Fuijae Lee is a fourth-year industrial design student from South Korea. He came to America when he was 15 as an exchange student and graduated from a high school in Clearwater, Fla. Lee decided to remain in the United States to complete his college degree and found a home at RIT. He took a leave of absence to serve in the Korean Air Force after his first year at RIT, but after he completed a couple years of service, he returned to the university to finish his degree in industrial design.
Lee likes industrial design because it’s an inclusive major that touches on many different design fields. The major allows him to take classes and learn more about graphic design, furniture design, toy design, soft goods and many more. His time at RIT has helped Lee decide that he would like to follow the path of product and user interface design. Outside of classes, Lee is working as a web developer for RIT SportsZone and enjoys spending his free time sketching cars and making scale models of them out of clay and foam.
Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: In Florida, there really weren’t many schools offering a good design program, so I was looking at schools in New York and California. When I came across RIT I was curious how a design program at a technology college was ranked second in America, so I applied to find out more about the program.
Q: What attracted you to industrial design?
A: Growing up under a father who is a sculptor and a professor, art was always a big part of my life. I also just loved drawing objects. In high school, I started thinking about what I wanted to study and become. I knew I liked drawing, but I didn’t want to draw just to draw something beautiful. I wanted to create something beautiful, and also useful. Something that has functionality. So, balancing creativity and functionality out, industrial design looked like a really good fit to me.
Q: Were you excited to be involved with the Metaproject this year?
A: Metaproject is hands-down one of the most interesting courses the RIT industrial design program offers. Each year, a company or a collaborator becomes the sponsor and client of the class. A group of fourth-year undergraduate industrial design students designs various products in accordance to the client’s vision and directions. From previous Metaprojects, some of the students’ works have been selected by the sponsoring companies to be put into production, and one of them even ended up becoming one of the company’s best-selling products. Toward the end of May, the class goes down to New York City to present their works at ICFF, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to be a part of the Metaproject08.
Q: What company are you working with and what do they do?
A: Traditionally, Metaproject sponsors have been companies like Kikkerland, Poppin or Umbra. These companies design and produce actual, physical products. This year, things are a little different. For Metaproject08, we are collaborating with Chuck Cerankoski, an RIT industrial design alumni. He is co-owner of two popular restaurants, Good Luck and Cure, and the manager of Radio Social. Good Luck was featured on Esquire magazine as one of the top 10 bars in America, so working with him is very exciting.
Q: What are you designing for the company?
A: Our mission is to redefine dining through design. As a class, we will be creating a pop up restaurant event at Good Luck, curating a unique and memorable dining experience from the beginning to the end.
Q: When you set out to design something, what are the first things you begin to think about?
A: When designing something I tend to start by thinking about the objective of whatever we are designing. Depending on its purpose and meaning, the design direction can vary a lot. After that, I begin sketching out some ideas on a piece of paper. At this stage, I don’t decide on a specific design direction just yet. Exploring various ideas to discover an optimal solution for a design objective is the most important part of idea sketching. Being fixated on one idea or a concept from the beginning is the biggest enemy of creative thinking. Once I’ve decided on a specific design direction from the preliminary idea sketches, I start refining and developing the concept more in depth.
Q: So far, what are the biggest lessons you are learning through this professional collaboration?
A: I’m really learning to think freely. As a group, we just let our ideas go crazy and bounce them off each other to come up with the most creative and plausible solutions for a given design subject. This is one of the most important activities in the process of designing anything. Also, working in collaboration with the sponsor/client as a class all together really improved my teamwork skills and ability to collaborate with people from different professions.
Q: What are your plans for after you graduate?
A: After I graduate, I would like to work as a product or user interface designer. I am also considering going to graduate school for a deeper study in transportation design.
Felicia Swartzenberg compiles “Student Spotlights” for University News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.