2023.04.18 Kia

Kia Celebrates ‘Opposites United’ Design Philosophy at 2023 Milan Design Week

Kia’s ‘Opposites United’ design philosophy to be showcased in global design exhibition Event takes place from 17th to 23rd April at the Museo della Permanente in Milan, Italy Key Kia designers including Karim Habib to present the brand’s design vision

Milan/Seoul April 17, 2023 – Kia is presenting its brand design philosophy, ‘Opposites United’ at the 2023 Milan Design Week. The event will see the philosophy, which involves combining contrasting qualities and finding synergies between opposing concepts, illustrated in a series of art pieces on display from April 17-23 at the Museo della Permanente in Milan, Italy. 

The exhibition's theme, ‘Opposites United,’ reflects Kia's design philosophy, which takes inspiration from the contrasts found in nature and humanity. Immersive media art installations will be displayed across seven exhibition halls, inviting visitors to experience Kia's design vision for a new era of sustainable mobility through video, sound, and sculpture.

The art exhibition, which premiered at the 2021 Gwangju Design Biennale in Korea to critical acclaim, will also feature an event space with a stage and forum for talks and keynotes. Here, top design executives - Karim Habib, Head of Kia Global Design Center; Teckkoun Kim, Head of Kia Next Design Group; Jochen Paesen, Head of Kia Next Design Interior Group; and Gregory Guillaume, Head of Kia Europe Design Center - will elaborate on the ‘Opposites United’ installation and discuss Kia´s design vision. 

“We hope that this exhibition will convey the sincerity of Kia Design, which seeks to communicate our essential design values and commitments to our customers in an innovative manner,” said Karim Habib, Executive Vice President and Head of Kia Global Design Center.

Five key design pillars

‘Opposites United’ is based on five key design pillars, each of which will be illustrated in a dedicated space as part of the exhibition: Bold for Nature, Joy for Reason, Power to Progress, Technology for Life, and Tension for Serenity.

Arriving visitors will be greeted at an entrance space showing the concept behind the Kia design philosophy exhibition. Attendees can intuitively experience the concept of ‘Opposites United’ through the archiving section, where they can briefly see the preparation process of the exhibition in order to build anticipation for the exhibition itself. The next stop is the Opposites Lobby, a space containing a message that allows visitors who are new to Kia’s design philosophy to experience the basic concept of ‘Opposites United’ more intuitively.

Following the Opposites Lobby are five unique spaces, each embodying one of the five key design principles of ‘Opposites United’. In addition, throughout the course of the week, each day will be dedicated to one of the five key design principles. 

Day 1: Bold for Nature

Bold for Nature is based on interaction with and informed by the details, shapes and proportions found in both the natural and human worlds. It is about both embracing nature and making a mark on the world. This design pillar creates organic yet technical structures and finishes for vehicle interiors. Exterior designs are characterised by a combination of clear and simple lines with bold, ever-changing surfaces.

The Bold for Nature space shows the promise of harmonizing in front of large nature representations, acquiring teachings and finding fundamental motifs therein. This work contains a message for human beings to pursue bold beauty with respect for all things in nature. Speakers will include design critic Alice Rawsthorn and landscape architect Bas Smets, with an evening performance by electronic music producer Pantha du Prince.

Day 2: Joy for Reason

Joy for Reason focuses on experiences that spark joy, which will influence the feel and ambience of Kia’s future vehicles. It stands for playful products, touching experiences, and new interactions. Future designs embracing Joy for Reason will fuse the emotional with the rational, creating vehicles that influence their passengers’ moods by relaxing and inspiring. It will also influence the adoption of new organic materials and more daring colours, expressing a sense of youth and playfulness. 

The Joy for Reason space depicts the promise of Kia Design to turn even mundane experiences into unexpected joyful memories. Speakers will be writer Pr. Helen Hester, and producer, actor, and editor Carlo Antonelli. There will also be a classical evening performance by the quartet of La Scala.

Day 3: Tension for Serenity

Tension for Serenity evokes the tension between opposing forces and creative contrasts. It embraces the equilibrium that comes from two opposing forces and encompasses bringing order out of chaos and purpose to the future. Applied to automotive design, Tension for Serenity delivers striking design concepts that use sharp, highly technical details to create surface tension and realise a harmonised, future-oriented vision.

The Tension for Serenity space brings tranquillity through eloquence and harmony at all boundaries where there are conflicts or opposite elements. Speakers include NTS Radio Founder, Femi Adeyemi, and composer and sound designer Nicolas Becker, with an evening performance by singer-songwriter Alewya.

