Mario Helmut Gagliardi is a multi-disciplinary designer, manager and strategist. He helped building the Korean design sector, created Asia’s most successful luxury brand, and inspired the design of the word’s first sustainable city center development in Doha. Before founding Mario Gagliardi Design, he worked as CEO of Design at Qatar Foundation, as Chief Designer and Head of design strategy at LG in Korea, as advisor of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in Austria, as professor at IDAS/Hongik University in Seoul and as professor at Aalborg University in Denmark.
Mario was a master class student of Alessandro Mendini, the father of the Radical Design movement, and of legendary industrial designer 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 radically innovative products and brands including Whoo, Korea’s most successful luxury brand. Boldly defying Western stereotypes in the global cosmetics industry, Whoo was received enthusiastically by Asian women and redefined the cosmetics sector in Korea and China. Mario’s work was awarded the Good Design Mark of the Korean Republic. Whoo is Korea’s fastest growing high-end brand, now generating a yearly revenue of 1.4 billion US$ in the Asian market.
Mario also worked as analyst 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 in the early 2000s.
Upon returning to Europe, Mario joined a summer workshop led by Andra Branzi at Domus Academy in Milan. He then moved on to London, where he graduated with an MBA 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 transformative digital ecosystem for online learning and collaboration. This ecosystem 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 contributed to shape a new understanding of design by defining the new fields of experience design and generative design.
From 2008, Mario served as CEO for Design at Qatar Foundation in Doha. With a vision to integrate local tradition with sustainability and contemporary design, he developed the blueprint for a zero-carbon creative community and 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. The platform has currently over half a million subscribed members in the creative sector. Mario curates a range of exhibitions on penccil, including Design DIY (2013), The Elements in Design (2015), and Art/Design/Art (2018), and he consulted visual arts publisher Thames & Hudson towards their new online publishing platform.
In 2018, Mario launched マジ MAJI to create projects in the critical 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).