Heena Chung on the pursuit of graphic design after four years in another industry
The Pasadena-based creative talks us through her recent project on the design of non-places.
- Jyni Ong
- 7 May 2020
Heena Chung worked in the field of marketing before turning to graphic design. Though she’d always liked pretty packaging and the layouts of magazines as a youngster, she was perturbed to pursue a career in the arts by “typical Korean parents” who wanted their daughter to “go to a ‘good’ university and be studious.” In turn, she taught herself how to use the Adobe suite as well as the basics of web coding and eventually came to this conclusion: “I wasn’t enjoying my job so I thought ‘why the fuck not’ and quit my job or four years before applying to the ArtCentre College of Design.”
Now in her fourth year of studies at the Pasadena-based university, it’s taken a while for Heena to settle into this new lease of life. At first it was a struggle. Not coming from a creative background, her first steps into the world of graphic design were tentative ones and at times she’d thought she made a mistake. “I was just obsessing over wanting to make cool posters like all the ones I saw around me, and wasn’t looking deeper into the details that designers put in,” she explains. But slowly, this started to change, and as she gradually accrued projects under her belt, Heena started to incorporate detailed research, photography and emotion into her work.
“When I became more immersed in the topic of a subject, without realising it, I was developing connections with them in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d just relied on reading about it online,” Heena tells us. Now, her creative process is intensely thorough. Immersing herself in experimentation and iteration, the graphic designer has tried and tested the ways of working that best suit her. Its led her to intern at Spin Studio last year – where she also learned about working culture and the importance of working collaboratively – and now onto creative coding; a predominant interest of Heena’s at present.
“I love how something so technical can be used to produce something so beautiful and meaningful,” she says on the subject of coding. “I’d always believed my focus would be on book and identity design, but after realising the same principles could be applied in a digital space, I have been trying to expand my skills in creative coding.” That’s not to say that Heena is giving up print design. “The most meaningful project I’ve worked on was my book (Title) Non-Place where we were talked to come up with a topic of interest and design a book on it,” she says. When a friend had told Heena about Marc Augé’s book on non-places, the concept struck Heena as exceedingly interesting and thought it would be a good fit for the publication.
“I wanted my book to explain Augé’s concept of a non-place as well as communicate my views on what a non-place was,” she explains. Using Augé’s definition and the example of a grocery store, she defines a non-place as somewhere people go in and out just to buy necessities – somewhere where emotions aren’t necessarily attached. But when Heena tried to relate this to her personally, she couldn’t help but find emotion there. In turn, she started questioning Augé’s definition, pondering whether a non-place could in fact become a place over time. She wanted to find a modern take on the idea, and with her research in mind, decided to translate the idea into a digital space.
“That’s why the book is divided into two main parts; physical and digital,” explains Heena. “It was fun trying to define my own definition of an existing theory, and to find evidence and images to best communicate this.” On top of the book, she created an interactive installation titled Nonplaceplace which delved further into the designer’s ideas on the topic. With this, she overcame uncertainties of designing an interactive space, and found subtle ways of linking the design and concept of the publication in the physical space. In the end, it’s proved to be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for this budding graphic designer, winning her first TDC award for the project too, an extra plus.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.