10 Best Creatives from South Korea

At Shillington, we love to celebrate great design and share projects from creatives around the world. We’ve covered the work of many studios in many different countries so far. Next up: South Korea! South Korea is a country of contrasts, where the ultra modern meets the traditional—with skyscrapers mingling with five UNESCO world heritage sites in the capital city Seoul alone. One of the world’s largest economies, South Korea is celebrated worldwide and a global love for kimchi and K-Pop continues to grow.

Korean culture goes far beyond the K-Pop and the Korean Wave of the 1990s though. There’s a huge number of incredibly talented creatives working across the country from Seoul to Busan. Read on to discover ten of the best creatives from The Land of the Morning Calm.

1. Sulki & Min

Sulki & Min is the Seoul-based studio of graphic designers Choi Sulki and Choi Sung Min. The pair met when studying at Yale before working as researchers at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, the Netherlands. They returned to Korea in 2005 and founded their own studio. They work predominantly for cultural institutions and individuals and this is no exception—their identity for the 2019 David Hockney at the Seoul Museum of Art features a seven-storied title which reflected the exhibitions structure, which itself reflected the phases in Hockney’s body of work. Their chosen typeface is a version of Herb Lubalin’s Avant Garde Gothic—which was designed in the same year Hockey painted his seminal work ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’.

2. Sehee Chae

Sehee Chae, who also goes by the name Pie, is an illustrator from the coastal city Ansan. Her illustrations have graced everything from book covers and vinyl sleeves to credit cards for the Korean bank Woori and K-posters. She always tries to incorporate her favourite elements; girls, grass and flowers with a colour palette inspired by the activity of nature in summer, and its colour and passion. Her incredible Google Doodle for Team Korea in the 2019 Women’s Football World Cup uses all these alongside some unmistakable symbols of her country, including Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, to truly represent South Korea as a nation.

3. Triangle Studio

Triangle is a graphic design studio from Seoul that specialises in the trio branding, editorial and graphics, based on rational strategy and emotional harmony. They believe the most important things in design are people, relationship and communication—they like things in threes, hence the name Triangle. Their branding for Hart Cafe, a coffee shop in the Seongbuk-gu area of Korea’s capital, uses a uppercase sans serif font and a simple greyscale palette, with the occasionally foiled gold accent, to create a minimal, elegant identity for the cafe—which matches their interior by Sasai Project. We love how the posters use photos of the products to put what the cafe serves front and centre.

4. Minimalist

Multidisciplinary design studio Minimalist believe that good design can only be achieved when nothing is left to add, and nothing is left to take away. The studio, which was founded in 2013 in the Gangnam area of Seoul, aims to buck trends and create work that works functionally, aesthetically and stands the test of time. Their packaging for a collaborative beer between ULLA and Ark Korea Craft Brewery features a friendly gorilla, named ULLA after the brewery, who loves nature and flowers. The packaging for their two beers, Sunday Morning and Hug Me, aims to promote the beauty of north Ulleung Island, off Korea’s East coast.

5. En-ho

En-ho, the work alias of Eunho Lee, is an illustrator and designer from Seoul who has worked with Muji, Nike, Uniqlo and other brands. Her eccentric illustrations, that employ bright colours and simple forms, are full of wonder and, in places, weirdness. We particularly liked her six illustrations that recreate and reimagine traditional Korean folktales for a young audience. Created for a collaborative art box with KKOYAKIDS, the illustrations feature dynamic, memorable characters and scenes set on simple, pleasingly coloured backgrounds.

6. BOWYER Studio

Founded in 2016 by Hwayoung Lee and Sang Joon Hwang, BOWYER is a graphic design studio that specialises in brand identities, print and exhibitions in the art, culture, music and commerce industries. Their work is unmistakably both modern and Korean. Their exhibition design for 2019 exhibition Seoul ♥ See You Tomorrow ♥ Pyongyang at Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza is an absolute treat for the eyes. The exhibition was all about the future of the two cities and their design reflected this—the two vertical lines represented the boundaries between the South and North Korean capitals, which was then filled with hearts to represent a positive vision of the future.

7. Kimgarden

Hailing from Gapyeong, Kimgarden is a graphic design studio founded and directed Yunho Lee and Kangin Kim. Kangin opened the studio after he graduated from a degree in communication design in 2013, whilst also lecturing typography at Konkuk University. Yunho, who also studied communication design, joined the studio after some time spent as both a graphic designer and a UI designer. Their poster project ‘They Love Seoul’ was designed for the 2016 AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale) Congress which took place in their home city. The striking poster is a digital collage of different shop fronts around the city—taken from Naver maps, the Google of South Korea.

8. Jisu Choi

Jisu Choi is an illustrator working out of the capital city Seoul, and many other cities on her extensive travels—where she heads for inspiration. On these travels, she takes photos, sketches and makes notes to truly capture the essence of a place and uses these to inspire her work. She starts her illustrations with pencil on graph paper, before fleshing them out digitally with dream-like colours. Her series Corner For Rent takes the form of a monthly postcard, given out to local cafés and bookshops, that shows imaginary real estate ads for small spaces packed to the brim with greed and explicit taste.

9. Everyday Practice

Kim Kyung-Chul, Kwon Joonho and Kim Eojin all met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London. Once all three were back in Korea, they founded Everyday Practice in 2013. The studio, based out of a small grey brick building in Seoul, work across many mediums whilst thinking about design acts in reality. We were particularly struck by their design for the website of Goraeya, a Korean children’s magazine, which employs simple design and friendly colours to reflect the magazine’s values—teaching children about different human qualities through fun and enjoyment. These are instantly recognisable even to someone who doesn’t read Hangul.

10. Hey Joe

Founded in 2010, Hey Joe is a two person studio consisting of creative director Yoel Joe and designer Taeyung Jo. The studio works mainly with artists, publishers, curators, galleries and museums to create identities and print materials. Using a limited but compelling colour palette of blue and red, their poster time for the 2017 exhibition Counter Time at Seoul Contemporary Art Centre Platform-L definitely caught our attention. Their clever use of typography and the design’s simplicity can be seen throughout their portfolio.

Want to see the full list of creatives around the world? The latest countries we covered in the series are from Germany, New Zealand and France!

Feeling inspired? Check out our #ILoveTheseGuys series to discover more creative studios from around the world! Or become a graphic designer yourself—study design in three months full-time or nine months part-time in London, Manchester, New York, Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne with Shillington.

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