The Game Changer: Xbox’s Andrew Kim

April 8, 2014

He first created an internet tsunami with re-imagining of Microsoft
The 22-year-old is now one of the minds behind the technology giant’s as-of-yet unannounced and unseen successor to Xbox One


Andrew Kim went straight from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to Xbox team last year. (Photo – courtesy of Andrew Kim)

By Tae Hong

It took a school project, a blog and a technology-obsessed college student to get people buzzing again about Microsoft.

Andrew Kim, 22, is now one of the minds behind the technology giant’s as-of-yet unannounced and unseen successor to Xbox One.


Earlier this year, Kim was included in Forbes’ “30 Under 30″ list in the video games category. (Andrew Kim)

His re-imagining of the company’s branding, titled “The Next Microsoft,” created an Internet tsunami and propelled them to bring him onto the much-coveted Xbox team last year, fresh out of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Earlier this year, he was included in Forbes’ “30 Under 30″ list in the video games category.

For Kim, who is a part-time industrial designer and part-time visual designer on the project, the future of the Xbox lies in its ability to integrate its products into the Microsoft experience while being holistic.

“As a designer, I think execution is really critical and what we can improve on in the future,” he says. “Getting hardware that feels great, getting software that is fluid, having experiences that feel cohesive and immediate — those are the things I’m interested in.”

Kim, whose Korean name is Seung-hyun, and who moved to Vancouver with his family after finishing the first grade in elementary school, first felt a spark when he took apart an iPod Mini in middle school.

No, forget sparks — he fell in love at first sight.


Screenshots from “The Next Microsoft” on Minimally Minimal

 “I realized that products have to be constructed and manufactured from multiple parts and that there are creative ways to go about it,” he says. “That was the moment when my passion blew up, and that’s the only thing I could think about.”

It was the beginning of an obsession. The more he learned the basics of product design on online forums and the more he took apart gadgets to see what was inside, the more his enthusiasm grew. It pushed even his parents to allow him to call in sick to school so he could stay home and create.

The “butterfly phone,” which he conceptualized as a 15-year-old, was a product of that time. It eventually landed on Gizmodo in 2007, where the popular technology site comments, “It is extremely far-fetched and extremely cool.”

He may cringe when the phone is brought up, but it’s hard to ignore that he wasn’t even halfway through high school when it was made.

“You’ve gotta give the kid credit. It’s a compelling design,” one Gizmodo reader states underneath the article. “Most kids his age are busy listening to whatever crap is playing on MTV. He’ll go places.”

The reader was right. Kim headed to Seoul, South Korea, in 2009.

While completing an internship there at Mintpass under the founder of Korean electronics company iRiver, Kim also took the time to learn traditional Korean art through an artist to whom he was introduced by his aunt.

It’s the philosophy he picked up that stays with him as a designer.

“When you’re painting with those traditional inks, you’re either black or white. You have to show restraint, and it’s all about doing more with less,” Kim says. “I try to make the most products out of the least amount of lines and expressing what it is through craftsmanship and small details.”

If it’s his innovative spirit that got Kim noticed, it’s his love for clean, minimalist design that keeps him a mainstay on lists of design blog favorites and visionaries-to-watch.

If it’s his innovative spirit that got Kim noticed, it’s his love for clean, minimalist design that keeps him a mainstay on lists of design blog favorites and visionaries-to-watch. (Andrew Kim)

In 2012, he received an assignment while at the Art Center College of Design to redesign a Popsicle. Instead, in three days, he had rebranded Microsoft.

Through his personal blog, Minimally Minimal, the project took on a life of its own.

Andrew Kim, everyone — Mashable, The Verge, Business Insider, among others — raved, had done what Microsoft hadn’t been able to do in years: make it cool, and make it bigger than life.

Kim had visited the company prior to the rebranding project and had already developed interest in working there. When he joined the team in 2013, he realized everyone — including upper management and the chief of staff — had seen it.

If it’s his innovative spirit that got him noticed, it’s his love for clean, minimalist design that keeps him a mainstay on lists of design blog favorites and visionaries-to-watch.

As a designer, he has his own thoughts on the products being manufactured by large Korean companies like Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone and mobile phone maker.

Korea has amazing technology, he says. But the biggest flaws he sees with large Korean manufacturers is that they forgo world-class designs in order to make products just to sell a lot of them, he says.

Down the line, he sees himself focusing on design, maybe even after starting his own studio.

“My goal isn’t about creating the most popular X,” he says. “It’s more about creating something that could be special for a smaller group of people.”



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