Alongside Barbara Schmidt/Berlin, Harald Gründl/Vienna, Inga Sempé/Paris, Erik Spiekermann/Berlin and Stefan Diez/Munich, PHOENIX Design Strategy Manager Joon-Mo Lee answers the journalist’s questions.
Is there a theoretical position which influences your practical work?
Lee: The guiding principles of our work at Phoenix Design are the terms Logic, Morals, and Magic developed by Tom Schönherr and Andreas Haug. Here, Logic not only means the rational coherence of a product, but rather a comprehensive creation of cultural sense according to the maxim of “Form Follows Meaning”. Moral refers to our societal mission as designers: we don’t want to abuse our responsibility as cultural mediators, but effect changes that improve people’s lives. Magic, then, represents our claim to touch people with our design in a lasting way. Especially in a time that’s strongly characterised by technological innovations, we need to find ways of shaping product experiences in a way that’s more human and more emotional.
Why is this approach important to you?
Lee: Theory and practice belong together. Theory on its own cannot change the world. And practice without philosophical underpinnings is in danger of becoming meaningless or lacking direction.
Where does a critical discussion about design take place these days?
Lee: For instance inside design agencies. At the Universities of Applied Sciences, too. All in all, however, industry does not discuss design and innovation sufficiently. The terms are used in everyday business language, it is true; but only a few people actually think about what design may mean in concrete terms for an organisation; what innovation really consists of; and which consequences a serious commitment to design and innovation really brings about.
Which aspects are short-changed in the current design debates?
Lee: Definitely the topic of Morals. Corporate Social Responsibility should not only be a polite part of the Corporate Vision. We really have to live moral principles in order to shape innovation and growth in a humane way.
Source [in German]: Meyer, Klaus (2018): “Hand mit Kopf”, in: designreport, issue 4/2018, p. 24-27.