Knu Kim is a professor at IE University who teaches design strategy for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He is also a design strategist at the design and innovation consultancy, Fjord, where his role effectively embodies the convergence of business and design.
We spoke with him to learn about the unique perspective students from the Dual Degree in Business Administration and Design bring to businesses and why it is incredibly valuable right now.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and your current role?
I’m originally from South Korea. Early in my career, I was very business-focused, the kind of person who would always wear a suit and tie. I was working in Germany in 2013 as a corporate strategist when I decided that I wanted to switch careers. I did my MBA at IE Business School and started my own shoe brand in Korea with a friend, which is still thriving. After a year of working exclusively on our brand, I decided to enter the design industry and started looking for jobs at design studios. I finally got a job at Fjord as a design strategist about five years ago, and I’ve been working there ever since. My role there involves helping other businesses (our clients) to improve their customer experience and innovate their products and services. Also, I make sure that our design makes a positive impact on our client’s business.
Can you tell us more about Fjord and how it works?
Fjord is a design and innovation consultancy that is a part of the Accenture group. What we do is to provide solutions to our clients through cutting-edge innovation. We have a lot of different design disciplines in the studio. I’m a design strategist who works with business or service design, but we’ve got visual and interaction designers who work with digital products, content designers who create content strategies for clients, and even architects who create memorable physical experiences. All the different disciplines within the studio usually work together on projects to try to come up with comprehensive solutions. We also heavily involve our clients in the process to design solutions together.
What is the importance of service design?
Service design is a term we use in the industry, but we are essentially designing memorable experiences for people (users, customers, employees, or anyone.). For example, back then, there were companies that could sell only products with billboard advertising. You can imagine Coca-Cola in the ’70s. But nowadays there is not a single company in the world that can just sell a product by itself. You need to include an experience, not just customer care or advertising, but also from designing a platform you sell your product on to making your product delivered without frictions. Customer experience has already been so important in almost all industries, but many traditional businesses still mainly focus on their products and organizational capabilities in-house. Let’s talk about what we learn in strategy classes in business schools. The essence of business strategy is to build core competencies either by differentiation or cost advantage. It’s obviously important to consider those to make your business successful. However, the weight has been too much on this side, neglecting what customers really want. We still receive hundreds of sales calls across various industries, which are usually annoying and not effective. But companies keep doing it because they have the sales forces to make it happen (organizational capability). Then why don’t we spend a little more time to think of “Are the hard sales calls what our customers really need?”. So eventually, Service design shows them a new way of looking at their business through the lens of their users’ needs.
What’s the benefit of pursuing a Dual Degree in Business and Design?
I think my career path is a good example of business and design converging. The first six years of my career were purely focused on business. I learned diverse topics in business such as strategy, entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, supply chain management, and more. Then I became really interested in design methodology during my MBA where we had a small workshop. That led me to read more books about the subject and, eventually, helped me get my job at Fjord. I’ve been learning a lot about the design methodology at Fjord for the past 5 years, and I believe having a business background has helped me become a unique profile for the organization. I am probably one of a few who can truly understand both languages, business and design. Although the skills required for the two areas are different from each other, they are really compatible. I would even say that having both skills is essential and without a doubt valuable to companies because design has become so integral to the success of businesses.
And finally, what would you say to future Dual Degree in Business Administration and Design students about their future careers?
This is a relatively new program but I’m sure that there is going to be a high demand for someone with the profile of a student with a Dual Degree in Business Administration and Design. Since you will cover so many different topics in the program, you will have a really versatile profile like I mentioned before. You could follow a similar career path to mine, working at a design consultancy or any company as a professional who designs a compelling experience. You could work more closely with corporate strategy as a business strategist or a consultant using the design methodology as your secret weapon. Or why don’t you work in a startup or do your own business by leading innovation of new products or services? As you get closer to the end of your degree at IE University, that is when you should start thinking about whether you’d like to be in a business-focused environment or a design environment, but there are really no limits on what you can do.
The convergence of business and design is an exciting space with unlimited opportunities for creative minds like yours. Click here to discover more career paths after studying a Dual Degree in Business Administration and Design.