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Design Guild Mark discussions with Joohee Lee


Richard Stevens and Joohee Lee of forpeople

Joohee Lee joined studio forpeople in 2012 as associate director and worked alongside Richard Stevens on the design of the Keyn Chair Group, which was awarded a Design Guild Mark and the Jonathan Hindle Prize for Excellence in 2017.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Joohee graduated in Furniture Design at Hongik University before gaining an MA at Design Products in London at the Royal College of Art. He then joined Samsung Design Europe as a Senior Designer, where his work achieved widespread recognition including the IF, Good Design, Red Dot and IDEA Gold awards. At forpeople, Joohee has responsibility for design excellence in furniture, consumer electronics and the music industry.

We caught up with him to find out more about his career.

Who is your design hero?

It’s hard to pick one because there are many great designers in the past and today. However, I should say Dieter Rams and Charles & Ray Eames. Their innovative thoughts and craftsmanship still resonate.

When did you first decide you were going to be a designer?

It wasn’t one moment but had built up throughout my young age. My father’s influence played an important part. I have a vivid memory of playing many hours in my father’s architect study room where there were full of architect magazines, blueprint drawings and scale models.

What was your first big break in the industry?

In 2004, a Dutch brand, Droog included one of my lighting design that I was showing in the Milan fair, in their collection which was my very first professional engagement in Europe. That led to me various interesting people and opportunities.

What was the first product you ever designed?

The first product that went to market was a lighting design when I was still at a university. It was a simple standing lamp, made of various industrial materials that can effortlessly change the angle and height. As a student, it was exciting to experience how a conceptual design turned into a commercial product.

 What do you enjoy about being a designer?

I enjoy facing challenges and solving problems through restrictions. The bigger the challenge and restriction the greater the satisfaction. Also, it’s fascinating to meet and talk to people in different fields. Many insights and seeds of my design came simply from a conversation with people.

 Which design are you most proud of?

The Keyn Chair Group for Herman Miller. Today, everything is so fast phase and the product development time gets shorter from few months to few weeks. It is very rare to find an opportunity to work on a product for five years these days.

There were so many craftsmanship, collaboration and innovation poured in 5 years’ time with many amazingly talented people. I always wanted to design a product that I’d like to pass down to my son. I think Keyn is the one.

 What is your creative process?

I think Design is quite similar to weaving a fabric. Observe and understand problems in many different perspectives, zoom out for a bigger picture and zoom in for the details. Then collaborate with various people to weave all perspective, thought, insights and skills for the final outcome.

What influences you?

  • People I meet and work with.
  • Books I read.
  • The culture and nature I explore.
  • Projects I work.

For more information about Joohee and forpeople, go to www.forpeople.co.uk/