Eunjoo Hong and Hyungjae Kim on how they designed letters inspired by snail slime
From snail trails to award-winning architecture, we talk to the Euljiro-based Kim x Hong studio about the inspiration behind their wide-ranging list of projects.
- Elfie Thomas
- 19 April 2022
The work of Eunjoo Hong and Hyungjae Kim as a studio is notoriously hard to define. In the words of Hyungjae, they are just two very different designers who celebrate “rough ruptures” in their work rather than “harmony and fusion”. “Our work is not unified in many ways”, he continues. But this has not stopped the pair from creating excellent work for the past ten years together. This is perhaps because they see their differences and even their disagreements as strengths, and channel these productively into their creative work. What does unify their work, however, is their “rigorous typography training”, says Hyungjae. Throughout their projects they put this to good use, often finding rather unconventional inspirations for their designs.
Having diverse interests indeed became a strength when they were commissioned to create a visual strategy for the opening of the Hyundai Department Store in Seoul in 2021. The architecture of Sir Richard Rogers (renowned for his innovative design of the Pompidou Centre in Paris) has always been a guiding inspiration for the department store, says Hyungjae. His interest in architecture combined with Eunjoo’s imaginative approach to design came in handy here. Working carefully to incorporate Richard Rogers’ fascination with “technical structure and the outward appearance of the grid”, they created visuals which simplified and reimagined elements of the architect’s buildings which were converted into huge macro graphics outside the department store, motion graphic images on large LED sign boards, and various interior applications.
For Hyundai’s 2022 opening anniversary, the duo were again asked to help out with the graphics. This year, the event aimed “to redefine common sense in various ways, such as the meeting between unfamiliar and heterogeneous materials, the meeting of art and commerce, and the meeting of the city and nature,” says Eunjoo. Again the studio returned to the concept of the grid, but this time the design had more of a typography focus. The pair started drawing within a structured grid with no real idea about how the design would manifest itself. Then, by experimenting with blocks of colour in this the grid, letters and abstract shapes began to appear. These formed a captivating and colourful visual identity which was used as a basis to create all the installations for the opening.
Over the past two years their work for the Hyundai Seoul events has demonstrated the studio’s capacity for working on a grand scale and innovating within the fixed and organised structure of a grid. But the team are also pretty skilled at developing design concepts along more convoluted, winding trajectories... For their visual identity for No Limits in Seoul in 2021, they started with a very simple idea: the strange beauty of snail slime.
Eunjoo explains: “Imagine a scene where a snail is slowly passing by somewhere. Where the snail slipped and crawled, the mucus he left behind leaves a trail of rounded lines. We knew that the trajectories left by the snails were different, so we thought that finding the beauty of each was a way to visualise what the event was aiming for.”
For the first year of No Limits in Seoul they imagined these winding snail tracks in bright colours, designing a mouse cursor for the official website which leaves a juicy fat trail behind it. In 2021 they developed this further, making typography out of the trails they designed in 2021. They also added a feature to the cursor – when the mouse is clicked a myriad of smaller trails wiggle their way out from the cursor in playful waves.
With such a wide range of skills and interests, this powerful design duo are always looking for opportunities to expand the conversation around design. So they created a magazine called Odd to Even which does just that. They have published three volumes already, which share articles written by a wide range of designers. They are excited to share that they have four more volumes in the pipeline, and, going off the success of their last exhibition in 2021, the duo are also planning to hold another in the future.
Eunjoo Hong and Hyungjae Kim: No Limits in Seoul 2021 (Copyright © Eunjoo Hong and Hyungjae Kim, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.