HWASEONG, South Korea — From their upstairs office in Hyundai's sunlit design center, styling bosses Luc Donckerwolke and SangYup Lee can keep an eye on everything. Literally.
The design duo peer through glass walls at people buzzing away in nearly every division, from advanced design and interior to exterior styling, and even into the airy indoor presentation arena and the outside viewing deck beyond that.
The two share the same space and sit at the same table, next to each other. They, too, are surrounded by glass, on view to one and all designers.
"We can be seen from any corner of the building," Lee said. "I can't even pick my nose at work."
All that transparency at Hyundai's 1½- year-old design center is in no small way symbolic.
Hyundai has embarked on a styling overhaul that represents a profound philosophical change in corporate culture.
To recapture the brand's reputation for eye-catching cars, the automaker wants to ditch its traditional top-down Korean business culture and instead cultivate fresh creativity with a flatter, free-flow approach that questions the status quo.
"We are changing it from a 'Yes, sir!' organization to a 'Why not?' organization," Lee said.
The first fruits are on display in the new Palisade crossover and the redesigned, eighth-generation Sonata sedan, unveiled last week with plans to hit U.S. showrooms in October.
The emerging design language, called Sensuous Sportiness, prioritizes performance and incorporates upscale flourishes and new technology, especially the use of lighting as an external styling motif.
Gone will be the cookie-cutter "family look" that defined previous generations of Hyundais, that yielded different nameplates that looked like scaled up or shrunk down versions of each other. Every model and every segment will now get its own aesthetic, better tailored to the target customer.