Industrial Design Program Bids Farewell to EunSook Kwon

College community reflects on the impact of its founding director

EunSook Kwon

On June 24th, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered together for a virtual event honoring EunSook Kwon, founding director and professor of the College’s industrial design program. She begins a new chapter as chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Industrial Design. The evening was bittersweet as the College community shared stories and wished its beloved director farewell.

Kwon began her tenure at the Hines College in 2003, tasked with building an industrial design program initiated under former dean Joe Mashburn ’78. The Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design program was established in 2003, making it the first program of its kind in a four-state region. A decade later, in 2013, the Master of Science program launched under Kwon’s leadership.

“The ID program was established to realize a student-centered education based on constructivism. This was my education philosophy in creating the Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design curriculum and pedagogy, which was later also applied to the personalized curriculum for the Master of Science in Industrial Design program,” said Kwon. “I have shared my personal philosophy of living with students: ‘keep pushing’ (ideas, opportunities, boundaries, and limits). As a woman, I have kept pushing my limits and opportunities, which has helped grow the ID program for the last 18 years. What an amazing journey this has been.”

Kwon’s leadership eventually propelled the Hines College to become a top ID program in the United States and worldwide. Red Dot ranks the program #6 nationally and #14 globally.

“I first met EunSook over 24 years ago while serving on the jury for the International Design Excellence Awards,” shared ID professor Mark Kimbrough. “I remain continually and deeply impressed, but never surprised, at her remarkable record of achievement and leadership within our ID program.”

The ID program’s emphasis on human-centered design has led to its success and acclaim throughout the design community. Students have consistently received top awards from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), Bienenstock Furniture Competition, International Housewares Association Student Design Awards Competition, Dubai Global Grad Show, Makeup NYC, and more. Through the ID+ program, students also had the opportunity to share their designs at the Dallas Market and SXSW conference in 2019.

“EunSook brought perfection and inspiration to the ID program at UH,” shared Antoinette Luow ’20. “She taught us that design should be a passion coming from the heart and a way to better the world around us.”

Hands-on experience with industry is crucial to student’s development as designers. During her 18 years as the director of the ID program, Kwon has bridged the gap and connected students with industry, including partnerships in recent years with NASA, the Texas Medical Center, and Texas Children’s Hospital. 

“Beyond her obvious skills as a designer and educator, her credentials reinforce her drive for constant innovation in creating a curriculum adaptable to the transformative nature of the industrial design profession,” said Kimbrough. “Although she will be sorely missed, the Hines College will benefit from her legacy for years to come.”

Kwon poured her heart and soul into the ID program. In 2018, Kwon and her husband established the EunSook Kwon and SunJin Kim Scholarship, the College’s first scholarship supporting ID students. As she transitions to her new position, Kwon’s legacy will live on through the program she established, as well as the support she has given students and alumni.

“Whenever I heard from students and alumni about their passion and confidence as designers, and their appreciation of their ID education at UH, I am very proud of my time at the University,” shared Kwon. “Their words have reinforced the value of the ID education and my hard work at the Hines College. The collective words from students and alumni have connected us as a family and built the legacy of the ID program.”

Outside of the Hines College, Kwon is known as a driving force in the industrial design community over the last 30 years. In 2020, she received the Proud Korean Woman Designer Award from the Korean Woman Design Association. She continues to be an inspiration for students, alumni, and design professionals throughout the world.

“A designer can play critically important roles as a creative thinker, problem solver, interpreter, and dreamer for the world we are facing,” said Kwon. “Asking questions about our roles and responsibilities will be the grounds for being good students and designers. Ask critical questions and think on behalf of others.”