Day 4: Technology for Life

Technology for Life embraces new technologies and innovations to foster positive interactions between humans and machines. It focuses less on devices themselves than on the way humans engage with them, hinting at future Kia products that will adopt a next-generation in-car user experience (UX). This will be achieved through design innovation and advancements in lighting, feel, and in-car connectivity – all with the goal of helping customers engage with their cars.

The Technology for Life space contains content based on technology and know-how accumulated by Kia Design. It shows Kia’s commitment to becoming a partner that can help customers make important memories in life. Speakers will include designer Bethan Laura Wood and design curator Marco Sammicheli. In addition, evening performances will feature electronic music by Talpha.

Day 5: Power to Progress

Finally, Power to Progress stands for the drive to move forward, onward, and upward. In the context of design, this means building on the brand’s current strengths. By drawing on and developing the skills and expertise learned throughout Kia’s recent design-led transformation, the designs and layouts of the brand’s future products will continue to evolve. Future designs will draw on experience and creativity to invent and innovate.

The Power to Progress area will illustrate how to pursue the happiness of human beings by harmonising their goals with nature and experiences. Speakers include curator Andrea Lissoni and philosopher Emanuele Coccia. Evening performances will feature musician, sound designer, and drummer Missing Ear; pop music producer Hudson Mohwake, and electronic music DJ Afrodeutsche.

Tackling the challenges of today with a vision for tomorrow

‘Opposites United’ is more than just a design approach. It represents Kia’s attitude towards change – tackling the mobility challenges of today with a vision for tomorrow. For Kia, this means building an EV lineup of 15 models by 2027, upgrading its infotainment technology for an improved customer experience, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

On the road to electrification, these bold and disruptive innovations have been embodied in Kia's vehicle design such as the EV6, the brand’s first dedicated electric vehicle, and the recently unveiled EV9.

"Kia's 'Opposites United' design philosophy represents far more than just the way our cars look, it is a reflection of the brand's determination to compatibly further two vital fields which have come to be at odds with one another: human wellbeing and environmental sustainability,” says Ho Sung Song, Kia President and CEO. “By adopting the 'Opposites United' ethos across our current and future models, we hope not only to demonstrate Kia's ability to innovate, and create products which go beyond fulfilling the needs of our customers to enrich their experiences as well, but to do so with a vision that also leaves a legacy for future generations."

Sustainable design strategy: Kick-starting a virtuous circle

Besides the guiding principle of the new ‘Opposites United’ philosophy, Kia’s future design will also embrace the company’s new Sustainable Design Strategy. This three-step initiative outlines ways to improve the sustainability of the materials used in building Kia’s cars:

Action 1 stands for ‘Leather free,’ meaning Kia will phase out the use of animal-sourced leather starting with the EV9. Replacing leather and PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) with recycled materials will reduce the use of toxic chemicals as well as the amount of carbon emitted during the production process.

Action 2 denotes ‘ten must-have sustainable items.’ This step defines a baseline of ten sustainable materials – recycled, organic, or biodegradable – which will be applied to all Kia models in the future.

Action 3 stands for ‘Bio fabrication,’ the ambitious goal of developing new, bio-based materials for use in cars. Successful tests have already been done with mycelium, which is found in the root structure of mushrooms. To accomplish this, Kia will partner with startups and innovators and invest in research and development to grow new materials for its cars.

Kia has a long history of integrating sustainable materials into its products, starting with the use of bioplastic and sugar cane bio-fibre through the second-generation ‘Soul EV’ in 2014. Now, Kia’s environmentally friendly materials range from eco-processed leather and vegan alternatives to recycled plastic waste, and even recycled fishing nets which were retrieved from the ocean.

“At Kia, we know it’s not enough to build vehicles which are emissions-free at the tailpipe – we want to think about sustainability every step of the way,” says Jochen Paesen, Vice President and Head of Kia Next Design Interior Group. “That includes carefully selecting the materials we use in our cars, so that they are non-toxic and biodegradable.”

Technology: Finding the simplicity in the complex

Technological progress opens up new design possibilities, resulting in unique and improved customer experiences. The combined power of innovation, technology and design can be harnessed to create simple solutions to complex problems. For example, the company’s dedicated BEV platform E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform) enables vehicles to be built with a flat floor, reimagining car architecture and turning interiors into unique spaces: from the cabin designed for driving, to the cabin designed as a lounge space.

Another example is GEONIC, a three-dimensional, award-winning hybrid material (iF Award 2022) that is being used in the EV6. GEONIC is a simple yet profound new technique for bringing to life innovative approaches to vehicle interior design, allowing different interior moods for different trim levels.

“Kia is creating interior spaces for drivers and passengers, satisfying the needs of today´s mobility while also looking ahead to the autonomous driving future,” says Karim Habib. “Our goal is to create a positive space where people feel comfortable, relaxed and at home: we are not selling cars – we are selling an experience.”

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