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Interview with Sang Il Jeon

Home > Designer Interviews > Sang Il Jeon

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Sang Il Jeon (SIJ) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Sang Il Jeon by clicking here.

Interview with Sang Il Jeon at Wednesday 5th of May 2021
Sang Il Jeon
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
SIJ: ​I started to learn the art to enter the university having a design major. all started here. In 2007, I first studied design while attending university in Seoul. At that time, product design must have been, of course, mobile phone design was the best trend. I took my first design class on March 2. I was given the first lecture and the first homework. I remember that I could not sleep the whole night, working on my first theme in my design life, 'unification, emphasis' on the '2-D Fundamentals' subject. and on the morning of March 9, I nervously, tremblingly, and stutteringly presented my first work to the professor. When I was in the first grade, I read the books in the university library and understood what design was. I saw a book titled 'Designer tells about Designer' that tells stories of designers who travel to countries and cities around the world every year. As a result, I became proud that a designer is a wonderful person. I went on the first business trip to Europe exactly 10 years later, thanks to the foolish idea that 'Traveling is only for a business trip as a designer. After, enjoyed tourism!' We didn't know anything, but when we drink, we seriously discuss the design with friends. we were most serious than anyone else and it was passionate days. So I was overwhelmed with the desire to do anything well. But it was a time when almost everything did not go as intended. When I joined the study club in our major, I got my first desk on my computer. I first felt happy and alive in my first own space. Throughout the 1st and 2nd grades, I worked hard all night while eating and sleeping in the club room, but nothing has been made whatever I had intended.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
SIJ: HERITAGE OF SANG IL is classic design project. HERITAGE OF SANG IL is designed with the idea that it will leave timeless value of the heritage. The spirit of heritage has timeless value. This spirit is not only past but also tells the present. Heritage is always with us. It is always communicating with us, and the past, present in the modern city center, is always speaking to us who pass by. If we do not forget the spirit of heritage, it is always with us and is reinterpreted and reinvented by us now. So heritage is resurrected in a new appearance and a new way, asks us many questions and communicates newly. It gives us a lot of inspiration and joy and keeps us from forgetting who we are. So I design my work with thinking as heritage. The identity of HERITAGE OF SANG IL was designed based on the facade of 'Haan Ok(Korean traditional architecture)' consisting of foundation stone, pillars and tile roofs. The past reminds us of a sad history that we can not forget. If there is a will to overcome the gloomy history without forgetting it, the dark past presents us with the possibility of a new age. However, many sad histories are repeated without being overcome.

FS: What is "design" for you?
SIJ: Identity as a designer 1. I am a designer who is not better than everyone else. 2. So I do my own design with my unique identity. 3. What I think about design is always 'progressivity'. Evolution is a fundamental attribute of design. Decidedly, I have the identity as 'conceptor'. I define myself as a concept designer who considers thought and philosophy when designing. I am with an identity that I project my ideas and concepts to the object and deal with them. With the message in my design, I aim to inspire society and people and create a better future. A progressive design that we have never been seen before. I aim at a new design that goes beyond the concept of what other people says. In my own words, 'being looks like it is not things of this world' 'HERITAGE OF SANG IL' project, which has been undergoing since 2012. www.HERITAGEOFSANGIL.com I do not have many things in many ways as a designer, but the one thing which I am confident is the strong identity that leads to self-esteem as I am a designer. There is no talent. There is only an attitude. Because I am stubborn like a firm land, I constantly have to repeat breaking and breaking walls toward the farther places, the higher places, and the unimaginable places, from the limitation of my brain to over the above. After finishing breaking, when I am filled with a feeling of accomplishment like flying the sky I have to go back again. I feel that I have come from breaking walls to the outside but actually, behind my back, I am standing to the walls I made without knowing. To return, I have to break the wall again and destroy it. I have to dig into it again and again. After all, I see what the last kernel is left, and think what to do next.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
SIJ: Which design I mainly do. It is important to think about some than to design something. If when you ask, "What designs are you designing?", I just say, "I really do not care about 'what design. I 'just design' when it comes up." If I say this with a long sentence, industrial design is my major in university, so I have worked hard, I like just 'design' regardless of what to do. I work mainly by connecting the idea, the flow of consciousness, the notion (ex - hungry), and the concept (ex - laziness) to the result. However, the format and results of the expression are close to the product design. I design the thing that does not exist, and I also design existing ones. Though there are things that I prefer, I have often used living products and furniture. Above all, I am trying to eat and live while using my identity as a designer.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
SIJ: I feel like bliss having the all-world when I come up with a whole new idea. such a moment is fun.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
SIJ: Progressivity is a positive attitude to new changes and possibilities, and resistance to the inertia that is blind and natural. A designer is a person with a habit of moving forward. It is the people who have to recognize the present age constantly, have the obligation to be ahead of the times, and have to propose a new future. Some people were confused about me. Sometimes an exclusive people reveal their disgruntle and says, "Why do you do such design?" Then I say, "Why are you so uncomfortable?"

