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Yeom Ji-hong, a self-styled "passion designer," holds a wire hanger bookstand he invented. The video clip showing him making the bookstand on YouTube recorded more than 40,000 views in the four months since its posting. / Courtesy of Yeom Ji-hong
Young designer burning with passion
By Bahk Eun-ji
Passion is what a young designer has pursued to realize his dream of putting his creative thinking into action.
Yeom Ji-hong, 33, calls himself a "passion designer." He wants to fashion his novel ideas into reality to bring about hope and change in the world.
He runs a power blog, Yeom Ji-hong's Passion Design, to present a new vision not only to the industrial sector but also to young people with creative ideas.
A few months ago, he applied to the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, and was admitted into the school. He will start a master's course in Service Design, a newly launched program by the RCA which focuses on the role of design in transforming both the public and private sector services.
Yeom has no academic background in the design field _ he studied Persian in Korea.
During his interview, the admissions officers asked him about how to improve the effectiveness of emergency medical services in London.
"A motorbike ambulance service suddenly came into my mind. I had lots of experience in riding a motorbike, while I worked at my parent's pizza shop," Yeom said, thinking that he could impress the interviewers because it was coming from his actual experience.
"They said that they wanted to know what I think and how much I can go further as a designer with my creativity. I appreciated that they recognized my potential," he said.
"I was reluctant to apply to the program, as I don't have any professional experience or an academic background as a designer, but I thought it was worth a try because the school was looking for people who could break the rules. So I tried and it eventually worked," Yeom said.
"I believe I am one of the people who make new rules rather than merely follow present ones."
Three years ago, Yeom posted a video clip on YouTube showing how to make a bookstand with a wire hanger.
"Of course, the hanger bookstand is my own idea, but it was based on my practical experience," he said.
Yeom's parents have been running a pizza shop since he was a collegian in 2000. He has always been a big part of his parents' business from delivering pizza to promoting the shop with leaflets he designed.
"When my father opened the shop, I noticed there were lots of food delivery shops not to mention a pizzeria around the neighborhood. I thought we had to do something different that would make our shop distinctive, but I had to do it on a very limited budget,"
Yeom started to make unique leaflets for the shop.
"I even put my family's photo on them in order to present a respectable image. It was a very demanding and time-consuming job, but definitely worth doing. People began to recognize our shop," he said.
"Of course my parents and I made great efforts to meet customers' expectation by offering delicious and decent quality food." In the mean time, he also started a "let's use coins" campaign to encourage customers to use coins when they pay for pizza.
"Although shop owners always need coins for change, customers often apologized for using coins. They think it is inconvenient, but in fact it is very useful," he said.
"So I wanted to change the perception, and I began to donate 5 percent of the pizza price to UNICEF if customers paid with coins and I let them know that part of their money would be used for a good purpose," Yeom said.
He added that he made a manual for the campaign and urged other shop owners around his neighborhood to join.
"I did it to benefit others, but I realized I am passionate person who can achieve something good if I sincerely devote myself," Yeom said.
The idea of the wire hanger bookstand came when he was working at the pizza shop. He was literally a voracious reader.
One day, Yeom was reading a book while he was standing at the cashier's counter. He thought it was uncomfortable to read a book while standing up and needed something to put the book on.
A wire hanger, commonly used in laundry shops, caught his eye and that was figured out how to use it as a bookstand.
Meanwhile, one of his friends suggested they record him making a bookstand and upload it on YouTube. The video clip recorded more than 40,000 views four months later and created almost as much a buzz as a rock stars' music video.
"The wire hanger is, you know, nothing. It's everywhere and I made it with a small pair of pliers. I really didn't expect that many people would like my idea and give me great responses," Yeom said.
He said it was an opportunity for him to realize he has the capability to make something unique and that keeps him looking for challenges.