The auto industry has always been known to be a dynamic industry. Year in and year out, car makers look for ways to improve their production vehicles. They focus not only on the performance of their car but also in the looks of these automobiles.
That is why car designers have always played a key role in the auto industry. In connection with this, car makers are always on the lookout for promising students. Lately, the industry has found a new spot where talented car design students thrive: South Korea.
While the country has only a short time of car making history compared to Japanese and Western countries, students from the country are touted to be one of the best in the world. Koreans have been employed by car manufacturers like Nissan and Mercedes-Benz. Some attributes that these South Korean designers have that impressed chief designers from the aforementioned car makers are their technical skills, work ethic, and creativity.
Shiro Nakamura, the chief Creative Officer and Head of Design for Nissan, said that: “When I first saw the sketches that Korean students were drawing, I was utterly shocked. Their design is very emotional and powerful. I hate to say it, but they are miles ahead of Japanese students, both in terms of design sense and technique. There’s no comparison”. He further said that Nissan will probably hire more Korean designers this year than Japanese ones.
The most known school where South Korean designers come from is the Hongik University which is located in the country’s capital. The university is the country’s top fine arts school. The Seoul-based school only offered the transportation design course in 1990, last year the number of students accommodated is doubled to 120.
Aside from homegrown talents, South Korea also produced some of the best young designers in the world. On of them is Jae Chung. He did not study in South Korea but out in the West. He graduated from the Art Center in California. Today he is now working for Dodge and the interesting fact is that he penned the Dodge Demon sports coupe currently on display at the 77th Geneva International Auto Show.
Ralph Gilles, the Vice President of Design for Chrysler, has this to say about Chung: “He was born in Korea and went to school in Pasadena. And it’s just like anything -you get exposed to the school, you get exposed to Chrysler and Dodge and out comes this new aesthetic.”
Another Korean, and also an alumnus of the Art Center, Han Seung Lee landed a job at Honda. Lee, in turn, penned the Sports 4 Concept shown to the public at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2005. This shows that Koreans have what it takes to take on the world of car designing as sure as a Mercedes H&K air filters are efficient when it comes to doing their job.
Another chief designer which expressed admiration toward Korean design students is Koichi Hayashi, Deputy General Manager of Design for Mazda. He said that: “There’s a real passion among Korean designers to advance and succeed that exceeds what you see in Japanese students.” Currently, he has four Korean designers working for him at their Hiroshima headquarters.
The emergence of South Korea as a source of talented car designers is a good news for Japanese car makers. Due to the similarities in language structure and working culture of Japan and South Korea, Korean designers have an edge over their Western counterparts when applying for a job in any Japanese car company. Furthermore, Koreans are more willing than Westerners to work for relatively low starting salaries offered by Japanese car companies.
According to Nakamura, “all the pieces are in place, right now, young Korean designers are most sought after by Japanese carmakers but they can make it in the West anytime.” But Korean students should not rest on their laurels since in the near future – other countries in the world will also be producing design students at par with them. Countries like China, Russia, and India have all invested in training their car design students to be competitive in the auto industry.