Awair Design Spotlight: Bosung Kim

If you’ve ever listened to the podcast 99 Percent Invisible, then you know how transformative good design can be — and how infrequently it gets the attention it deserves. At Awair, our design philosophy has been a catalyst for our continued growth. In honor of San Francisco Design Week, we wanted to highlight the San Francisco designers who helped to create and elevate the Awair brand.

For part one of our Awair Design Spotlight, we sat down with our Chief Design Officer, Bosung Kim, to learn more about his unique history and the perspective that he brings to Awair.

His Design Journey:

Bosung has an eye for small details and the foresight to see the “big picture” — a unique talent that comes from nearly two decades of design experience. His formal education is in industrial and product design, but he admits that it was architecture that initially caught his eye.

“Working to design an architectural space is more like being a film director. You have to think about how sequential images and space will work together to create an experience, and it makes for a much more holistic design story.”

Shortly after earning his BA from Kook-Min University in Seoul, he joined a whole-service industrial and spatial design company. There, he was given a daunting first project: design a store dedicated to selling different cosmetic and beauty products. At the time, beauty retail stores didn’t exist in Korea and hadn’t yet gained traction around the globe.

Collaborating on a project that had so many customer touchpoints and required a variety of design skills gave him insight into how each piece of the puzzle should work together to create a cohesive customer experience. It also helped him become comfortable with the idea of working with ambiguity. Looking back, he reflects,

"I learned that designing for experience drives success and saw the transformative impact that design can have on an entire city."

Today, branded beauty stores have completely overtaken department store kiosks and street market beauty stands.

After earning his Masters in product design at London’s Royal College of Art, Bosung eventually made his way to Silicon Valley — a mecca for designers looking to create something that has not yet been defined in modern culture. He spent almost nine years at IDEO, where he worked on product design, brand and service design, and on integrating physical and digital user experiences.

His Awair Story:

When asked how he landed at Awair, Bosung describes it as the perfect fit. Awair was searching for a multidisciplinary designer who could help both design a product and pioneer a new category: indoor air quality monitoring. Bosung was looking for a challenge that called upon all of his skills and a product that he believed in.

Founders Kevin Cho and Ronald Ro, both accomplished engineers and entrepreneurs, believed in the life-changing power that an indoor air quality monitor could have on people’s health and wellbeing. But their experience also taught them that finding the right design was crucial to ensure Awair’s adoption and success. Although research linked air pollution to serious health risks, most people weren’t aware that a problem existed because air pollution is largely invisible. Any designer that they chose to work with needed to be able to answer one fundamental question: how do you make the invisible, visible?

In addition to this challenge, Bosung needed to figure out how to communicate the complex data captured by Awair’s five sensors in a way that was simple and intuitive. The ultimate goal was to provide users with the motivation to maintain a healthy indoor environment. Air quality index (IQA) scales existed, but the average person didn’t know what PM2.5 and VOCs were, much less what values are healthy versus unhealthy. In short, whatever product Awair designed needed to help educate users and synthesize information in a way that was easy to understand and act upon. This challenge ultimately gave rise to the Awair Score, the simple “dot” indicator display, and the color-coded status light.

Striking a balance between being innovative yet familiar, bold yet contextual, became fundamental to Awair’s design and branding moving forward. These principles also served as inspiration for Bosung as he helped design the first Awair device. Awair’s wood frame, shape, size, color scheme, and data display system were all chosen to solve specific design challenges and create a more holistic, intuitive, and empowering customer experience.

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