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
SIJ: Why design is fun? It suits my aptitude. 'Designing what to think'. An act of visualizing and realizing the idea. I like to think about design. Reason 1. 'I make rules', 'I do create'. Reason 2. Strangely, every time I see the results of designers who are called 'the best in the world' since I first learned design, I always thought that I would be able to do like them if I try to do so. I do not know why this is so (because I did not know anything at that time). I live with a positive illusion that the idea of being too far and unreal to some can be a reality for me. The happiest and most fortunate in my life is that I can live with this positive attitude.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
SIJ: I enjoy observing thoughts and events I intended through the design become visible phenomena. It is also interesting to watch unexpected interesting things happen.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
SIJ: In the early `90s, since I have been born, my first pop song in my life that I didn't learn at all but, first singing by myself is 'I know' by 'Seo Taiji & Boys' in 1992. In 1994, in the first grade of an eight-year-old in elementary school, my painting won first place. It was, when I was young, the first big event in my life. 'Why am I?' I was confused. In the early 2000s, physical education class and basketball were the happiest. 'Social science' and 'ethics and thought(philosophy)' was the most interesting and easiest to understand in subjects. These classes have been the foundation of my life. In the class of philosophy, the words, The Middle Way(Buddhism) and Moderation, Golden mean(Western philosophy), and only a few short lines of explanation had a profound effect on my design and life in the future. At that time, I was influenced by the underground indie music culture that leads the trend and formed in the street near the HongIk University in Seoul, South Korea, In particular, I enjoyed Korean hip-hop groups 'Dynamic Duo' and 'Garion' and punk band 'Crying- Nut'(Joseon punk band, the nickname of Korean punk band. Joseon is Korean medieval dynasty). As a result, These made me not blindly trapped in the mainstream inertia, and I became a person who can think with faith. 2004, The first collection of Korean hip-hop classics, Garion, formed in 2004 and 1998, was released on December 16th. Through this album, I first understood the meaning of 'classic'. When 2004 was left 2 months, I started to learn the art to enter the university having a design major. all started here. ​ In 2007, I first studied design while attending university in Seoul. At that time, product design must have been, of course, mobile phone design was the best trend. I took my first design class on March 2. I was given the first lecture and the first homework. I remember that I could not sleep the whole night, working on my first theme in my design life, 'unification, emphasis' on the '2-D Fundamentals' subject. and on the morning of March 9, I nervously, tremblingly, and stutteringly presented my first work to the professor. When I was in the first grade, I read the books in the university library and understood what design was. I saw a book titled 'Designer tells about Designer' that tells stories of designers who travel to countries and cities around the world every year. As a result, I became proud that a designer is a wonderful person. I went on the first business trip to Europe exactly 10 years later, thanks to the foolish idea that 'Traveling is only for a business trip as a designer. After, enjoyed tourism!' We didn't know anything, but when we drink, we seriously discuss the design with friends. we were most serious than anyone else and it was passionate days. So I was overwhelmed with the desire to do anything well. But it was a time when almost everything did not go as intended. When I joined the study club in our major, I got my first desk on my computer. I first felt happy and alive in my first own space. Throughout the 1st and 2nd grades, I worked hard all night while eating and sleeping in the club room, but nothing has been made whatever I had intended. ​ At 21 age, and 1st-grade student, I thought the 23 age young designer would be able to mark their name on the world stage as a designer. To me, the age of 23 was the standard to prove the possibility. And many legendary designers' masterpieces are often in their 20s. Even now, there are many events for many young designers to announce and support their names in their 20s. At the time, I became more impatient and my aspirations grew. My goal was that there would be people who needed me and I was called from any country in the world. At that time, I didn't know how big this was. I just thought it was a goal anyone could think of. When I was in the first grade, I read a book with a yellow cover that was grabbed in one hand, 'This is not a chair.' No matter how much I read it, I couldn't understand it well. I imagined that if I present at TED, I would be the coolest person in the world. The MIT media lab through the Internet was someplace of the coolest people actually changing the world with their hands. ​ In my opinion, When I first had entered university in 2007, I think it had been a transition when not long after Korean design began to make a full-scale attempt to leap to the world level. I am very sorry for the basic design education I received this term. Compared to the time and effort of students who suffered, the efficiency and effectiveness of basic design education for basic and creativity were not good. So, rather than someone teaching properly and training correctly, most students rely on their own feelings and efforts to awaken their potentiality and almost always do it by themselves. I thought this was the reason why the design of Korean in the past made a piece of paper, comparing to the world-level. Because of this, as a designer who should speak with vision and skill rather than age and experience, I was always anxious about the challenging situation that I will face in the future decades later. ​ ​ Spring 2008 was the most decisive year of my life. Because I spent the most useless time, All questions got concluded, all plans got completed, and any worries got no longer meaningful. Also, My training for design has been completely framed and it has been a routine long time. August 15, 2008 'Seotaiji' Concert, Jamsil Olympic Stadium. I watched 'Seo Taiji' on the front of the stage. The star 'Seo Tai-ji' always inspires me. 