Creating emotional connections through design with BEBOP
Seoul-based design studio BEBOP creates products, experiences, and strategies that positively impact our lives.
Founded by Soohun Jung and Rich Park, BEBOP is a design studio focusing on creating valuable and well-rounded designs. Together with their amazing team of passionate and multitalented designers, BEBOP creates products that are not only esthetically pleasing but follow a dynamic and holistic approach to great design.
Their belief that great products can make a strong impression and create an emotional connection with people propels their passion and leads them to design timeless, thoughtful, and detailed products. It is their attentive approach, distinctive in all of their work, that has allowed them to collaborate and work with a large spectrum of international companies.
DesignWanted had the opportunity to interview BEBOP and find out more about their design approach, process, and their beliefs on good design.
Who is part of the BEBOP team? How did your journey in design begin?
BEBOP: “Based in Seoul, South Korea, we are a team of 7 designers and 1 mechanical engineer, and the team is led by Rich Park, Soohun Jung, and Byungwook Kang. I can give you a quick summary of when we met.
Soohun, Byungwook, and I (Rich Park) met during our product design studies at SADI(Samsung Art and Design Institute) around 2011 where we shared the same dream of becoming big-name designers.
Prior to the three of us meeting, Soohun also studied handcrafts in woods and metals. And after studying product design, he went to work at Teague, a large design agency in the Munich branch for about two years.
After graduating, I (Rich Park) studied Design Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University, United Kingdom before spending a short time in Munich, Germany at Felixheckdesign, a Samsung Master Design Studio.
At this time, Byungwook began working as a product designer in Samsung Electronics, where we made a promise to do something together someday. And as promised, he went on to work at Samsung Electronics for 5 years before joining BEBOP in the beginning of 2020. Now that three of us have joined together, I feel we’re an invincible team!
During this time, Soohun and I (Rich Park) started getting contacted by very small clients who saw the projects that we each uploaded on our personal websites and social networks and were lucky to have the opportunity to design their products. Of course, we knew nothing about how to deal with a client, how to plan a project or write up a contract. And we agreed to work on some projects for free just because it was fun.”
BEBOP: “We just tried everything without much thought and stumbled our way through projects. At some point, we realized how fun this whole chaotic process was, and the decision to found our own design studio was made actually very quickly. One day we shared a few texts on the phone and just decided to do it. And so BEBOP was founded in 2015.
We simply met up back in Korea with just laptops and nothing else. Luckily a friend of a friend allowed us to work in their big office for the first year or so of starting out, and that was our first office, just Soohun and I in the corner of some other company’s office. To think back, I am still amazed by how people found us online and trusted us to design their products. But we had very little money and were just high on the pure fun of working on new products and making every decision on our own.
Little by little, we continued to work on more projects and found ourselves building up a portfolio. These early projects were done with clients who also had minimal experience in manufacturing and so it took a very long time and a lot of trial and error. Although we were making baby steps, we also didn’t have any major problems with money or stress about having to just work all the time, it’s just what we were passionate about and we were happy to do it.
I think one of the reasons why we were able to continue growing was because we worked this way; not taking any money, but allowing us to become rich in our portfolio. We have zero experience in any form of marketing or managing, but we feel that our pure passion for design is what propelled us in the beginning.”
BEBOP: “Slowly we were able to take on bigger and more diverse projects both from old and new clients, enabling us to move into our own office. Then we realized we couldn’t handle all of the projects by just the two of us and decided to grow into a team. Even though we started out working with only small startups, and over the past year we have been working on some exciting projects with big-name companies.
Now that we’ve grown to a considerable-sized family, we are finding ourselves dealing with management more and more, but we believe it’s important to always come back to our pure enthusiasm in design in order to keep growing as both individuals and a team of designers.”
Why focus on product, experience, and strategy design?
BEBOP: “We simply love products and objects. A product needs to look great and also feel good in the hands. But we also feel that a great product doesn’t stop there. When designing a product, we need to consider everything related to it in the real world. The way it works and how it’s used need to be designed, where the human interaction with the product is all thought out. Also, mass manufacturing products are inevitably linked to making money, and so we need to have a clear understanding and a vision of how this product will be able to succeed in a strategic way in order for us to design in an informed way.
Only after considering all of these factors, we are able to reveal the product’s true value which enables us to design with clarity. It’s sort of a distilling process where we decipher which features or components are essential in the product in order to create something that can speak to consumers. From when the consumer first discovers the product, using it for the first time, and having used it for a very long time, we believe great products can make a strong impression throughout its whole life course and ultimately form a sense of connection with people where they’re just drawn to the product without a specific reason but because of all of the great experiences they’ve had with the product.”
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Which are the main values, core concepts, or style inclinations that, above all, will always represent BEBOP?
BEBOP: “We don’t want to define ourselves by a certain style, but we have a certain way of thinking that always seems to be constant in any work that we do. All of our design decisions need to have a reason and story. We see design as a medium that we use to say something to the world no matter how simple that message is. We value efficiency and precision and love to obsess over the details because it’s really the details that complete a product. We continue to refine our perspective and always challenge new ideas in every project in order to find a way to give it our own unique take on it. We love exploring and experimenting, and strongly believe that putting the time and effort into everything we do really does show in the result. This thinking that we have is what pushes us through every challenge and sometimes it’s tedious and headache-inducing, but in the end, we always feel happy that we did it in our own way.
