What takes to be designer in Seoul, South Korea?

It doesn’t matter how good your killer work (design) is, if you’re not skilled at what you do, that design won’t take you far in Seoul.

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(view to N Seoul Tower. In photo Janis Rozenfelds)

Hey there, back in Match my previous classmate started to run blog journey about startups in South Korea. Turned out we have common interests and that reason I shared my interview with him. As time passed my classmate decided to move on and do other projects. This interview was on hold for some time. I decided to do an action, finish the interview and share with the world.


What I do, who I am?

Hello, thank you Aly, for having me here. I am Janis Rozenfelds Designer / front-end developer / Publisher and recently started become a mentor in product design. Born in Latvia and studied in Riga, Copenhagen, and Seoul. Where I learn about art, fashion, UI UX design, and engineering.

I design experience for the better understanding of the user for its content. Creating good design not just creating things but actually make it happen in the way it communicates and gives value to the user and beyond.

Also, I am a co-founder of a small company in Denmark “It’s Nice On Me”. it’s more or less I do freelance work. Now days working in startup Who’s Good at DreamPlus 63 building.

What brings you to Seoul?

What I love about this place - The food, culture, technology and the beautiful mountains. Most importantly the Korean people. They are kind and friendly. As the designer, my goal is to explore and bring simplicity to an ever-changing world for humanity.

What are the new challenge for the designer, here at Seoul?

It’s clear to know that essential role of design get’s larger and modern. As my self, from artist to fashion designer, to product design, to front-end web developer and it doesn’t stop here.

We are at an important point between transformation. Where things constantly shifting. Where industries value design. Where product design is not only traditional retail store but digital products as well.

It makes sense to be engaged and be in the momentum in the new tech. The digital age is here and it’s never too late to start learning, experimenting. What catches me the most is that it is no longer enough to understand your user, your clients. You have to start coding. Doing graphic design will not cut the competition. What I mean by that building the product for your user. Build UX UI design, build working prototype with real data.

You have to move on that in this century design it’s not just beauty but creating meaningful results and market relevance.

For me as the designer here in — Seoul, also in Tokyo, you can feel how consumers spend more time to choose the right and better design. Asia is quite fast changes in their visual representation to be the real edge over competitors. It’s important to be flexible and dynamic in this era to be designer for today and for the next year.

What does it take to work at startup company as Designer?

Time is everything. To be designer at startup you have to be ready to do a lot of things. Even out of your knowledge. I believe you have to bring new ideas to the table which actually can give value to the startup. Don’t bring all ideas at once.

Keep them in a notebook and share only the most useful and relevant ideas. We live in a fast tech / FinTech world and there is no time for meaningless experiment. Be creative, be engaged.

Don’t be just artist be designer. Don’t be just designer be the artist.

Be innovative and combine art and design because I believe they are the best friends for creativity and innovation. It will bring you over the edge of competitors.

What interested me a lot is that more and more designers are willing to become leaders and investors. They become a co-founder. In a way, designers getting too far attached, in a good way.

Who are the leaders in design industries here in Seoul?

The industry is the edge of the border where companies are going head. Competition is tight and where consumer exceptions are high for design but compare decade ago there was not companies look after as design leaders.

That time we did not have high exceptions from design. Now there is more accessible like giant companies — Kakao Corp., Line Corp, Samsung. We are looking at them as they are the “next thing”/design leaders. It is a good way to learn from them.

What makes design efficient and good?

When it comes to deploying great product design is most important. In every aspect as good design takes time, planning and effort. But there is an efficient way to do it.

One of the most common mistake for smaller startup companies is not knowing what to ask to product designer, UX/UI designer. Designers love to push things further and will rather not say no. Make sure you know what you want from designer before experimenting new ideas.

That brings me to the point where organizing team, communication, understanding between engineers, marketing, … is important. In the end, nobody will care what you’re doing at less if it translates to other company departments.

This process of poor communication can lead to “lost in wild” and waste of time.

Nobody wants that, especially if you are a startup. Scale things, down first adapted product or service and narrow down in steps. Do this — start with questions:

  • What business wants to accomplish (long term, short term)?
  • What defines the priority to the customer?

Because of the mainstream for design is to solve problems and build a strong brand image for your business, they have to understand what your company’s service, priorities and product is trying to accomplish (long term, short term).

What are the Design principles for Start-up?

We could talk about balance, proximity, responsive design and other design principles but when it comes to creation/product, then there is no more important things that creating relevance and value for the company.

Think about User-Centered Design. Why ? because it’s an easy and efficient approach. To being with is always relevant to ask questions to solve problems.

As I earlier mentioned asking questions is a key to solve problems. The design is about solving problems and not just creating beautiful things. That’s it simple rules but I didn’t say it will be easy. It’s a starting point to solve a bigger changing problem(s). Go take look at Simon Sinek book “Start With Why”.

Your suggestion to younger designers at startup?

Don’t be afforded to lose your job say it who it is. Say to your boss that designs is garbage. I will improve it. If you don’t do that who else will?


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