Joonghyun Cho is not only a freelance graphic designer but is also in charge of the design for Seoul’s most influential IT company, Naver. The designer explores the unique Korean design aesthetic of Jjam-Bbong culture, which translates as mixed culture, embodying the fast changes of economic growth and the notion of “flunkyism”. The term flunkyism refers to the qualities of a flunky, which involves the readiness to cringe at those who are conventionally superior through wealth or status.
This Korean subculture has informed Joonghyun’s aesthetic which encapsulates themes of growth, promiscuity, complexity and the Korean obsession. Bold and dense colours assert themselves through the designer’s busy aesthetic which reflects the fast-paced lifestyle in Seoul. The graphic designer “treats design as if it were a miniature of Korean culture”, outwardly facing and curious, yet proudly Korean.
Through working in design, Joonghyun asserts how he has “learnt the most important values of life: helping each other, respecting each other’s lives and sharing growth.” When the designer first started working in the field, he collaborated with friends from university which later resulted in a variety of creatives sharing a workroom together. When they design collaboratively, “we don’t have a specific standard” explains Joonghyun, “we are just a group of people passionate about design that gradually started working together.”
Joonghyun further expands on this democratic design, explaining that “if my friend is a fashion designer, I would naturally start working on the packaging design or brand identity”. In other instances, if Joonghyun is working on a brand identity, “another friend could assist by creating motion graphics for the project. We help each other out pretty intensely.” Due to the fact that the creatives work in such close proximity to one another, this mode of working acts as “a gentle tap on the shoulder saying ‘hey, could you do it this way?’ which can be an amazing way of getting things done.”
For the communal group of designers, design is a form of play. They greatly appreciate “unexpected behaviours, events and nonlinear work styles that are a result from experimental play.” Joonghyun and his peers value the importance of fun with a particular subject and build on this concept of play to write a graphic design narrative around it. These resultant scenarios “help consumers approach the design objectives more persuasively” as relatable scenarios break down the design-art boundaries into something accessible. Joonghyun’s work essentially explores this idea through experimental collaboration between work and play.
This is particularly evident in the rich visual imagery that Joonghyun designs through his posters, visual identities and exhibition design. The use of typography embodies its own narrative through the variation of size, textures and other visually charged elements that evoke a certain feeling or story to the design. All the designs are consistently enhanced by the use of bold colours and structured graphic design that reflect the Korean subculture of Jjam-Bbong and the methodology of play.
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. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.