From a trained ballerina to graphic designer, Boah Kim creates synergy between client and designer
Having cut her teeth at Bureau Borsche and in-house at Balenciaga, the Paris-based designer and art director explains how she came to establish Studio Boah Kim.
- Jyni Ong
- 17 March 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
We often hear about unusual routes into graphic design, but Boah Kim’s is something of an exception. Born and raised in Seoul, the designer who is currently based in Paris, trained to be a ballet dancer until the age of 17. Growing up with a sports teacher dad and an opera singer mum, Boah evolved amidst a merging of both talents. She went onto study journalism at university where she immersed herself in literature and art history. And it is here that she was first introduced to Apollinaire’s poems and concrete poetry; Boah’s first discovery of typography.
From there, she took typography courses at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel which opened her eyes to the craft and precision of Swiss typography. The courses she enrolled in are similar to the ones taught to the typography greats such as Emil Ruder, Armin Hoffmann and Wolfgang Weingart, and it is during this time where she learnt the mathematical and logical structure of type design; training her eyes to a level of meticulous detail. “The school basically taught me to create something that can speak for itself rather than something that needs to be explained by words,” she tells It’s Nice That. And using this philosophy at the crux of her practice, she delved headfirst into a career in graphic design, seeing it as the “good reasoning behind logical decisions rather than an artistic expression.”
Since then, Boah has nursed a growing passion for book design and production. As the art director and graphic designer of her very own Studio Boah Kim, to date, her clients include Balenciaga, Nike, Rizzoli, Vitra, Future Corp and Indie Magazine, just to name a few. Prior to establishing her own studio, the designer worked stints at the prestigious Bureau Borsche as well as at Balenciaga’s headquarters. At the Munich-based Bureau Borsche, Boah learnt the importance of deviating from the graphic design schoolbook from time to time. Mirko, the studio’s founder, hammered home the importance of making a project resonate with a client, not from a design background. It involved a “Lustig”, meaning a fun concept. Boah adds on this lesson: “He sometimes pushed me to the edge, to the point that I had to drop all of the rules I learnt at design school, in order to find an interesting concept.” It’s a lesson that allowed Boah to transform into a flourishing designer and art director.
At Balenciaga, she worked with Gian Gisiger on the global brand identity and assisted in the creation of the new logo. It was Boah’s first step into the fashion industry, which provided her with a comprehensive overview of everything that goes into a new visual identity and packaging system. Surmounting in over 200 different outputs with a bunch of poster designs, promotional materials and digital artworks in the process, Boah was given a taste of working on every aspect of a project. Something she now does on a day-to-day basis with no boss or intern, taking on the role of sole graphic designer and art director at her studio.
GalleryBoah Kim: Erró (Copyright © Boah Kim, 2021)
With such a wealth of experience under her belt, now, Studio Boah Kim takes on a number of varying briefs where the outcome is just as diverse as the project at hand. Conversations with the client shape this output, and she tends to search for a visual concept through language at the start of a project. “I think fun usually comes from an unexpected combination of concept and form,” the designer says. And last but not least, Boah continues to pay particular attention to the treatment of typography and how it is communicating a certain function. “I love making books with artists and curators,” she continues, citing creative ping-ponging as an essential part of honing a concept. The ultimate goal is to find “a synergy effect from both parties” – this synergy directly inspiring all graphic elements of an outcome from its format to its layout, colour palette, paper stock, binding and so on.
For Boah’s design of the latest issue of Indie Magazine, for example, she focused the art direction on the issue’s theme, “Science and Fiction”. The magazine’s design is evocative of a scientific police report or dossier to reflect such. Some pages are literally scanned and then printed to present this filing effect, giving the overall publication a distinct feel. Elsewhere, Boah art directed a campaign shoot for Japanese fashion designer Fumito Ganryu, a campaign expressing a dystopia to coincide with the collection’s retro-futuristic looks. And for the Georgian zine Danarti, Boah designed an innovative layout where the newspaper-style publication functions as a poster too.
For the past two years, Boah has been working on the artist book of Thomas Weil, set to be published later this year with Lars Müller. Acting not only as designer and producer for the book but also editor in the selecting of images and structuring of content, Boah’s book design reflects Thomas’ “pure, unfinished version of artistry.” As for the future, Boah hopes to work on more of these kinds of projects, as well as more branding for fashion houses, art direction, and exciting collaborations.
Boah Kim: CODE 52 No. 1 (Copyright © Boah Kim, Code 52, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.