We think designing is almost like creating a new living being. Every product has a personality just like humans, and we strongly believe in building a great personality into a product. Like people, some products look beautiful or behave gracefully or have a unique personality. And then there are those really special people who we just instantly connect with and have a certain charm that we’re drawn to. We try to design products to be like that type of people. Almost unassuming at first, but charming, and the more you spend time with them, the more you realize their great human qualities.
We’ve heard a lot of different opinions about our designs. We’ve heard super modern, sleek, and technological, or criticizing lack of color, or even having a soft and witty aesthetic. But we think we will be forever refining our so-called style and trust that our way of thinking and our process is reflected in all of our designs.”
BEBOP aims to make a positive impact, find the true value, and create emotional connections through your products. Can you tell us what is your creative process from inspiration to final release?
BEBOP: “It’s always very vague but exciting at the start, where we frantically look for inspiration while researching and brainstorming altogether. For every project, we have literally all of our designers all participate in the early brainstorming process to find crazy and weird ideas that can inspire everyone. There are usually a lot of bad ideas that get killed right away, but it’s always after this process where those few super interesting ideas come up that hint at the direction that we’re looking for. It’s like finding a diamond in the dirt. These ideas are typically so simple yet have a special charm that’s shining with potential.
When developing our designs, we respect the designer who came up with the idea and give them the responsibility in seeing it through to the end. But other members are always cheering from the background by throwing suggestions and feedback. We try to fail early by testing as quickly as possible by making rough scale prototypes, 3D printing parts of a design element, or just super basic paper mockups. And we’re always considering and also inspired by the production methods that will be used for mass manufacturing even in the early stages of design.
When the design is finished, we like to stay in close touch with the manufacturing factories through the engineering process so that we can make sure the design is produced in the best way possible. We believe that the best designers are the ones who are able to find a creative solution to produce their ideas in the most efficient way by using less material, less cost, and faster production methods.”
You’ve collaborated with a wide range of international companies. How do you choose the type of client and project to work on? How is the relationship developed?
BEBOP: “We’re not picky when it comes to design projects, we welcome every challenge and love to work with new and different people. Maybe we’re too optimistic, but when clients approach us with their project ideas, we’re always excited to take it and run with it in our own way. We’re lucky to have the opportunity to work in so many diverse product categories from small portable electronics to large furniture. And we take every project as a chance to explore something new and unique.
I think there is a lot of mutual trust and respect between the clients that we work with. From small startups to large brands, it feels like we’re growing together and it’s very much a collaborative effort. No matter how great of a design we come up with, it is up to the company’s ability to realize it, market it, and ultimately sell it. And in order for them to do that successfully, it’s our responsibility to design the best solution for them. And that can only be done by having a lot of trust.
When working with clients, we always have the mindset of trying to give a strong emotional impression through our work. We decipher what it is they want or need and find new ways that they haven’t thought of or expected. However, we find that it’s much easier to impress a first time client, and it’s more important to sustain the relationship by continuing to discover new ideas and unexpected ways of thinking that challenge both parties and in the end result in a successful outcome.”
Which designers/artists are you inspired or influenced by? What other fields, inside and outside the design world, provide you inspiration?
BEBOP: “There are so many great designers today and it’s amazing how the world of design is growing faster than ever. We love researching how other designers work by looking at interviews. We’ve been particularly following Marc Newson, Barber & Osgerby, and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec brothers, and obsessing over how they approach design and the way they work.
We’re also always inspired by all different creative fields from fashion, architecture, graphic, film (the three of us are movie addicts), and music. Even though people have decided to categorize these different creative fields, we feel that the boundaries are already very blurred and everyone is inspiring each other regardless of the field.
Sometimes inspiration can come from the subconscious based on the things we see every day. So we try not to stay cooped up in the studio for too long and go outside to visit exhibitions, shops, cafes, and nature from time to time with all of the team members as a little excursion.
Also, we’re recently more and more interested and inspired by traditional crafts and how elaborate luxury pieces are made. The actual process of physically making something is fascinating to us. How humans have evolved to find ways to make something out of their imagination, whether that’s as simple as hand bending metals with incredible craftsmanship or mass producing such a complex piece of technology such as the automotive industry.
We also love discovering humble creations in our daily lives, such as a random piece of wooden block that just happens to be the perfect size to be used to hold a door open. I feel that these small DIY moments based on human behavior in everyone’s lives show that design is human nature.“
What is the next step for BEBOP?
BEBOP: “We’re always working on a bunch of appliances and electronics. Wireless earphones, travel luggage bags, portable mini lamps, blenders, electronic cigarettes, tennis rackets… and an automatic room sanitizing robot too.
We’re also planning to get our hands dirty into the more traditional side of industrial design. We’ve had the itch to explore unfamiliar territories in design (we think it’s the nature of us always wanting to try new things!) because the studio’s projects primarily involve electronics and mass manufacturing. We’re playing around with ideas for various objects and furniture, where we plan to produce a body of our own works and hope to have a collection to share with the world some time soon in the near future.
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