'MUJI', the book 'super normal', 'the designing design', and 'the elements of design'(author: Gail Greet Hannah) made me deep in their philosophy. I agreed that designing the simplest and most trivial ones is rather difficult for anyone and requires skill and a solid base. So I became interested in the value of what no one was interested in. (I didn't read it at all, but I mainly saw pictures) When I entered MUJI and Uniqlo's homepage and store, I was impressed with all the experiences I could feel and the identity that encompasses it. I was impressed with the large MUJI store accidentally entered in Hong Kong when I was 23) The impression they receive from the experiences they provide is the philosophy, values, and attitudes their identities are trying to say. I was greatly influenced by those things. Like children, I used to go around the store, press the camera shutter, and touch products. I thought that exploring the design world would realize nature. I saw the exhibition 'French Design Today' at Soma Museum of Art. It was the best exhibition of my life. There was '5.5 DESIGENRS', and I first saw and admired it. Later, FRONT DESIGN I know who they are. I envied these teams and wanted to be like them. When I encountered Dieter Rams' major works since the 1940s, I thought it was still a classic that was hard to imitate. It contained all the ideas I thought were basic in design. It was the crystal of GOOD DESIGN. Seoul was designated as the World Design Capital in 2010 and the 2008 Seoul Design Olympics was held in Jamsil. Two designers visited the school. I heard a lecture by world-renowned universal designer Patricia Moore, and then Professor Eun-sook Kwon, the director of Seoul Design Olympics. MY STORY SECOND PAGE ​ ​ In the 2010s, as a result of the efforts of the new generation's educators, it opened an opportunity to receive excellent education both at school and outside. New generations will be able to walk around the world with the insights gained in a new environment, solid basics, and high-quality software, even if they don't have to go abroad. When I first learned design, the experience I gained while watching the transition to maturity gave me a stronger sense of consciousness as a designer. Now, the blame(?) I spoke with friends and colleagues became a passion and a memory to do better. Now I admire the young undergraduate students who are already starting at a higher level than me, therefore I work hard to become a designer who doesn't get lost. In 2011, 'Steve Jobs' was alive. In 2012, 'HERITAGE OF SNAG IL' project began. I used the 'iPhone 4' for the first time. World-class Dutch upcycle designer 'Piet Hein Eek' visited the school and took a seminar. When I watched the design documentary film 'Objectified', I had great empathy. I found 'IDEO'. They developed a 'human-centered design toolkit' and spread what is called 'Design thinking'. In fact, they were using design to find and practice a valuable way to change the world in order to solve the problems facing humanity. It was a wonderful people. ​ ​ I had a graduation exhibition in October 2014. I had the first exhibition with family, the happiest time in my life. During that period, 'Seo Taiji' released a new song in seven years. The exhibition 'THE FUTURE IS NOW' at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon. Soon, many of the things we referred to as the future was already usual and were no longer the far future. In the media, it was a time when an article was reported that it was popular to learn 'Design thinking' at 'Stanford D School', founded by 'IDEO' founder 'David Kelley'. When 'Prof. Kim' guided my work, he looked at my EASY HUB and said that he reminds Nendo. Nendo projected a free idea onto an object without prejudice, and the visual impression of the design resembled mine. However, I have to break the frame of my stereotypes and make a new frame over and over again to design. I always have to fight the frame designed as myself. I envy that Nendo is always free from it. ​ As a member of society in 2015, I should take responsibility for what role and for how will play in society, having a positive impact, living with your family, co-workers, juniors, children, and setting a good impact and example. I felt that the day to do so was not far. ​ In February 2016, I graduated from an undergraduate school. Professor Hong, who was always respected, always said, 'Innovation always has a firm assertion, stubbornness, belief, and philosophy' and gave passionate teaching about 'value'. His teaching was a real design, and it became the basis for becoming a designer. He was in the shape of a 'real professor' and is a timeless professor to the numerous disciples who admire him. His ph. D thesis was read to me 10 years later. Prof. Kim, his student, showed 'vision that a progressive designer should have' as an activity, and as a lecture in a classroom, and became my role model. His activities became milestones. It threw a lot of inspiration and buzz into my design life in the future. His 1995 master's thesis was read to me after 21 years. Behind as my youthhood enthusiasm, I had felt a lot of dissatisfaction with the school but now I have realized that I was grown by the education from professors of various backgrounds and by the little experiences I had gained by making