Interview 2/2 by Seoultech Times

NJ Namju Lee
12 min readJun 10, 2021


This article is about the Interview I did for SeoulTech Times.


For those who are interested in my interview in English, The contents are generated by Translation from the original article(Korean), I will revisit when I have time to revise the content later. Please aware of the fact that it could be have bit different against the original one

Q. Currently, you are delivering various information on ‘Computational Design’ through YouTube, Daum brunch, articles and lectures. What motivated you to start doing this?

The short answer is, the main purpose is to expand the base of computational design. That’s good for me and good for the industry.

I came to realize that watching a person born in the 1990s change the world. I have experienced the improvement and disappearance of a solid culture that is unlikely to change, such as the company’s organizational culture and dinner party culture. In the past, I made a lot of effort to introduce computational design to people who have established themselves in society, but I don’t think there have been any significant changes. However, in recent years, I have experienced a real and fundamental change in the industry by educating and disseminating information to students and young people in the industry. I believe that if you level up your computational design skills, the industry can develop at a faster rate.

For example, if the skills of students increase, the skills of professors, lecturers, and researchers will inevitably increase, and 5 or 10 years after those students come to work, a team leader and a director will appear, and there will also be public officials who make policy decisions. . If people who have experienced and utilized the correct understanding and potential of computational design are spread throughout the industry, the competitiveness of Korea’s computational design industry will increase as much. As a result, I have an environment where I can do more fun and good projects.

At the same time, when I was a student, I had very little material to study. Actually, not much has changed these days. The reality is that you have to study abroad or pay expensive private academy to study, but in fact, most of them learn how to use tools. In the case of studying abroad, you have to study English as well, and the time and money you need to invest is not too much. In the meantime, I was asked questions through various channels such as e-mail and introductions from friends, and there were a lot of repeated questions. I thought about putting it online. If these hobbies and side projects can be of any help to the development of Korea’s computational design industry, which is still in its infancy, it would be an honor in itself and I thought it would be a very interesting opportunity. So it started.

Q. What do you think coding means to designers?

I think there are several versions of the answer. The shortest answer is, “There are quite a few useful and modern tools in the hands of designers. “is.

In other words, “I use coding to actively utilize software.” Today’s designers often design in virtual space through computer software rather than pencil and paper. The implications of this are that without electricity, without computers, designers can’t use software. Architecture, web design, app designer, motion graphics, 2D, 3D animation, video design, etc. A lot of design industries will stop at that moment. To this extent, software is a very important tool for designers today. However, the advantages and disadvantages of such software are that the software (Generic Software) is for general use. Customization is required to enhance and utilize computing power for specific tasks. That is, through coding. In order to more actively utilize the software power that we are using ourselves, we can manipulate and reconfigure the software with a very high level of complexity and precision to fit the design process with a tool called coding.

In fact, it’s a question I’ve been asked a lot for a long time. To give a practical keyword, coding is a tool for designers (1) creativity. (2) They make workers who can work instead. (3) Experimental work is possible (4) It is a tool of automation (5) It helps to maintain uniform quality. (6) a tool for optimization (7) design recognition as a problem (8) design as a solution (9) to use data in design (10) because of the design methodology (11) can create a variety of career paths. (12) It raises barriers to entry. (13) It can be summarized as keywords that give competitiveness.

As an old woman, one of the common misconceptions among students and practitioners is that some people misunderstand coding, that is, programming, as replacing existing tools. For example, as cars replaced wagons and smartphones replaced phones, there are people who understand it as a confrontational structure, but I think this is not correct. A more accurate example is that, like a car on land, a ship on the sea, and an airplane in the sky, coding is not a competition that replaces existing tools, but rather augments the tools we already use for their intended use, creating a “higher level”. It is a tool that provides an environment where difficulty and complexity can be dealt with in an explicit, sequential, and mathematical way.” There will be many advantages.

Q. Currently, design and coding are separate areas, but many design majors are having vague difficulties in studying coding. For these design majors, especially architectural design majors, how should I start studying coding specifically?

