[Herald Design Forum 2016] Interpreting technology with design
Design is a balancing act, says Seymourpowell co-founder Dick Powell
Published : Nov 9, 2016 - 17:06
Updated : Nov 9, 2016 - 17:18
Just as history repeats itself, so does design, according to British industrial designer Dick Powell, the co-founder of the global design consulting firm Seymourpowell.

“It’s impossible to go forward without knowing where you come from,” he told The Korea Herald prior to his presentation at the sixth annual Herald Design Forum held Tuesday in Seoul. “There are cycles in design because people look back in time beyond their age.”

Highlighting the example of Seymourpowell’s design for a new line of kitchen appliances inspired by the 18th century Georgian era in Britain, Powell said that products must take cues from the past in order to appeal to the masses and exude a sense of familiarity. “We are always looking back to determine how to create a better future,” he added.

As a visionary with a people-first focus, Powell is “frustrated by lazy design” that boasts style over practicality.

“The balance of style and function depends on what a particular product needs and provides,” he said.

British industrial designer Dick Powell speaks to The Korea Herald at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Tuesday. (Yoon Byung-chan/The Korea Herald)

Airline seats, for example, must be designed for their mechanical functions, specifications and weight before striving to be pleasing to the eye, he explained. In fact, in the era of the technology boom, products must go beyond the surface.

“Design is not just about the skin,” he noted. “Nearly everything we do is from the inside out, and what’s on the inside tells the story about the outside.”

More companies are starting to incorporate this idea in their approach to innovation.

“We have very talented people coming from Korea these days, but Korea has taken a long (time) to emerge from the point of view that design is about the outside of things looking beautiful,” said Powell, who also serves as the chairman of D&AD. “What we need now is designers who think deeply about all aspects, ranging from product materials to human anthropology.”

With new advances expected in the near future, Powell believes that education should play a crucial role in training the next generation of designers.

“The single most important thing is to be creative,” he noted. “We need broad thinkers who understand software, hardware and service.”

By Kim Yu-young (