relations to potent students of various talents and Individualities. I couldn't think at that time. I express respect and gratitude to these people. ​ The Tesla craze and the Space X project was underway. I found IDEO founder Tom Kelley's book 'creative confidence'. Perhaps, I have been thinking that the key for a person to surpass his abilities is willpower, enthusiasm, patience, good attitude, and deep thinking for a long time rather than intelligence. droog inspires the look of the designer I want to be. If I think about it, I continuously have been meeting without consciousness as if I've passed by. It was droog's design that the designs always remained in my mind since I first studied design was always fresh. September 3, 2016, Designers and colleagues who have been watching for 10 years have started to become someone great. As time passed, 'my past' and 'me now' gradually began to converse in my records that I have been doing since 10 years ago. I was stimulated and worked hard to see the young 'I' who was hottest and roughest 10 years ago and the wonderful ones. Ten years, not easy, passed quickly. I started designing on March 2, 2007 10 years ago and got my first homework in my first lecture. The past and present breathe together. The past and the future are mutually connected promises. I of the past have always been teaching me of the present, and he proposes to me of the future. Also, in the future, I will find myself in the past again. As 'the present me' records, 'the past me' teaches the 'me of the future. 'The future me' is pondering what the 'past me' was trying to tell her. ​ September 2017. I met Seo Tae-ji, who dances 'I know' at Seo Tai-ji's 25th-anniversary concert. I participated in London Design Festival 2017 in September and Seoul Design Festival 2017 in December. I met Christina Schmidt, the former co-founder of skandium in London, and with her recommendation, I was able to confidently introduce my designs to the world's leading companies. And I now call her My London boss. In the Netherlands, I met Piet Hein Eek again in five years. I have been running with no patience, enduring my heart that will burst for 6 years. In the meantime, am I half crazy? Now it seems that only one page of life has just passed. Now it's the third page. MY STORY THIRD PAGE ​ ​ I was invited to Milan Design Week 2018, Fuorisalone TORTONA. I got my Milano boss there. I met good people and had a good experience. And I have completely been de-sealed. Maybe I got a bit older years? Anyway, it's already the third page. It was a decade in the blink of an eye. Luckily, as I traveled to a few countries, I efforted to eat and live. Of course, I made a lot of mistakes. As you know, there were no results. I had to learn how to live in my 20`s first. At the same time, I have been immersed in design only. In 2007, I was motivated by a variety of what I wanted, but I had not known how to do it. I regret that I could not have done anything. The youth had to be fun. 2017, 31 years old. My first time in my 30s, when I traveled alone, I enjoyed the adventure by traveling alone. Definitely, the youth has to be happy. After London, a lot of people ahead of me give help, courage, and warm advice for me who is trying. They have the idea they have to support young designers. ​ In 2005, I had lacked talent and endured contempt. In 2007, the mindset and attitude of life were completely renovated to become a real designer by my hand. When I was designing in the corner of my small room, I felt and acted like a person like Steve Jobs. 'Bluff is essential.' It took a lot more time and trial and error than others. Even if someone advised me, I didn't break my core, and I realized only when I have gone through it. I have been going late so. However, whenever I came across the know-how of people who felt that I was going well and that it was great, 'Yes! That's right! keep going.' Others told me that. It is strange. So I have gone on my own way. My compensation sentiment of this inferiority sense had generated a foolish sense of superiority. I had Isolated myself with self-defense to do my own thing. If somebody were better than me, I had disparaged them. I had been so bluffed. I was shaking like that. It lacked the capability, but the desire was like the universe. Time not feeling happy passed. Now, I have made my sloppy portfolio which people, who know what deserves, would never look at. Still, I think I have done something as an amateur at least. Because of this, I always wanted to be a strength to those who are starting to study design. I want to return to these people what I received later. Whenever there is a chance to talk with them, I try to revive and encourage even the slightest possibility. Because they already are better than me and start. I am doing too. No one knows their next step. Look at the Avengers. After making some important designs and making a 'pink bird head', the first conversation was established in the style of the design by Sang IL, myself.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
SIJ: I aim for 'the classic design' I want to design the classic design that aims for the timeless value of 'classic design', the highest value. Many designs will disappear and become garbage, but they will be for a long time with a value that will shine forever. The past, present, and future are always connected and constantly communicating with us. The heritage, the result of it, is breathing forever. So I design it with the idea that it will leave timeless value to HERITAGE OF SANG IL. So it is important to design for long life and inspiring design. As the 'present me' records, 'past me' teaches 'future me'. 'Future I' is worried about what 'past me' was trying to tell himself.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
SIJ: a flow of consciousness.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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