This is a question many designers ask, and although there are many possible answers, here are the most commonly recommended starting points. “Let’s start with the tools I use the most!” As a designer, you probably have one or two design software that works best for your left and right hands. For example, Photoshop or Illustrator, Rhino, etc. 2D or 3D programs. For these programs, the script environment is supported. I’m already familiar with the software, so I know which commands do what. It is simply writing the sequence in the language of the computer. In other words, it creates an implementation guideline. This is called coding. This is fun and makes learning quicker. Because, not only can you directly apply it to what you are doing, but when you make changes to the coding, the visual feedback appears immediately, making learning fun. If you study computer science the way you do programming, it’s not fun, it’s too difficult, and for designers, the visual part is important, but I’ve seen a lot of cases where you get tired before you start coding graphics.

Once you get used to the grammar of coding, computational thinking starts to become important from that point on. Breaking complex problems into smaller units, ordering them, and designing logical branches. In other words, it is a thought exercise that explicitly makes the flow of thoughts. Especially in the case of designers, if their design methodology is clear, computational thinking will be relatively easy. When I consult, students sometimes find it difficult to code because of the lack of their own design methodology rather than the problem of coding. In this case, it is advantageous to study design more.

Q. How did the knowledge or experience you learned while studying abroad affect your programming and architectural design today?

In terms of knowledge,
It means that I have gained the skills and insight to use “data,” the rice of the 4th industry, in design.

We talk a lot about the 4th industry these days. There are several keywords such as artificial intelligence, hyper-connection, ultra-low latency, parallel computing, cloud systems, autonomous driving, drones, etc. In fact, it looks diverse, but in the end (1) how do you collect data? (2) How will the collected data be processed? It can be broadly divided into (3) where and how to apply the insights extracted from the data. If the rice of the previous industry was steel, the rice of the 4th industry can be viewed as data, and designers must use a tool called coding to actively utilize data materials in the design process. Especially for architectural design, materials are important. For example, wood, glass, reinforced concrete, plastic. Whenever these materials are introduced into the design industry, tools and processing techniques become more diverse and precise. Materials in the 4th industry are data, and coding, or programming, is used as a tool to process these materials. Being able to code as a designer has many advantages.

The empirical impact is
I think it gives me a lot of confidence.

I have been living abroad for over 10 years. Traveling in Sydney, London, the East and West of the United States, meeting many people, talking with experts in each field, working and studying, what I felt, a map of the field of computational design of an era is drawn, and that I think I can see the main points and directions inside. Of course, my location is also shown in it. I’m also starting to see what meaningful markers I can make on the map if I focus more. It gives you the confidence to say “it’s worth doing”. It’s like the older generation’s vague expectations for Japanese products and “No matter how hard we work, we won’t be able to keep up with the quality… … .” Instead of thinking the same thing, it builds confidence, saying, “They do this, if I do this, I can make it better.” Also, when friends who studied and worked together produce good results in different parts of the world, in the past, if you passed on with vague admiration and thought, “It’s different too!” After having it, I finally solved it this way. Shall I try it this way?” There seems to be a clear stream of consciousness and the self-confidence that comes with it.

Q. Is there a class in the architecture department at your university that was most helpful as a current practitioner?

There are many classes, but I think the “Design Studio” and “Architectural Computing” classes were the most important classes for me. Prof. Man-Young Jeong, Professor Jin-Wook Kim, and Professor Won-Pil Kim, who give advice after class and after graduation, have helped me a lot in designing my life and career beyond classes.

Design The design studio is, in fact, considered the most important class in architecture. This is a class that goes beyond simply designing a space, and teaches you how to think. In fact, computational design is not something new, and I have to write my own design methodology to the computer more explicitly in code. In the end, beyond the skill of using a computer, one’s own thinking and design language become more important. Therefore, through various studio classes for 4 years, I trained my thoughts on how to think and develop logic to create a space. When it comes to researching design methodologies, developing solutions, and doing computational thinking, I think the way of thinking I learned in the design studio has become the building block for everything I do.

The second class was an architectural computing class. At that time, Professor Jinwook Kim did a lot of research on the CAD (computer-aided design) side and I think he applied it to the school curriculum. Compared to other schools, I remember that our school classroom environment was actively trying to introduce computer tools into design. . The interest and confidence that I have been able to do NJSTUDIO startups since my third year of college can be seen as starting from the architectural computing class. Through that class, I was able to learn architectural design, 3D design, and various digital design processes, and my interest expanded to study abroad and work in the United States.

Q. What is the most memorable project you have done so far?

In fact, each time I do a one-off design project, I’m going to divide it up into two projects that are sustainable and have a lasting impact on people across the region. The first is the product the company is developing, the second is the NJ Channel project.

