Interview: Jinwoo Han, Founder at Ahhaproject in Seoul

Jinwoo Han is an alumnus of the prestigious Domus Academy, Italy. In the year 2010, he was globally ranked amongst the Top 25 young designers by Azure. His works have been featured in periodicals and across major design magazines and books. During the same year, he founded Ahhaproject with the aim of creating products. He has worked at New York and Osaka however, the company has two base workstations, Munich and Seoul. He specializes in designing products that are technology and consumer based and has clients like Lego, Samsung, Sylvania and Schneider Electric to his credit. Lately, we got an opportunity of peeping into his creative mind and we were able to dig up some gems, which we would like to share with our readers, so here we go,

1-jinwoo-han

TechieTonics: How did your career in designing begin? Where did you grow up and how far is the environment responsible for shaping up of your profession.

Jinwoo Han: I started designing by chance. I was dropped from university I attended in Korea because I was not interested in my major, Electronics. Then I began looking for something cool to learn to make money easy. Of course, it was design and turned out design job is not easy to make money.

TechieTonics: You have experience working in Munich and Seoul, which means, you must be having myriad clients, so are there some different requirement regarding design with respect to the region you are dealing with?

Jinwoo Han: Actually, I have worked at NY and Osaka. Then I built my business in Korea. Office in Munich is just a small branch to communicate with European client. Yes, I have been working for global partners based on UK, USA, Korea, EU and Etc,.

The thing I have to be careful to design for overseas client is localization. When we designed graphic images for advertising for Hyundai Motors Brazil, we had a half success to make Hyundai Brand popular among customers. Many of the images we believe it will be attractive to Brazilian, but it was not. We didn’t know that they like very vivid and intuitive images more then we researched.

Except some specific case like above, the good design is the general answer to convince people all over the world. I have no feeling there are different requirement for output. Provide more design proposals than promised on the contract, most of the clients like it. Working for USA clients is the comfortable. They are punctual and gentle in discussion. Especially Amway, they never ask us overtime work.

Working for EU clients is fun. They are very open to accept any crazy idea and they are willing to cooperate with us to make better result. I think that’s why they are famous for design culture. Working at Japan is little bit hard. Of course, the people were best to be a friend. However, they get used to work late even over midnight same as Korea.

2-jinwoo-han-laptopseries7-ahhaproject

TechieTonics: ID fits into the grand scheme of entrepreneurship, the only thing you know (while designing) is to create innovating, invigorating and problem solving solutions. How far I am correct is holding such a view?

Jinwoo Han: Yes, especially I think an innovative approach is the powerful weapon to survive in this filed. To be honest, I have no idea how to keep my company famous and make it grow.

I am more like an artist or geek innovator instead of CEO type. However, fortunately, some of my thinking of solving a problem and works, which was focusing on innovation solution, were received a good review by client and that was a chance to keep my company still alive.

I agree the facts you mentioned are might be the only things I know and I am strong at.  I think it is better than saying ” I am expert at everything ” 🙂

TechieTonics: I understand it’s slightly difficult to answer this but is there any project of yours that you’re totally in love with?

Jinwoo Han: Last year, we designed interior stuffs for Lucky Strike cigarette which I like a lot. Probably, people know ‘Lucky Strike’ is one of the great pop iconic symbol designed by Raymond Loewy whom I admire. I was excited when I played with the brand logo officially. Moreover, the result was good and I realized the British has a sense of humor.

TechieTonics: Do you agree with the notion, design will be the key feature in the next wave of sustainability?

Jinwoo Han: Sure, only if the designer studied a technology to adapt to their creation. None of scientists can make anything whatever designer imagines.

3-jinwoo-han-popdoubleslider-cloverphone-ahhaproject

TechieTonics: Recent gadgets trend show that the consumer electronics market is in a rapid evolution phase, which means competition is high. In such a scenario how are you able to maintain the creativeness and uniqueness in all designs especially with electronic devices?

Jinwoo Han: It’s true. Luckily, I am little bit safe from the competition, because I do not only work for electronic stuffs. Ahhaproject make an effort more at design consulting such as branding strategy and future direction.

Unfortunately, if I have to design an electronic gadget, do our best to find inspiration sources from fashion industries. Fashion is influenced by future trend much, so if anybody have to compete for something, ask fashion designer  🙂

TechieTonics: Are there any new technologies, practices or materials you are particularly excited about for the future?

Jinwoo Han: Hologram. The hologram technology will be the big issue next year. If it will be realized, I would use it for all of my designs. Install it on the chair, interior, dish, phone and so on.

TechieTonics: What’s the most valuable lesson you’re learned during your career in designing?

Jinwoo Han: Do not compete against other designers. Even if I have a same task as other designers have, the result will be totally different and it has different value. Do not evaluate other designers. They have their own talent.

4-jinwoo-han-dunhill-lounge-ahhaproject

TechieTonics: There is a little bit of adjustment/adaptation time between learning the foundational skills in school and then trying to apply them in a professional setting. What do you think are the ways design educators may help their students make a comfortable transition?

Jinwoo Han: Difficult question for me. Education system in Korea is suck. Most of the students in Korea are studying under poor condition and nobody share time to help students to go through next step to be a skillful designer.

I have been taught students in University. What I found from students is that they only believes they will be a designer. Actually, there are many related job with design skills such as design researcher, buyer, marketer, analyst, developer, investor Etc. The problem is that students don’t know what talents they could handle best. I think it is good if educator guides students earlier to find a proper way for a future stage.

TechieTonics: How is the job market for industrial designers? Is there any other advice you can give to prospective and graduating students looking to work in the field of design management?        

Jinwoo Han: Harder and harder to get a job especially in Asian region. To build and own business in Asia is not easy too. I recommend to find a job all over the world. If you do not have money to go abroad, not bad suffer from lack of money while you are working in abroad at a younger age. Absorb different cultures as many as you could, and melt it on your design.

5-jinwoo-han-luckystrike-ahhaproject

Rapid- fire questions:

TechieTonics: If you were not a designer, what would you be?

Jinwoo Han: Super Fat Baker

TechieTonics: If you had to walk in another man’s shoes for a day, it would have to be?

Jinwoo Han: Flip flop, never Crocs

TechieTonics: If in one word, you have been asked to describe yourself, it would be?

Jinwoo Han: Bright yellow

TechieTonics: If you have been bestowed with one super power, it would be?

Jinwoo Han: Make money

TechieTonics: If you were a historical person, it would have to be?

Jinwoo Han: Venus

Thank you Jinwoo Han for giving us your time for this interview, it was awesome to have you with us today. Before signing off, we’d like to wish you luck and success for all your future endeavors.

About Pooja Kashyap

A CPD certified Fitness Trainer, Pooja also likes to spend time reading and blogging the latest research and discoveries in science and how technology is shaping the world. Besides writing, she enjoys reviewing books and taking interviews of creative/innovative people. Currently, she is located in Noida, India, where she actively participates in marathons as well. She is also on Quora l Twitter and LinkedIn.