The ever-curious Haeji Jeong is a designer who wants you to “intervene” in her work
With simple black lines and a passion for books, the Seoul-based designer explains why she loves to see her work realised in physical publications.
- Olivia Hingley
- 16 June 2022
Picking a few of the things that inspire her most, designer Haeji Jeong lands on “unrefined stuff”. Whether that be strange sculptures in the street, sloppy advertising flyers or children’s drawings, Haeji loves to build upon things that are defined by their imperfection. “I have a very intuitive approach,” she says, “it’s bold and anomalous, and I like the kind of humour that comes from it.” Another factor Haeji enjoys about this unrefined imagery is the ambiguity it manifests. Working with the foremost desire to “reach out to someone”, Haeji explains that “as long as it’s simple, it creates room for the viewers to intervene. I think that’s the place where the story begins – with each person’s point of view.”
A lover of printed material, the medium Haeji most likes working with is books. “When you want to get across your thoughts properly, you need a medium that can unravel the narrative with a certain volume,” Haeji details, “although it may be considered old, I still think that books are the most effective tool for that.”
It’s this thinking that has inspired the designer's project Better Kindness, borne out of her search for ways to combine her infatuation with the physicality of books and her passion for writing. After penning a short essay, Haeji then makes a poster about it. “I choose an essential word from the text and draw the object that best associates it with the word based on my experience,” she explains, “In this process a lot of context is compressed.” Choosing to not spend too much time on the poster, the project applies Haeji’s trademark intuitive approach with signature simple black lines. But, despite this inherent simplicity, Haeji still manages to craft a unique and recognisable style, most noticeably in her slightly curved, wavy hands and square houses with wide opened doors. The project has progressed significantly, and now, the designer is searching for ways to bring the various elements together into a book.
Being someone who has “a lot of thoughts and curiosity”, Haeji spent a number of years trying to find a suited means of expression. She first studied fashion design then cultural anthology before even trying her hand at some computer programming, all of which were “interesting” but not the right “tool” for Haeji. In the midst of a period when Haeji was doing a lot of searching for what she may be best suited for, she joined a group that happened to be archiving and making a magazine based around her neighbourhood. Taking charge of the magazine’s design – despite only being able to “handle some basic Adobe tools” – Haeji instantly knew she had found her niche. “Unsurprisingly, the first book I ever made was rough and tacky,” Haeji says, “but when I received it at the print shop, I just knew that I would do this for a very long time. I was overwhelmed by the fact that there was an actual book in the world that I had made.”
For Haeji, the most fascinating thing about her chosen practice is the “extensibility” of her projects, from books, posters to products and constantly being given new assignments, leaving “no time to get bored”. But now, for the moment, Haeji is looking to spend some more time with her personal projects, resulting, of course, in a few beloved books.
Haeji Jeong: Wishing Longing Life (Copyright © Haeji Jeong, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.