Ahngraphics Typography Lab
Founded by graphic designer and typographer Sang-Soo Ahn in 1985, Ahn Graphics has been one of the most influential design studios in South Korea. Recently, the Ahngraphics Typography Lab – the firm’s research and development unit set up in 2012 – started making interesting contributions through its historical typeface revival projects. If revivalism has always been a feature of Western typography, it’s a new phenomenon in South Korea, where the relatively short history of modern printing meant that many things had to be made from scratch.
Intellectual inquiries and formal experimentation are not separated in Min-Kee Bae’s work, who earned his PhD with a study on information visualisation. Still his work, although hyper-conscious and precise both in its visual and verbal forms, is not dryly academic, but full of wry jokes and surprising details. The posters and the exhibition “Put Up and Remove”, which he created based on the information found on the Internet about how to put up posters and how to remove stickers from a poster, is a case in point.
Although they have engaged in projects of diverse nature, Everyday Practice’s work seems to be strongest – and most distinctive – when it’s socially and politically committed. While small-scale, artisan-minded design studios tend to be self-contained and inward-looking, the three partners of Everyday Practice (Joon-Ho Kwon, Kyung-Chul Kim, and Eo-Jin Kim) are not afraid of reaching out to the community to make a difference in people’s lives.
Eun-Joo Hong and Hyung-Jae Kim
For the past few years, Eun-Joo Hong and Hyung-Jae Kim have been among the most prolific design practices in South Korea, creating graphic identities, promotional materials, and publications for major art institutions and newly founded spaces, as well as publishing the vital cultural magazine Domino. Their playful and hands-on approach is especially vivid on the websites they make – with conceptual ingenuity and editorial integrity, but without the excess of slick polishes.
Jin and Park
Working both as graphic designers and artists, Dal-Lae Jin and Wook-Hyuk Park’s work shows an apparently seamless integration of these two activities. The simple and suggestive forms combined with a sense of humour are evident throughout different mediums, including graphic identity, printed matter, publication, installation, and performance. We already introduced Jin and Park in form 267.
Waterain is a union of the writer Jong-Sori Kim and the graphic designer Eun-Jeong Hwang. “From the inspirations of the material, we produce the nonmaterial and return it to the material.” Notwithstanding the somewhat cryptic motto, their work was made of urgency: the need to give concrete – material – expression to the young Korean artists’ efforts to organise independent events and venues for their work. The Scrap, an innovative photography art fair, is a recent example and was a big success last year – also thanks to the effective branding by Waterain.
As a significant feature of independent publishing and zine culture, risography arrived in South Korea in the late 2000s and early 2010s with print shops respectively design studios like Green Greem, Busan or Corners, Seoul. Hezin O or OYE, (a frequent collaborator of Corners) effectively exploits the materiality of the digital stencil printing process – including its shortcomings. Her knowing appropriation of graphic illustrations from bygone eras underpins a perception of risography in South Korea, which is sometimes called retro printing.
While many contemporary graphic designers have been trying to expand their boundaries, Yoon-Seok Yoo’s studio Practice has been holding on to the more traditional roles of the profession, working with diverse clients, not at all limited to cultural institutions. Apart from the consistently simple and bold solutions, their work displays the merits of a collaborative approach that is not dominated by the principal, but channels the individual talents of the staff (currently Ji-Yeon Yoo, Hong Kim, and Won-U Lim).
Dong-Hyeok Shin and Hae-Ok Shin emerged from the Typography Workshop, a student-organised, self-learning group at the Dankook University in the late 2000s. Informed by otaku-level knowledge [editor’s note: otaku is a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests] of design and its history, Shin Shin creates works of strong ideas with an obsessive attention to detail. They have also been instrumental in the development of the experimental music scene in South Korea, providing visual expressions for artists, labels, and programmes.
The self-proclaimed screen-based designer Shrimp Chung creates posters for music events and parties – at which she also often deejays – which are better known as animated GIFs circulating the social networks than in their actual printed form. But the effects of her work do not remain in the Internet. As a vocal feminist, Shrimp Chung has produced materials for fundraising events and parties. And together with Hye-Mi Yu and Vakki Park, she also created “Jabchinda”, an exhibition that explored design and gender-related issues.