Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ye Eun Kim Talks About Her Life as a Surface Designer

Ye Eun Kim, who likes to be known as Yena, knew what she wanted for a career at an early age. While many people who go to college dream of traveling the world, having fun, or a glamourous career, Yena wanted to make a difference.

The South Korean born woman who moved to the USA when she was in 6th grade knew what she wanted in life when she walked through doors at The College For Creative Studies. That was to be a professional designer in the automotive industry.

The automotive industry is still seen as a man’s world. In 2020 the industry still lacks women working in key positions.  Only 8% of women are executives. In a world where cars drive themselves, and women are leaders of countries, that low figure is shocking. Below the role of an executive, the majority of those working in the industry are men with women making up only 27% of the workforce. That did not worry Yena. She thrived on the challenge and wanted to show that her skills, education, and experience could match that of any man.

Yena is a surface designer who works for an American automaker and automotive technology company.  She is one of the few women who work in such a high-profile and challenging position in the automotive industry.

Her job is very demanding, as she works in a special niche field as a surface designer. Her work sees her go through all the stages of a car’s design and manufacture; from the idea to production.

We decided to talk to Yena, who wants to see more women in the industry, and find out more about her life as a surface designer. Yena explained what motivates her and how people see her as a woman in what is known as a man’s world.

You are a designer, what do you design?

A surface designer is someone proficient in the skills required for various 2D and 3D programs. I am highly capable of managing and balancing the math data between design and engineering. Surface designers design a dimensional surface by creating a computer model of an object from an original 2D sketch and rendering.

Surface designers have limitless potential when it comes to designing products, but I am currently surface designing cars in an automotive company.

Why did you become a designer?

I love getting a chance to design the future. It is interesting to brainstorm a fast transitioning lifestyle of people and designing the product that will be useful in daily life. With this attitude, joining the automotive industry was truly satisfying for me because transportation is one of the most important needs in people’s daily lives now and in the future.

So, do you look forward to going to work each day?

Yes, I love my job as a surface designer in the automotive industry. Transportation continues to be one of the most important needs in daily life. Planning and surface designing a vehicle for the future and searching for the future that is not yet here excites me a lot.

What was your first job as a designer?

Before becoming a designer, my first career was as an artist where I created three-dimensional personal mixed media artworks. I started my career as a professional graphic designer and discovered my way through that to become a surface designer.

When I worked as a graphic designer, I was a designer who was in charge of designing a start-up company’s whole brand identity. This included designing everything from the beginning such as company logo, website, banners, posters, brochures and more.

My design artworks did not always end at the computer monitor screen. My work always dealt with creativity and innovation. I had to deal with putting 2D designs to final 3D products which paved the way to my career as a professional surface designer today.

When you tell people what you do for a living, do they understand?

When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them that I am a surface designer at an automotive company. A lot of them don’t understand what that is. Nine out of ten ask “Does that mean you work for a car dealership?” or “Do you work in the factory?” “What is surface design?”

When I get those questions, I say “No, I work with a great design team to make a vehicle”.

Do people see you differently as a woman designer in what is known as a man’s industry?

A lot of people are surprised that I work in the automotive industry as a woman.

It is not surprising for people to have that kind of perception because the transportation design department had less than five girls in my class year, and I am the only woman in our surface designing team.

Do you think some men think women are not as capable, working in such a high-pressured role?

Many people who are not in this industry have a perception that cars are for men and women are not capable of “designing” the car and at the same time, they do not have a clear idea of what ‘surface designing’ is.

Some people could not picture the two words, a woman and a car, being together.

Would you like to see more women come into your industry?

Yes. Cars are known to be loud, fast, bold, and all the other expressions that are the opposite of feminine, but when you look closely into it, they are very delicate machines that require detailed attention.

Cars are no different from designing clothes or building architecture. Every little detail starting from headlights, wheels, leather textures, stitching in the interior and more needs careful attention just like all the other designed products out in the world. I hope women out in the industry aren’t afraid of being part of the automotive industry because it is truly enjoyable to be part of this industry.

Yena Kim is consistently building her career by working on innovative projects with many companies. She is a passionate designer who seeks to dive deeper into the future design industry to shape a better future for all.

To learn more about Ye Eun Kim Please visit


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