Lee Seong-yong is a designer who strives to create designs that last for a long time through the harmony of reason and sensitivity.
Lee has turned small everyday things into innovative designs, such as a floating ladle which made Lee famous in London. Lee is a designer who continues to grow, catching the attention of people and the media as he does.
A keyword to Lee’s designs is “users”, and this combined with his honesty means we can expect many more surprising designs from him in the future.
Q: You designed a floating ladle. What motivated you and what happened during your work?
A: To talk about the floating ladle, I should go back to 2004 when I saw cutlery on the bottom of a sink when I was washing up. I thought it was a bit disturbing to find cutlery on the bottom when I washed up after filling the sink. Furthermore, even though there were appropriate curves, it was quite difficult to pick it up. Hence, I came up with the floating idea and applied it. Consequently, I adjusted the position of the floating part for easy use. However, I wasn’t sure about the needs of floating cutlery. As time went by, I found a floating ladle was the most appropriate. I remember experiencing several mistakes as I not only wanted a floating ladle, but I also wanted it to float at exactly 90 degrees from the surface of the water. When finalizing the design, the new generation design leader project helped me a lot.
Q: The floating ladle is a design which combines functional design principles and esthetic value. What is the difference between functional and esthetic design? And which is the more important of the two?
A: Function seems to have the value of existence when the aim of things used is to offer benefit. Therefore, if there is an aesthetical benefit, it would also be a mental function which is one of the several functions of design. Increasing the aesthetic value of something is like injecting the designer’s feelings and experience into it, like an essay and travel literature into an explanatory literature. Even if a thing is very beautiful, if there is a lack of basic user needs in terms of function (actually it doesn’t even look beautiful), it will be so shame. Although I see function as the bigger boundary, it would be better if there is an appropriate relationship between the two.
Q: What is your definition of design? What do you want to do via design?
A: I would say design is the process in which we plan and confirm to make things good to look at and fun to use. I tend to try to find the way people make a history by themselves with products rather than put some message into my work.
Q: Your works have received very good responses from people abroad. What do you think about this?
A: It’s true that the result and reaction from people were very good at the last exhibition. However, there might not be enough quality in my work, and also I have had so much passion about my current study in the school, so it is not easy to process as I expect.
Q: We have learned that you have signed some loyalty agreements and have taken part in various exhibitions. Could you tell us abut your plans for the future?
A: After the exhibition finished, there were lots of exciting things, such as a contract with a company, proposal for co-operation, stories in various media and the invitation to take part in another exhibition. However, I couldn’t use the opportunity for something such as mass production of the product probably because of my lack of experience and ability. I try not to forget the big difference between the reaction at the exhibition and the difficulty of the real process. This year I am going to take part in 100% Design London. Using weight balance is my theme at this exhibition, so I am preparing invisible design for my new work. I actually don’t plan so much after one day. I realize good work automatically makes a good plan. So, it seems more productive that I consider more about better quality and value.
Q: You’re a student at the Royal College of Art. What is a difference between design education in Korea and the U.K.? Could you tell us about your future research themes?
A: Maybe I should say only about Design Products at the RCA. I suppose the department’s aim is to give students self reliance to be responsible and independent. During terms, it is up to your passion, so you might work very hard and be always busy. However, if you don’t make your own anyhow, you would feel difficult and be in a hard situation. First of all, there are lots of good tutors to offer you advice. Moreover, outstanding technicians are also there who can help make your idea become more concrete and real. It is also to the college’s credit that there are many students there from different countries as well as backgrounds. I am mostly dealing with furniture design in the school; this is because I had wanted to make something bigger. I recently created a new material, and therefore I am having experimenting to develop the material and am aiming to show the material after applying it into new works next year.