Personal profile

Research interests

Yunah Lee's research interests are design history, visual and material culture in Korea and East Asia, transnational and cross-cultural studies of modernity and modernism, representations of national and personal identities, and political agencies of art, craft, design and fashion.  

East Asian Modern Design

Yunah’s recent research focus is on the development of East Asian design and design history since 1945. As a co-steering member of two AHRC Network Scheme projects, ‘Translating and writing Modern Design Histories in East Asia’ (2012-14) and ‘Fashion and Translation: Britain, Japan China and Korea’ (2014-15), Yunah has taken her research in the areas of Korean graphic design and fashion, investigating how modernity in Korean design emerged from the interactions with Euro-America, while being characterised by inter-regional interventions within East Asia, and how Korean designers and critics engaged with global innovation and creativity during the course. She is interested in building connections and networks with academics and practitioners working in the area of Korean design as well as Asian design. 

British Modern Design and National Identity

Yunah’s doctoral research, titled ‘Selling Modern British Design: Overseas Design Exhibitions by the Council of Industrial Design 1949-1971’ focused on the series of overseas design exhibitions organised or participated in by the Council of Industrial Design between 1949 and 1971. Through the reconstruction of these exhibitions, the research positioned the CoID’s exhibitions in the context of British government exhibition policy and national publicity and reviewed the notion of good design and commerciality in the period of 1950s and 1960s. Through careful inter-reading of texts and images, Yunah analysed and reconstructed the contents and styles of exhibitions and re-evaluated the principles and style of good modern British design promoted by the CoID. Yunah’s study revealed that a constant tension existed between traditional images and heritage, dominant and popular representation of Britishness, and the contemporary and modern aspects of Britain idealized by the CoID in its own design exhibition, therefore, contributed to debates about the diverse aspects of British identity and its representation through design exhibitions. 

Retail design: department store

Yunah’s research titled ‘Design for Profit: Barkers, Derry and Toms and Pontings during the Interwar Period’ dealt with the role of design in retail business. Through looking at changes in architecture and displays of three department stores in London during 1920s and 1930s, the study pondered upon the slogan of ‘design as a marketing tool’ and how identity and modernity was represented and perceived in various visual tools in retail design. The application of the Art Deco style to exterior and interior space and the new marketing campaigns, especially the use of posters, was interpreted in the theoretical frame of modernity and Modernism in British architecture and design during the interwar period.

Scholarly biography

After studying the history of East Asian art at Seoul National University in Korea, Yunah completed her doctoral research on twentieth-century British modern design and national identity, titlted, ‘Selling Modern British Design: Overseas design exhibitions by the Council of Industrial Design 1949-1972’, at the University of Brighton. She has been teaching in the History of Art and Design programme at the University of Brighton since 2004.

She has been a co-member of two AHRC-funded research projects aiming to investigate the development of design history studies in China, Japan and Korea and to build a network of scholars and institutions in this field. Yunah has published her research on Korean design and design history in various academic journals and, in 2014, co-edited a special issue on ‘Transnational Modern Design Histories in East Asia’ with the Journal of Design History. Yunah is primarily interested in the social and cultural meanings of design and material culture in the modern and post-modern era within a national context, as well as the cross- cultural fertilisation of ideas and styles, notably between Euro-America and the East Asia. Yunah  lectures in the history of design and art. Her research investigates the development of modern design in Korea, exploring the role of design in the process of modernisation and nation-building and engaging with critical debates on nationalism, globalisation and transnationalism.

Supervisory Interests

Yunah is keen to supervise research projects on trans/national identities and networks of design and visual/material culture and repressentations of design and visual/material culture in magazines and exhibitions. She especially welcomes enquires about projects on craft, design and visual/material culture in and from the East Aisan region including China, Korea, and Japan. 

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Selling modern British design: Overseas Exhibitions by the Council of Industrial Design, University of Brighton

30 Apr 200117 Feb 2009

Award Date: 17 Feb 2009

Master, Design for Profit: Barkers, Derry and Toms and Pontings during the Interwar Period, University of Brighton

28 Sept 199930 Oct 2000

Award Date: 19 Feb 2001

Master, Art Nouveau Bing: Sigfried Bing , Seoul National University

2 Mar 199420 Feb 1998

Award Date: 20 Feb 1998

Bachelor, The Study of Flower and Bird Paintings from late Joseon Dynasty, Seoul National University

2 Mar 199025 Feb 1994

Award Date: 25 Feb 1994

External positions

Visiting International Professor, Korea National University of Arts

4 Mar 201930 Jun 2019

Visiting Professor, Saitama University

1 Aug 201230 Aug 2012

Visiting Lecturer, Norwich University of the Arts

28 Sept 201130 Jul 2012

Specialist Lecturer, KLC School of Design

1 Sept 201030 Jun 2013

Correspondent in Britain for Korean art magazine , Art in Culture

2 Mar 200028 Feb 2001


  • DS Asia
  • Design
  • Design education
  • Design history
  • National identities
  • Modernities
  • Exhibitions
  • Modernism
  • NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
  • Craft
  • Fashion and dress history
  • Interior design
  • national identities
  • modernities
  • identity representation
  • DAW Central Europe
  • 20th century design
  • modernism
  • design policy
  • exhibition


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