After graduating from Hongik University in Seoul and working for various companies, graphic designer Yunho Lee met Kangin Kim, a fellow graphic designer who was also running a guest house on the side. Later married, Kangin convinced Yunho to quit her job and set up a studio with him, and so Kimgarden was born.
Having since racked up an impressive list of projects and clientele including Nike, Wieden+Kennedy and Amore Pacific, the duo’s portfolio boasts an eclectic style. Two threads through the work being illustration and typography, Kimgarden’s aesthetic strikes the perfect balance between slick professionalism and playful DIY. Simplistic elements are brought together in their compositions to form thoughtful and engaging designs that serve to demonstrate the studio’s versatility.
Take for instance the pair’s most recent project, an identity for an exhibition at Seoul’s Platform-L Contemporary Art Center, titled Take Me Home. Taking influence from the commercial focus of the show, Kangin was inspired to incorporate the American gallery tradition of using red dots to signify when an artwork has sold into his design. “I placed exhibition information texts on the red stickers and gave them to the visitors. By collecting several stickers together in different positions, it can make new letters. Or, an enlarged sticker could function as one big signage inside of the gallery,” explains Kangin.
He then extended these visuals to a personalised version of Yut Nori, a traditional board game played in Korea especially during Korean New Year. Reworking the various printed elements and materials using the exhibition’s red and white colour scheme, Kangin also implemented his studio’s trademark typographical experimentation through playful arrangements of letters and numbers.
This motif is present in many of Kimgarden’s projects, including their work for Tone Studio Live, a series of recording sessions open to the public. Taking inspiration from the sounds of the musicians and their respective qualities, Kangin placed the textual elements at the forefront of the design. Breaking down the information by category (event name, musician name, session title), he then created intricate compositions that revolve around space and letterforms.
“This was a difficult project for me because it had to show Tone Studio’s graphic identity and at the same time express the personalities of the musicians and their music,” says Kangin. “I tried to communicate their delicate and detailed sound as well as the characteristics of the studio itself.”
Another project demonstrating the studio’s meticulous approach is Gardeners Market, which is an event set up and organised by Yunho. Transforming an industrial space with wood and greenery, the market’s warehouse location becomes a meeting point for plant-lovers. Here they can sell their nature-inspired creations such as botanical paintings, flowerpots and gardening tools, as well as actual plants.
Taking place during spring and summer, Yunho wanted to reflect the heightened chroma that plants display in these seasons in her design. The resulting palette boasts warm shades of orange, blue and green, complementing the minimal forms of fruits, trees and animals. Speaking on her aesthetic decisions for the series, Yunho says: “The background of the 4th Gardeners Market poster is a gradation of colours that belongs to early summer forests and skies, and the background of the 5th poster is the colour from the ground and sky just before sunset.”
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