Mario Gagliardi – Bio

Mario is an award-winning designer, manager and strategist. He helped building the Korean design sector, created one of Asia’s most successful luxury brands, inspired the design development in Qatar and founded the creative web platform penccil. His roles included chief designer and head of design strategy at LG, creative director/CEO at Qatar Foundation, advisor at Samsung, advisor at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, design professor at IDAS/Hongik University and design professor at Aalborg University. Mario holds an MBA with Merit in Design Management.


Mario was a master class student of Alessandro Mendini and Richard Sapper at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Mario’s “philosophical cupboard” in the class of Alessandro Mendini was published in the authoritative book on design group Studio Alchimia, Alchimia: Contemporary Italian Design by Kazuko Sato (ISBN 3892680337).

He started his career as industrial designer at Philips in the Netherlands. In 1988, he programmed computer games on Atari and Commodore computers and experimented with tangible computer surfaces. In 1989, he was awarded the design prize of architecture magazine Domus with the first digitally designed textile series for one of Italy’s most prestigious textile manufacturers, Somma. In 1990, he was awarded the first three prizes at the Austrian Post Shop design competition and was selected for the Austrian national design award. Mario then designed products for clients such as Takashimaya (Japan) and Bergdorf Goodman (USA).

In 1995, Mario worked as consultant for the Korean Institute of Design Promotion to help building the new Korean design sector. He then led the first master class of industrial design as professor at the newly founded International Design School for Advanced Studies, now part of Hongik University. Finally, he was appointed as Chief Designer and Head of design strategy at the LG headquarters in Seoul.

As the first non-Korean in a senior management position at LG, Mario developed a range of successful products and brands including Whoo, Korea’s fastest growing luxury brand now generating a yearly revenue of 1.4 billion US$ in the Asian market. Mario’s work was awarded the Good Design Mark of the Korean Republic.

Mario also worked as advisor and instructor for the Innovative Design Lab of Samsung, where he developed future technology scenarios and worked with Samsung Design Membership on industrial and digital design projects to shape Samsung’s future design strategies.

Upon returning to Europe, Mario joined a summer workshop led by Andra Branzi at Domus Academy in Milan. He then moved to London and graduated with an MBA with Merit at the University of Westminster.

From 2000, he worked as advisor for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. With a strategic focus on educational innovation, he designed a digital ecosystem for online learning which increased e-learning usage in Austria from below 10% to over 90% within 5 years. In Austria, he also inspired the design efforts of glass crystal manufacturer Swarovski to help defining its global presence.

In 2007, Mario taught as professor at Aalborg University. With an article series for the Danish Designers Association, he shaped a new understanding of design by defining the new fields of experience design and generative design.

From 2008, Mario served as creative director/CEO at Qatar Foundation in Doha. Integrating local tradition with sustainability and contemporary design, he developed design principles which inspired the design of the world’s first sustainable city centre development Msheireb in Doha.

In 2012, Mario founded the non-profit culture sharing platform penccil to promote knowledge and reflection on creative expression, design and the arts.

In 2018, Mario launched  MAJI to create projects in the intersections of technology and culture.

Publications and presentations

Among his theoretical contributions to design, branding and innovation are the cultural analysis framework for branding and design (Design Management Review, 2001), metaphors of brand management and touch-points for brands (Identico, 2005), the concurrence of design integration and economic development stages (Danish Design Center, 2005), the first definitions of experience design and consumers as co-creators (Danish Designers, 2007) and the analysis framework for transformations, territories, frames and uses in the Digital (The Design Journal, 2017).

Mario delivered keynotes and speeches at the Rat für Formgebung (Germany), the Product Development and Management Association (UK), Innotown (Norway), the 8th European International Design Management Conference Trends/04 in Barcelona 2004, the 5th Marketing Conference of Management Centre Turkey in Istanbul 2004, the Era 05 World Design Congress (Helsinki, Gothenburg, Oslo and Copenhagen), the Tasmeem Doha design conference in Doha 2006, the International Council of Design Week in Doha 2009 and the European Academy of Design Conference at Sapienza University in Rome 2017. Mario held lectures and gave workshops in leading universities such as London Business School (UK), University for the Creative Arts (UK), Bogazici University (Turkey) and Tsinghua University (China).

Mario Gagliardi: My design philosophy

For me, design is a tool to discover value and to approach problems.

In design, the 20th century was the age of single products; the 21st century is the age of design ecosystems and strategies.

In order to grasp the depth of the problem at hand, my work includes approaches from trend research, psychology, sociology, and business strategy. Moreover, design always has a “dark spot”, a quality which goes beyond what can be rationalized through known mechanisms. If it is products, brands, or interactions, it is important to discover this quality and to define how it communicates.

A design ecosystem is not a tool to get something done as quickly as possible. Rather, it is a framework to create defined narratives in order to approach situations in particular ways. A design ecosystem can comprise a range of elements – services, brands, products, spaces, media – all of which have to interact in meaningful ways to give rise to human experience. If this experience provokes thought, appeals to the senses, or recalls memories, then it connects with uniquely human impressions.

The moment when a design partakes in a particular space and time, it does something to this space and time. It contributes to shape viewpoints, behaviours and habits, and thereby also opens or closes options for the future. Therefore, design has to be acutely aware of its social, cultural, technical and environmental context in the particular dialectic of its time. If, for instance, a particular intervention inspires a more considerate social behaviour, a particular interaction inspires people to learn something they did not know, or a particular brand inspires people to explore new viewpoints, then we can call it “good design”.

Ultimately, design should translate the situations we encounter in life into experiences which inspire a better awareness of what life is all about.

Mario Gagliardi, 2018