HYUNDAI DESIGN, THREE QUESTIONS FROM SIMON LOASBY - Auto & Design

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The future between electrification and new forms. Simon Loasby, Head of Hyundai Style, recounts the future of the Korean brand, which has undergone a radical stylistic transformation in recent years to better meet European customers.

Customization is one of the global megatrends. It leads to a huge differentiation of the concepts and tastes of life. Are there still automotive design principles that work globally and in all types of environments?

Hyundai has design studios around the world, and as designers we are almost like anthropologists in every region. We are watching what is happening. We are looking at current trends, but we are also looking at future trends. Some markets have things in common, other markets are truly unique. Europe tends to look for more compact cars, Europeans tend to prefer what I call ‘a small, high-density product’. Meanwhile, both in Korea and in the United States, larger cars are appreciated. Sedans are still very popular in Korea – a trend that is disappearing in other regions, but in Korea they are still a big reality.

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Comparing the Korean car design with the European one, what are the major matches? And what are the key differences?

I don’t think there’s a Korean car type or a European type. The trends these days are so global. We can go back to 1997 and blame the Internet for this… But there is a type of vehicle that best suits the taste of the market in Europe or Korea. So it’s about building a narrative of what the brand is trying to do and finding what I call the role of that car in the portfolio.

It’s kind of like the role of a chess piece. When you have a complete chessboard, you have your team and different pieces have different roles. This is our Hyundai product line. Different cars have different roles and adapt to different people, different segments. But they’re all Hyundai, they all come from the same chess set. We like to describe this as a new level of consistency. A good example is the continuity of the Parametric Pixel on our IONIQ products. The pixel is a kind of base of our chess pieces: unique and immediately recognizable. Our design work is to find something that is extremely modern but, at the same time, authentic for Hyundai. To find that Koreanness that is globally exceptional and loved. This gives us authenticity in creating a basis for our ideas.

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He once said that “design is not about making mistakes.” Can you go deeper please?

In my opinion, this statement is absolutely correct. Designers shouldn’t worry about making mistakes. It is part of our inner philosophy, of our daily work with designers. If you’re worried, you’ll be less creative. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” a few years ago he had a huge influence on my way of thinking and I learned a lot from him, from this philosophy of leaving people the freedom to experiment, to try. Sure, give them guidelines, but if they’re wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Only this afternoon did I examine the external work of our European team and my first reaction was “No”, on a proposal. Then I thought, “Wait a second, come back.” The reason I’m saying no is because it made me uncomfortable with something I hadn’t considered before. And so my “No” actually means “Yes, keep going.” Because it’s something I didn’t expect and it’s brave to try it, it’s brave to show it. I am a big supporter – in the direction of the direction of what we are trying to do for a new car – of experimentation. So do exactly what we are asking you to do and try something else, that’s fine. And if it doesn’t work, that’s fine.

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