Seoul Man

Over the past 16 or so years we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy our fair share of travel and have met so many amazing people from all around the world. We have, until now, never spoken with anyone from one of the planet’s most exciting and forward thinking nations – South Korea. Think tech, think manufacturing and, now, think design.

Jaeyoung Kim is Senior Designer for the Fursys Group – whose Sidiz branded T50 chair has outsold pretty much all its competitors over the past decade, while latest innovation, Flight, is set to continue the company’s amazing winning streak.

We begin by asking Jaeyoung a little about his background. ‘I was born in Seoul, in 1981,’ he tells us. ‘I graduated from Kyunghee University in 2007, majoring in Industrial Design. I joined the Fursys Group as a member of the Sidiz Seating R&D team and have been working as a designer in seating R&D for nine years.

‘After graduation, I started to look for a job, Fursys seemed to be a good company with a solid foundation and I was lucky enough to be offered an open spot as a product designer.

‘My very first project – designing the T50C series for Sidiz – definitely influenced my career the most. It taught me how fascinating design can be and how to enjoy design work. Of course, as my first project was more than a success, I was suddenly under huge pressure to exceed this success on the following projects, but I can definitely say that the gain is outweighed by the loss from the T50C project.

T30‘I believe I was able to contribute hugely to the Fursys Group with the T50C series, which is not only a best selling product but also a steady-selling product. It established the foundation of my career.

‘Today, I work in Fursys’ HQ, located in Seoul. I commute from Suwon, which is located just outside of Seoul. The journey takes about 40 minutes by car.’

We move on to talk about the design process at Fursys. Does Jaeyoung usually take concepts to the manufacturer or does Fursys give him a brief for what it requires to bolster its product portfolio?

‘As an in-house designer, most of the work involves cooperation with the Fursys/Sidiz planning department,’ Jaeyoung considers. ‘The task flow is quite general – when a project is planned, the direction is set based on the research data and specified via sketches and mock-ups. As the work progresses, revision of matching the purpose of the project with actual turnouts is repeated as many times as necessary. In the meantime, the interaction among R&D, planning department, development department and production department is crucial.’

Which brings us nicely on to the subject of the development of the new Fursys product, Flight.

‘Flight is designed to be used generally within any office space, undeterred by continually changing working environments and task attitudes,’ Jaeyoung tells us. ‘In order to accommodate into any space, for any user or purpose, Flight utilises comfort with intuitive functions, which adapt to the user’s body condition without additional adjustment. It also harmonises with other furniture and surroundings thanks to its balanced shape and soft material and fulfills its role as a multi-purpose chair.’

This, we understand, sits (excuse the pun) perfectly with Fursys’ philosophy. Jaeyoung is happy to confirm this for us.

‘The company motto is ‘To know right, live right and become one with one another’. Fursys/Sidiz tries its best to produce honest and better products, specifically by providing products that connect people and space; to improve the life quality and surroundings for more people.’

The Sidiz T50 chair has been one of the most successful seating products of the past 10 years – being specified across the globe in its thousands and outperforming the world’s task seating heavyweights. Was Jaeyoung surprised by this phenomenal success?

‘The success of T50 was beyond what was expected but it is not surprising after all the efforts and concentration that Fursys/Sidiz k put into the chair,’ he reveals. ‘T50 became a motivation for Fursys/Sidiz to develop more and better products, and built a foundation for the company and its employees to grow.

So what does Jaeyoung think sets the T50 apart from competitive products?

‘T50 is faithful to the basics of a task chair with ergonomic but sharp design,’ he says. ‘I believe its overall balance appeals to the general public.

‘Its degree of completion and reasonable price distinguishes T50 from other products. Fursys/Sidiz laid the foundation on the manufacturing infrastructure that is by no means inferior to world leading companies. With its strict quality standards, Fursys/Sidiz continually manufactures stable, high quality products. This competitiveness is not easily procurable.’

E50We move on to talk about Jaeyoung’s own design style, influences and aspirations.

‘We definitely share the principle values of Fursys/Sidiz here but try to respect individuality. Consistent quality of design is demanded, but each series is encouraged to reflect its own characters.

‘Balance is always an important element of design. Rather then lean too much towards one side in particular, I strive to make sure the completion of a product is based on overall harmony – that is what I aim for.

‘Everyone around me has an influence on me. Newbies, senior designers, family, friends and everyone around me have something that I do not possess. Such differences appear in my design.

‘I read books to learn how to approach matters from different perspectives. Through books, I calm myself and gain insights from second-hand experiences.’

What frustrates and annoys Jaeyoung? ‘People without consideration for others,’ he tells us. ‘I try to always have consideration for others in my daily life as well as at work. I try to put myself in the user/client/customer’s shoes. It affects the process of designing and I believe my attempt to do this will lead to more valuable designs.’

Finally, what does Jaeyoung want to be remembered for?

‘I am not a publicity hound. I am not eager to introduce my name.

However, I do wish more people would remember my design work as ‘good products’.