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[Design Forum] ‘People-oriented design improves life in new ways’

Though design is often discussed as a craft that walks the line between form and function, Israeli-born Paris-based contemporary designer Arik Levy holds a more unconventional understanding of the concept.

Driven by a philosophy that “the world is about people, not objects,” Levy believes that design should focus on improving people’s everyday lives in new ways. His human-oriented philosophy is well reflected across his lighting, furniture and interior designs.
Arik Levy (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Arik Levy (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“I’m looking for opportunities to give design a new trip and society something helpful through unusual channels,” said Levy, emphasizing the value of humanism in design during the 5th Herald Design Forum held Tuesday in Seoul.

Levy, considered among the world’s leading industrial designers alongside Philippe Starck and Karim Rashid, shared examples of his works where design meets everyday needs, including “Water=Life,” a stone-shaped bottle opener inspired by his aging grandmother who struggled with the simple task of twisting open a bottle.

As an enigmatic object that does not give itself away immediately, the device is aesthetically pleasing yet highly functional, according to Levy. “Products just need a little bit of design in changing user experiences,” he said.

Casting a critical view of today’s society marred with advertising, banners and social media, he went on to urge those in the design industry to “feel before you see” and “feel before you think,” emphasizing the importance of communication in product design.

“It’s important to feel before seeing, to connect ourselves to things, elements and instruments that exist with our own body,” a process crucial in gaining a complete understanding of a given product, according to the veteran designer.

Meanwhile, Tom Dixon, a self-taught British designer who heads his eponymous design company, shared Levy’s view of design directed at enhancing human living.

Tom Dixon (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Tom Dixon (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“There has never been a more amazing time to be a designer,” said Dixon. “Manufacturing technology is changing and design has to help the world in this transitioning period. Design is about designing systems and improving life. It’s become a broader subject than ever before.”

The U.K.-based designer, who has built up a diverse design portfolio ranging from contemporary lighting, furniture and accessories to carrying out interior design projects for major clients, also called on South Korea’s young designers to seize new opportunities in today’s tech-driven world.

Korea ― which holds a high interest and value in design ― is equipped with powerful industries that have quickly gained global momentum, opening up many new opportunities in the design field, according to Dixon.

In terms of successful product designs, Dixon emphasized the importance of branding, which he called a “sign of an ownership of a product,” adding that such an understanding of branding is what led him to establish his own label in 2002.

“If one wants to be independent and have one’s own ideas, a designer has to take control over input, output, design and distribution of their own concepts,” he said.

By Sohn Ji-young (