Interviewed by Emerline
Although I could always share it from my perspective, would you mind sharing how you and I got connected and eventually started to collaborate on Seoul Tribe together? I’m just curious about how you remember the sequence of events.
I think it’s important to note that we haven’t actually met in person yet, haha. But from the best of my memory I think our first formal exchange was through Tumblr. I was actually planning to study abroad in Seoul and had been following you when you were studying abroad there. I remember specifically asking you if you had any suggestions for places to visit and you suggested Pastagraphy, which (by the way) was pretty good. And if anyone decides they want to try it and there’s a line, make sure to put your name on the clipboard outside the door or you’re not actually waiting for a table, hahaha. But yeah, from then up until now we pretty much kept in touch through Instagram which eventually led to our collaboration! 💖
When the idea for Seoul Tribe started to form, I immediately knew that I wanted to ask you to collaborate on this based on the years I saw your design/illustration work and curation online. What was your path like to becoming the designer and illustrator you are today?
I think my path to becoming a designer and illustrator is a path that a lot of Asian American creatives will find familiar. I don’t think many of us had thought we were going to be doing what we are doing now, let alone getting paid to do it. I actually didn’t start working to become a designer until my second year in college. Up until then I had thought I was going to be a database manager, and before that I thought I was going to be a dermatologist, haha. I eventually realized that I was horrible at chemistry and that I was not going to finish college with a business degree. But it wasn’t like I had an a-ha! I’ve finally realized it, let me go make my dreams come true moment. I was lucky enough to have friends that recognized my passion for design before I could even admit it to myself.
Glancing at some of your highlighted work on your website, I get a sense that travel, Asian culture, and playfulness is something you like incorporating into your work. Is this accurate?
Yes! It actually wasn’t until after I studied abroad in Korea and Japan that I really began incorporating more Asian culture into my work. I think having been able to experience a part of their design culture in person really inspired me to continue studying their thought processes and design practices. I’ve always gravitated towards work with thoughtful concepts and practical design. I try to avoid embellishment but that doesn’t always work out, haha. My style is always changing but there are certain characteristics that you may see in my work that have become a part of my signature.
I’m especially a fan of Notokayclub! Would you mind sharing a bit about it?
Notokayclub is a creative outlet that my friend, Alicia Pak, and I started because our full-time jobs weren’t doing it for us. The work that we wanted to make but couldn't made their way into the Notokayclub feed. It’s sort of where we experiment with styles and let baby ideas grow.
Being at the center of Texas now, how did you first get into Korean music and culture?
Oh man. A lot like how I became a designer, I think my journey into Korean music and culture is one that a lot of Asian American kids naturally took as they grew up with the internet. It started with J-pop and then J-dramas, which eventually segued into K-dramas and then K-pop. From then on I had a somewhat on-and-off relationship with Korean music, but it’s become pretty steady these days. A few notable groups that were a part of my journey include DBSK, Se7en, Epik High and BigBang. I can also safely say I was there for Son Dambi’s Bad Boy back in 2008, hahaha. I’m so old.
In the past several years, the Korean music scene has come a long ways. Now that you’re a working young professional, do you think your taste has matured in some ways past K-Pop?
Rather than saying it’s matured, I’d say it’s much broader than what it used to be. These days I’m understanding more of what I’m drawn to and so the music I listen to follows suit. But that’s not to say I don’t listen to K-pop anymore, because that’d be a lie, hahaha. I definitely think that when I was younger I bought into the things that were easily exported from Korea, but now that I know more of what I like I have better tools to do the research. I’m finding that what I’m drawn to most are the concepts that Korean artists adopt for their albums. I’m seeing it a lot more in American music these days but it has been something Korean artists have always done consistently well.
I know that you’re somewhat familiar with certain aspects of the design and general creative scene in Korea. Do you notice any trends or specific patterns that distinguish the Seoul design scene in comparison to others?
Something I’ve noticed about Korean design in general is how ahead of the curve it is in terms of trends. A lot of things that are done in Korean design are executed months ahead of it trending in America. I think this is the case because they seem to have a very open mind when it comes to art and are susceptible to new ways of communicating visually. Of course I say this only with what I’ve come to observe through following the handful of Korean music artists and design shops I know.
Circling back to Seoul Tribe itself, why did you say ‘yes’ in the first place and what about it are you most excited about it?
Honestly, I said yes because I had a lot of free time on my hands, haha. But after our conversations over the past year I really got behind your passion and vision for this project. Now I’m set on building a visual landscape that’s uniquely ours so that anyone can navigate through the content and instinctively know it’s Seoul Tribe’s.
Have you thought about the type of content you’d like to share on here this year?
I’m always down to share things that inspire me, including work and designers that I discover along the way as I make stuff for Seoul Tribe. I think sharing the process behind what I’m working on for Seoul Tribe would also give some good insight into what we’re doing and where we’re headed visually.
creative & design lead