Models of Innovation in Japan and Korea: MITI and KIDP

Korea’s strength in the creative industries, together with the strength of their multinational brands, is regarded as a model by other Asian countries. How did this model come about?

The Korean Ministry of Trade, Energy and Industry was at the heart of Korea’s industrial and economic development efforts. It was initially modeled after the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Tsusho sangyo sho or MITI), Japan’s central institution for industrial policy, research, investment and development. MITI supervised and led economic policy together with the Bank of Japan, the Economic planning agency and other ministries. Created after World War II in response to Japan’s problems with rising inflation and falling productivity, MITI was a supra-institution influencing all aspects of domestic and foreign economic policy, holding close ties to Japanese companies. Its advantages were largely organizational: Instead of disconnected units with differing agendas and different layers of red tape, MITI was one integrated organization with one goal.

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The Elements in Design: Artists and Designers working with the Elements

Aristotle explained the elements in terms of what we might call sensual qualities: hot, cold, wet and dry. His main thought was that all materials are manifestations of different compositions of the elements. This idea – that the world consists of underlying elements – was fundamental in several ways. It implies that the world is not what it outwardly seems: A stone is not just a stone – it is composed of a mixture of elements which we cannot see. If the world consists of underlying elements, then materials could be transformed by changing their underlying composition.

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Three approaches to the design process

The design process as it is usually taught and applied at the beginning of the 21st century is concerned with goals, aims and targets. It is dealing with business and industry, target groups and financial targets. It is looking at the often “wicked” problems found in all areas of life. It is, in general, working with – or trying to work with – the world, its structures and problems, including its systems, its territories, its politics and power struggles. But is this the only way the design process can be approached? No. There are two other approaches – one which was the victim of a famous struggle in the Bauhaus, and one which was discovered already 800 years ago, but is known in the West only since the second half of the 20th century.

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Design for Sustainability


A curated collection and workshop by Mario Gagliardi on local, handmade objects in northern Thailand and Laos. These objects smartly utilize the properties of natural materials in their method of making.
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Zero Carbon and Shared Space

A workshop by Mario Gagliardi to find new approaches to urban planning and ecologically sound power, water and food systems in the Persian Gulf. Analogous to the Shared Space concept in urban design, this cooperation was set up as a workshop situation without explicit hierarchy. Every participant had to negotiate his “idea space” with others. This leads to constructive knowledge exchanges and a marked increase in both number and quality of ideas and solution proposals. Invited participants: Shuhei Endo, Yasuyuki Takano, Gianni Botsford, Charlotte Skene Catling, Ricardo de Ostos, Marc Frohn, Alexandre Tonneau and others. The results of this workshop for Design Zone served as an inspiration for Lusail, Qatar’s new city project for 450.000 inhabitants.
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Traditional Thai crafts are increasingly under threat, as factory-produced imports undercut the prices of traditional, handmade products. To counter this trend, Mario Gagliardi collaborated with silk weavers from Buri Ram and rattan furniture makers in Surat Thani to explore their techniques and work with them on new prototypes. The intention was not to create perfect products, but to give the workshops a sense of how design works and how it could help them in making local consumers appreciate the value of their work.
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Organic Public Services

Contemporary cities are in need of public spaces which work better for their citizens. This proposal for the Korean Ministry of Culture combinines intelligent technology and sustainability. The system is based on modular design elements, designed to be easily installed in existing public spaces.
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Korea’s most successful luxury brand

Whoo (后), the cosmetics brand designed by Mario Gagliardi, is now Korea’s most successful luxury brand, selected by the Seoul Economic Daily in 2017.

Whoo has been Koreas fastest growing brand due to its unique design and strategic brand promise (read more about its creation). The brand exceeded 100 billion Korean Won in annual sales in 2009, 200 billion Won in 2013, 400 billion Won in 2014, 800 billion Won in 2015, and annual sales exceeded 1 trillion Won last year. Whoo’s parent company LG Household & Health Care, part of LG Group, expects the annual sales of Whoo to surge to 1.6 trillion Won (US$ 1,4 billion) in 2017, making it the best-performing Korean luxury brand in history.

Designed at a time when Western cosmetics brands dominated the Asian market with narratives of Paris and New York, the brand was revolutionary in being the first cosmetics series to focus instead on Asian culture and history. Made with premium ingredients including Korean roots and herbs, the brand tells the stories of historic Korean dynasties. The brand was spearheading the new category of ‘K-beauty’. Whoo also actively supports the preservation and maintenance of historic Korean cultural monuments.

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Innovating education: The efit initiative

Government policies and interventions are powerful instruments that can change social and economic realities on the large scale. However, social reality is highly complex, and policy measures can result in profound unwanted side effects if this complexity has not been captured. For the efit initiative of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in 2002, designed by MGD, the consideration of a wide range of influencing factors was essential to inform the development of a successful design strategy.

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