolke and Lee to address the tools of automotive design, the evolution of Korean design on the world stage, and how designers plan for an industry that must forever point toward the future or be left in the dust.
Before you design products, you design the team.
Donckerwolke and Lee have not only designed cars for Genesis, they’ve established an entire brand—and they broke some established automotive design rules (like treating the front of a car like a face) in the process. “Before you design products, you design the team,” Donckerwolke says. “Then you design the process. Then you create the DNA. Then you start applying it. In the meantime, everything you do is reacting.” Today we’re seeing this process manifest across all of the brand’s touch points.
“We always had this process of bouncing ideas back and forth,” Donckerwolke continues. “There is no boss between ourselves. We are eye to eye. We are designers. When I share an idea, I know it is going to be the start of a creative exchange,” Donckerwolke says. Lee acknowledges the power of this. “This is what makes us very strong.”
“A car is an emotional product and…design is very delicate work. Sometimes, depending on what type of pen you sketch with, the result varies,” Lee tells us of his process, which involves a myriad of tools, including physical models from clay. But, “we are just getting a new tool, a palette of tools. It’s AI. It’s influencing [our work], as well.” “It’s only going to be a tool because in the end you have to steer it,” Donckerwolke adds.
“I think we were both made to be car designers,” Donckerwolke reflects on their careers as he shifts toward the future, Genesis’ newest product announcement will be its last last-ever internal combustion car: the GV 80 Coupe Concept, when it goes into production. “It’s a more extroverted element of the family and it’s also a teaser for the fact that we are going to increase the adrenaline in the whole lineup,” he says. “We are gradually increasing the level of emotion.”
To learn more about their design process and the future of Korean design at large, listen to the episode six of Design Tangents now.
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Design Tangents is presented by Genesis and produced and edited by SANDOW Design Group. Special thanks to the podcast production team: Rob Schulte, Hannah Viti, Wize Grazette and Samantha Sager and to Amber Lin for creating our show art. Discover more design podcasts from SURROUND at surroundpodcasts.com.