[OUTLOOK]Designing a better tomorrow

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[OUTLOOK]Designing a better tomorrow

At the end of last year, I attended an academic seminar held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The subject of the seminar was the application of design to management. There, I met Professor Richard Buchanan, a design expert from Carnegie Mellon University, who was in charge of a project to redesign the tax collection process for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. He said that many people were dubious about why a professor of design was conducting an administrative system renovation project, which was usually handled by professors of finance, administration or management.
However, Professor Buchanan’s explanation was enough to convince me. The least favorite government agency of American citizens is neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the Internal Revenue Service. The tax collection system was not created from the point of view of the taxpayers but to accommodate administrative conveniences. In addition to inefficiency, the IRS is known for treating tax evaders like criminals in the course of investigations or collections of fines.
Therefore, in order for the IRS to approach citizens in a more friendly way and encourage them to pay the taxes voluntarily and willfully, government officials agreed that the agency needed to adopt a more visually pleasing and efficient design theory and method instead of seeking a solution in terms of finance, administration or management.
From the end of World War II to the 1960s, U.S. designers specialized in designing products. However, the share of the manufacturing industry in the U.S. economy decreased from 33.4 percent in 1960 to 20.8 percent in 2002. As the service industry grew from 58.1 percent to 76.7 percent within the same period, the area of industrial design continued to shrink.
Design specialists sought a shift of paradigm at the critical moment. They expanded the area of design from the manufacturing industry to the service industry. With a new conception of design, the government applied design to public organizations, and as a result, industrial design reemerged as a promising field. Based on this change are innovative design experts, who deviate from the supplier-oriented thinking and look at the world from the user’s point of view.
The design field is making striking progress in Korea as well. Every year, 36,000 students graduate with a degree in design, which is the second-largest number in the world. In the domestic market, consumers think brands are one of the most important standards along with price, quality and after-service when making a purchase, and some consumers with aesthetic tastes have begun to consider design as the most crucial value.
Products introduced by leading Korean companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai have earned high recognition for their designs abroad. According to a study in 2004, the design industry makes up 4.7 percent in the Korean economy, which is more than double the 2.0 percent in Britain.
Internationally acknowledged Korean products such as automobiles, electronics, ships and cellular phones are all design intensive.
Thanks to talented designers, the brand values of Korean companies are rising. According to a 2005 report by Interbrand, a leading international brand value rating service, the brand value of Samsung Electronics is 14.6 trillion won, placing 20th among countless companies around the world. In addition, Hyundai Motors and LG are ranked within the top 100.
Korea now has all the necessary preconditions to become a design power. I would like to propose a model of a designer who will lead the Korean economy and change Koreans into citizens of an advanced nation in the 21st century.
Firstly, a 21st century designer has to be a visionary for social change. He or she should not limit the boundary of design to products but expand to the service industry, and ultimately to the social system as a whole.
Secondly, a 21st century designer should be a manager pursuing the satisfaction of the customers. A design that is not sought by a consumer cannot exist. A designer needs to look for potential clients and maximize the added value of design through business activities that can satisfy the demands of consumers.
Thirdly, a 21st century designer is a creator of added value. He or she needs to let citizens know that design is not a luxury but a source of added value that can change the quality of our daily lives.
Today, a designer is a leader transforming the Korean economy into a developed and advanced one, and design is the hottest subject in the 21st century.

* The writer is a professor of business administration at Seoul National University and president of the Korean Academic Society of Business Administration. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cho Dong-sung
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