As gaming continues to expand, it draws upon the talent of people with a range of backgrounds to keep the industry thriving and growing. At ASTRO, we continually strive to innovate with everything we do, including the search for great designers like James Kwon! We sat down with James to chat about his start in the games industry, what inspires him, and how he brings his passion to life as an ASTRO Gaming Industrial Designer.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
James Kwon, I’m an Industrial Designer at ASTRO.
2. Where are you from?
I was born in Seoul, Korea. I moved to the US when I was 16. I’ve been in San Francisco since 2000.
3. What were you like as a kid?
I was into games and drawing. My mom had a fashion design background, so I started sketching because of her. I love gaming, I love sketching, and I love sports. I was involved with Judo and Boxing until high school. Nowadays, I love watching UFC.
4. What did you like about school? What did you hate?
I loved school, I didn’t hate it. When I was a student, I arrived before it opened, and stayed late. I studied Industry Design with a focus in Transportation, so I enjoyed being there. I currently help graduate and senior students at the Academy of Art University prepare for the real world.
5. What did you like to do as a kid?
One of my neighbors was into Illustration, and he was always sketching. He was older than me, so I looked up to his skills. I started learning all the cool techniques around 6 or 7. It helped me going into college because I had a lot of skills from my childhood.
6. Tell us about the first time you played a video game.
My first game was on my father’s Macintosh on a floppy disk: Prince of Persia it was. My first console was a Nintendo Famicom Disk System. Google it!
7. If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Travel more! Like Europe or other countries before work responsibilities keep you from that freedom. Not traveling limited my scope of the world, which impacted my studies.
8. What was it about gaming that made it a viable career for you?
I worked at about 10 different companies before I started at ASTRO. ASTRO Gaming was my client while I was at Huge Design, and when I asked to join the ASTRO Crew, I had a 3-day turnaround and was hired right off the bat. And I’ve been here for 2 years.
9. What do you do in your spare time, outside of gaming?
I watch sci-fi movies and things that inspire me. I visit school to not only help students, but to also help inspire them to work harder. I hang out with other industry designers, talking about concept cars, new products, anything that inspires us. When I’m not at work, I create my own personal concepts that may never see the light of day, but I pour my heart and soul into them and it’s a way I can express myself, de-stress, and be happy.
10. What turns you on?
I like people who are humble, and understand the concept that you will always constantly be learning.
11. What turns you off?
I dislike people who have a negative disposition.
12. Generic music/movies/books/food question. Ready GO!
Hip Hop generally, and when I’m sketching I like B-Boy music, which is basically like hip hop music without the words.
13. What are you terrible at?
I suck at social media. I’m very private.
14. What do you kick ass at?
I have kick-ass physical stamina. I think that’s one of the most important things for a designer. Even if you’re good enough, if you can’t keep up, you can’t succeed. You have to keep going, keep working work. I exercise after work to keep it up. My nickname was The Monster, because I’d go to school every day, all day.
15. What games are you playing?
Diablo 3 on PC. Hardcore Mode.
16. What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to Overwatch.
17. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? In 5 years, I’m still at ASTRO. Still designing. Nothing really different except maybe more products. Working here is a dream because sometimes, as a designer, you have to listen to the clients regardless of whether you like it or not. At ASTRO, having a brand and design identity and language, our products have a long lifespan because they’re so original. It’s kind of like designing cars in that respect. I love our brand, and it makes a huge difference. Most designers never wear their own brands, and yet, I’m at home wearing A40’s.
18. Any last bits of advice to people looking to get into ID? My favorite quote from my professor Tom Matano is “Always inspired.” Always inspire, and do things that keep inspiring you. Keep your body in good health, and don’t limit yourself.