Casey Hyun is a Creative Design Manager at Hyundai’s head office in Seoul, South Korea. He’s also in charge of strategic design for the entire brand and as such, works closely with Peter Schreyer, President of Hyundai/Kia Design.
Originally from Australia, Casey’s most recent work includes the luxury Genesis and YF Sonata. He also penned the Hyundai Eon, a compact car that continues to be one of the biggest sellers in India, as well as the HP 20 Brazil, which was the Car of the Year in Brazil in 2012, as well as the single best-selling car in that market.
He also laughs about the fact that he is credited with the design of the hubcap for the popular iLoad van, and still has one hanging in his office.
“I took this photo of an Australia Post van in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, as it was parked. The driver came out and looked at me with an odd expression on his face, as I was snapping a pic of the hubcap. I just looked up and said, ‘I designed this’. He just smiled and drove off.
“I’m still really proud of that hubcap and the success of the iLoad, as a light commercial vehicle in Australia.”
Seven years ago, Hyun was given the task of developing Hyundai’s new next design philosophy, which would give the brand a true identity, as well as a consistency across the entire product range.
“I started the process by going through all of our concepts looking for certain patterns – what we did well, some of the cars that were both successful and unsuccessful. We came to the conclusion that Hyundai is more comfortable with a full volume, organic form of design. It’s about nature and it’s about life; ‘because nature is damn perfect, and sculpture for an artistic value in our cars’.
“We want our customers to feel that we are trying to give them something more than just a product, something that has both emotional and artistic value.
“The result is the hexagonal grille that’s very prominent in all passenger cars at the moment. It’s a very striking image and one that is totally different from the generation before it.
“It must have worked, because in 2013, the Hyundai Elantra beat out Ford Focus as the North American Car of the Year, which was a big coup for us”.
The Sonata is another case in point, and a car that Casey says even made an impact on the development of the Nissan Altima.
“When Andy Palmer was executive vice president of global planning, he went on record and said that the Sonata was the reference car for the current Nissan Altima. They referred to Sonata as their benchmark car and stopped their initial development of the Altima to check how Sonata done. At that point they stopped the project there and then”, he went on to say.
2009 marked the beginning of Hyundai’s new design language called Fluidic Sculpture – the success of which can be measured by meteoric rise in the company’s actual brand value, which went from $4.6 billion to $10.4 billion – as ranked in Interbrands Best Global Brands in 2014.
“It’s no coincidence that brand awareness attributes like our Fluidic Sculpture design are becoming the key drivers over price.
Hyun describes Hyundai’s design evolution as a teenager moving into adulthood and a future focus on refinement.
“There are several areas we will focus on for our next generation: Refine fluidic aesthetics, which basically means moving towards a more mature design. For the modern Hyundai look, the two types of grille that we currently have; the hexagonal and wing designs will be merged into one from the smallest Eon hatch to the large luxury Equus sedan”.
“We also want to improve the premium touch in our vehicles, which is all about the scent, the light – it’s about all your five senses. We want our next-generation cars to be more than a product. We’re working on the small things that make a real difference, particularly on the premium side. Everything from how the door handles feel to the type of stitching on the steering wheel – things that make people think about our cars in a different way than they have previously.
“Genesis is a very important car for us, as it marks the beginning of the second generation of our design philosophy. But also take a look at latest Sonata and Tucson that have our definitive hexagonal grille,” Hyun noted.
Hyundai’s design philosophy is clearly working, as the Korean brand once purchased on price alone, is now the world’s fourth largest carmaker. In 2014 the company sold over 7.8 million cars, making it number two in India and Brazil – significant global car markets. As a combined group, Hyundai-Kia actually outsells Toyota in Europe and China.
As an Australian, Hyun is also a fan of the ute – specifically, the HSV Maloo, and that was all the motivation that was needed to start drawing his own version as a recent gathering of auto journalists.
“One aspect of the ute, which I always thought I’d like to put my own spin on, was dialling in more emotion into the design. There’s this thing about the cab just being cut off vertically, so I’d like to angle that out with a grip bar that links it. And rather than having vertical tail lamps – something horizontal might look cool.”