Designing for the future
A Seoul-searching adventure for innovative learning inspiration.
In the summer of 2022, our Singapore design team won a competition at our company offsite. The goal was to think about the future of work, learning and tech, and what it might mean for us as a company going forward. Their prize? An adventure! The team went to Seoul, South Korea, to discover what they could about the future of technology and work, all while building relationships with each other.
We caught up with Will, Kit and Cindy about the trip. Read on to learn about their experiences.
We’re a training agency, so naturally we’re curious; what did your experience in Seoul make you think about the future of learning?
The future of training is digital. The future is immersive and interactive. The future is accessibility and easy-to-digest content, with the end user at the forefront of everything. The future is training that transcends language barriers. These are all things we experienced in Seoul, and we’re excited for more of it to enter into the world of training.
It’s an exciting thought that the future of learning is immersive and interactive. Can you tell us more about how you saw this in Seoul?
We visited every major museum and gallery in Seoul, the most memorable being the National Museum of Korea, which was a totally immersive learning experience. What’s interesting is how they blended traditional works of art with the modern digital world. They did this by using large screens (some 180°) that animate and isolate the art work with beautiful traditional music. They clearly are thinking about the user and their journey around the museum, the same way we try to discover and understand our users that use our training.
We all know how much walking and standing is involved in most galleries! This was a large building with 4-5 floors, so they created numerous spaces with soft furnishings, beanbags and chairs for people to sit and even lie down on and witness the work coming to life. It was a multi-sensory experience and we left energised by a creative dopamine hit.
From your experience in Seoul, what ideas do you think Quadmark should incorporate into our work?
In a country so rich in visual history such as South Korea, what hit home was the bright and vibrant graphic design and illustration. Their approach to diversity and inclusion — using lots of animal and non-descript characters in their communications — makes for a friendly and engaging culture. As a design team, we use a lot of character-based illustrations in our work for our clients, so we were really inspired by their characters and how we could adapt them into our rhetorics and outputs.
At Quadmark we often blend face-to-face learning with online tools, but the immersive experiences we had in the museums in Seoul were on another level. It made us think about how we can incorporate more immersive, interactive experiences in our training.
As well as their friendly and inclusive visuals, were there any other design elements that felt future-focused?
Accessibility is thankfully something that the whole world is catching up to, and Korea is no different. In terms of design, it felt that accessibility had been well-considered in Seoul. Due to the language barrier it’s harder to spot accessibility issues around readability and hierarchy of messaging without knowing what the words and symbols mean. That being considered, the great use of colour, balance, contrast in their messaging and communications around the city were striking and inspirational, and made things easy to understand, even without knowing the language. From a railcard to a bag of Korean sweets — everything was thought about. Being a team of illustrators and designers that was very pleasing to observe.
Another good experience of accessibility was at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). Outside the building, we saw a 3D tactile map with braille, designed especially for people with visual impairment. It allowed them to experience the impressive architecture of the building better, while also providing directions.
The underground subway was also a great example of design being universally understood — it was intuitive and easy to understand, again with clear use of colors and numerals to differentiate between different subway lines.
Plus, there were plenty of tourist information staff around the city. They were usually bilingual and spoke fluent English, with a map and information at hand to help anyone. It made the overall experience of South Korea feel more inclusive.
How did you interact with technology in Seoul? As far as we know, no one on the team speaks or reads Korean. How did you find getting around?
None of us speak Korean, apart from Steph who speaks a little and helped with the basics, so technology was an important part of navigating the city for us. Not to name names but some of us lacked some navigation skills (we‘re looking at you Will!) so we relied heavily on Naver Maps, Korea’s version of Google Maps. The interface and design of the app, with its effective color coding and use of western numerals, enabled us to move around the city pretty easily. The app also offered live tracking of bus arrival times, which we found super helpful in planning our journeys.
When it came to using kiosks, the interface always gave you a choice of languages – you just had to click the flag to switch to the language of that country. It reminded us of the importance of our localization work at Quadmark, and the value of offering information in as many languages as possible!
During our visit to the National Korean Museum, we saw a group of children following the Guide Bot to tour around the museum with their teacher. The Bot reminded us of Eva from Wall-E, as it would glide around the museum, stopping at each installation to give a brief introduction. We loved seeing how engaged the children were with the robot, taking in information about the exhibitions.
Google Lens was also really helpful when it came to shopping and ordering food. Not every restaurant had a digital menu with several language options, so on those occasions we used Google Lens to help us translate most of the food menu or product description before purchasing.
What moments made the trip memorable for you?
As well as all the above experiences, the food was an important element, especially because of how much walking we did. We sampled many traditional Korean dishes, such as kimchi, Korean pork BBQ, Bulgogi noodle, Budae Jjigae (Army Stew), Samgyetang (Ginseng chicken soup), Korean fried chicken, Soju, even live octopus! Not forgetting the street snacks on every corner of the street: Tteokbokki, Kimbap, Bindaetteok (Mung bean pancake), Mandu and Korean fish cake paired with a cup of broth to warm us up. We had some amazing meals together where we could relax and unwind.
An important aspect of this trip was to try and get to know each other more. With this part of the design team all located in Singapore and myself (Will) in the UK, the opportunity to all meet in person doesn’t happen very often. This made the trip that much more special, and at the very least we found out who in the team snores!
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