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Kia appoints design head as President, illustrating design's business influence

Posting in Design

A big sign that design's business influence is stronger than ever: the recent promotion of Kia's Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer to President of the Korean auto maker. He's the first non-Korean to hold this position, and he'll be one of only three presidents at Kia.

Schreyer will retain his title and duties of Chief Design Officer while serving as President. Schreyer was formerly a head of design at Audi and head designer at Volkswagen, where he was credited for remaking the new VW Beetle that made its debut -- and a big media splash -- in the late 1990s.

“The promotion shows Kia’s key focus areas shifting from production and cost efficiency, which were traditionally considered more important, to design and research and development,” Shin Chung Kwan, an analyst at KB Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul, told Bloomberg News.

“It also symbolizes Kia’s urge to advance as a global company -- showing a foreigner could make it to one of the top positions," he continued.

Mike Stevens, a writer for the Australian car Web site The Motor Report observes that "Schreyer's team has revitalized the Kia line-up" since he joined the company in 2006. Stevens points to the Cadenza and Quoris sedans, the Venga light car, the new Cee'd small car, and the electric Ray hatch, among other designs. One of Schreyer's signature design strategies has been to create a consistent branding element to all of Kia's vehicles: a new type of grille that has been nicknamed both the "tiger nose" and the "Schreyer-line grille," as Stevens writes.

The move to promote Schreyer illustrates how Kia values his notable work, as well as the effectiveness of design strategy as a business strategy. He'll be at the top of the company's entire decision-making chain, helping not only to guide the organization on its products' looks and how they relate to performance, but also to channel its investments that will affect how their vehicles are manufactured and marketed.

Image: Kia

— By on December 31, 2012, 12:30 AM PST

Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure