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Inji Seo

Work / Illustration

Illustrator Inji Seo discusses the differences in producing personal and commercial work

For illustrators, the transition from creating mainly personal work, to mainly commissions is a desirable place to be. To know your illustration practice is in demand and worthy of being in admirable magazines is highly rewarding, however, it can also be daunting to move into commercial spheres where there are clients to please and targets to meet. The illustrator Inji Seo has smoothly made this transition in the last year, not only does her work look great spread across glossy magazines such as Elephant, it has also matured and improved, seeing deeper experimentation with composition and colour.

Despite working for some fairly corporate clients such as the Korean homeware brand Fissler, Inji attempts to express her trademark style of neon brightness and confident, full-bodied women in her commercial work. The illustrator speaks to It’s Nice That about this shift, saying: “sometimes I have to adapt to expressing my style without using my signature characters and objects.” Inji goes on to say how “clients might request things that I wasn’t used to creating or illustrating before, so I have to find a way to draw them in my style.”

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Inji Seo: Elephant magazine

In the latest issue of Elephant, Kellenberger-White commissioned Inji to draw specific objects like koi fish and cookware, also art directed by Kellenberger-White. Inji explains how “it was surprising to find new inspiration from these objects”; her drawing style fits the project remarkably well, layering subtle, textured backgrounds against eclectic arrays of gleaming objects. “My usual work is from my personal taste and depicts the things I love”, says Inji. “So it’s easy to reflect my aesthetic in this work. But I also need to put my care into commercial works so that it matches my style while fulfilling the client’s request too.” As a result, Inji’s illustrations have “become more detailed” and use “powerful colours and shapes to make them look strong.”

Inji’s recognisable aesthetic comes from an enjoyment of “putting objects from different genres (that usually wouldn’t go together) and arranging them on a single page.” Her work sees Buddhas wearing heart-shaped earrings, or tulips and long boots, united through a cohesive illustration. Inji explains, “in the real world, maybe they would be ridiculous. But it feels best to put my own twist and intention on the objects to make them fit together. It’s also one of the ways I create my own unique world as well.” Another aesthetic trait that the illustrator is known for involves “putting random colours in unexpected places.” The illustrator breaks canonised rules of colour, unusually contrasting highly saturated colours side-by-side like bright reds and blues. Inji continues, “I enjoy breaking those rules and experimenting with unexpected combinations.”

With a growing professional practice, Inji persists to “approach commercial work as if it were my own personal work”. Looking for the standout part of a project that she finds subjectively exciting, she then executes these in her personal style. She is also gradually expanding her practice to include animation and interactive illustrations as well, completing two animated music videos this year that bring out the confident attitudes of Inji’s signature characters.

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Inji Seo: Rina Sawayama

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Inji Seo: Elephant magazine

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Inji Seo: Elephant magazine

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