My company is a large company that monopolizes the global GIS (Geographic Information System) market, and the system for various situations is well established. In such a company, there was an episode where I raised my salary by almost 80% within 6 months of joining the company. I think the company handled my case as an exception. I think that’s because of the design tool I’m developing. As a large company, there were a lot of checks and frictions from the company’s customs and customs in the beginning. However, my experience as a designer and my ability to develop tools were chemically reacted, and I developed the product competitively. After many twists and turns, I was lucky enough to announce it to the chairman, and as a result, a lot of promotions have been made on this product. If you look at company statistics, every day, tens of thousands of people around the world use my products to display and share data and information on maps.

Second, the NJ Channel project, a project where I share my experiences and expertise. We are sharing information in Korean and English versions through videos on YouTube, articles on Daum brunch, and various other channels. From computational design theory classes to workshops, and to study abroad, find employment, and to increase the fighting power of young people, this is a project that shares my experiences. Usually, juniors come to me saying it’s hard, and if you listen to me, you get the strength to say that I’m better than that person, and I can do it too. It has been going on for about 3 years, and I am grateful to see the fruits of their own. At QnA, some people asked about their worries and information about studying, finding a job, and studying abroad, some went through the process and completed it well, and some juniors came to visit offline. France, the UK, the US and Australia are also giving various feedbacks, and I am very grateful.

Q Then, is there a project you would like to challenge in the future?

I have two goals. The first is the conference, the second is the establishment of an association.

I’m trying to run a conference. I have been communicating with seniors and juniors who are interested in Korean computational design while operating NJ Channel, Computational Design Slack, and an open chat room. With them, we are aiming to promote our first conference, and I am curious to how far we can make it happen. Even if things don’t go well, I want to try my best and continue to improve every year. Perhaps, with the enthusiasm of those who participate, I am looking forward to positive and sustainable results. As the world experiences COVID-19, they have become accustomed to gathering and communicating online, and technology, infrastructure, and user stereotypes are changing. For example, traditionally, online, if UI UX designers have created an interface for communication between people on a two-dimensional screen, the concept of VR, AR, or MR and the concept of metaverse, why do architects The importance and necessity of showing one’s skills is being emphasized more and more. In this research and design in virtual space, computational design provides invaluable tools, insights and concepts. As such, it is expected that technological development and change of perception will give us many opportunities to expand the industry.

Second, the expansion of computational design education
About 20 years ago, when I started building, the computer was an optional tool. Rather, it was an era when we needed to explain why we should use CAD (computer aided design). But in today’s era, without CAD, more than 99% of the world’s design offices are paralyzed. That’s how the industry changed. What about the future? Considering the time when generations exposed to artificial intelligence and coding from elementary, middle and high school are put into the industry, 10 years from now, I think that the era will come when all designers will use coding, too naturally, just like we use software now. Because of this, I think many designers today feel the need to study coding and computational thinking for design. So, I think that my classes, workshops, and learning materials are helpful to those people in certain areas, and I will continue to provide education that I can share. In fact, it is because we believe that if education, the soil of industry, contains healthy and abundant nutrition, the industry can develop with a positive cycle and various competitiveness.

Lastly, if you imagine, after retirement, I want to create NJLAND. I want to create a space where students, practitioners, researchers, and educators gather to discuss, work, educate, give lectures, and conduct research together by setting up several studios in a large warehouse. NJ STUDIO/ LAB / ACADEME / CHANNEL are running online, and that is the offline nature of them. By that time, the industry would have developed more and there would be a lot of manpower, and I think it would be fun to organize, research, and leave knowledge and skills together, just like Dasan Jeong Yak-yong did. Then, I hope that we will be able to see the computational design industry that passes infancy and enters maturity more quickly.

Finally, thank you for the interview request.
I hope my case is a story that motivates my juniors. They say that if you do nothing, nothing happens, and if you do the same thing over and over again, you will never get a different result. I will finish the interview, hoping that the juniors will create various examples and contents of life while finding and enjoying those energies, the parts where their hearts can beat and immerse themselves, and hope that a virtuous cycle will be created in which the juniors see them and run. Thank you for contacting us.



NJ Namju Lee

Software Engineer & Computational Designer at NJSTUDIO