Designers Mat-Kkal and Lucky Park talk us through a space-themed exhibition identity for SF2021

Designed under the guise of MHTL – founded by Mat-Kkal and Lucky Park – the studio's latest project is inspired by sci-fi, astronauts and spaceships.

6 July 2021


In what’s been nearly two years, it’s safe to say that Mat-Kkal has ticked a few boxes in her design practice since we last spoke. The first, and most notable, is that she decided to launch her own studio More Heat Than Light (MHTL) with Lucky Park, a designer who she’s collaborated with since 2018, which has its own office complete with their cat Churchill and dog Bomb. It’s been a long time coming for Mat-Kkal, a Seoul-born designer who’s spent five years at a design agency before going freelance. “It’s a very common path among Korean graphic designers,” she tells It’s Nice That, stating: “I think this year is the real start.”

The team at MHTL now spend their time on projects that place storytelling and creativity at their core. This is achieved through collaborating with many practitioners from the realms of illustration, photography, music and web development, which in turn has seen the team produce a broad mix of projects spanning branding, fashion, food and beverage. Nothing gets them going as much as a hard deadline, though, when the pressure serves up inspiration. “Brilliant ideas usually come up two hours before the deadline,” says Mat-Kkal. “We think we are the type of people who show off skills when we are pushed to the edge of a cliff, rather than when we research and sketch with ease. If there was an audition-type programme in the graphic design scene, we’re confident that MHTL would survive to the end.”

One of the more recent projects from the studio is an exhibition identity design for Seoul Museum of Art in Seoul, named SF2021. Featuring visual references plucked right from sci-fi cinema, the space-themed visuals and bold graphics give a firm nod to the likes of A Space Odyssey and the type of design that would appear on astronaut suits, or the side of a rocket or space station. The exhibition itself is titled A Fantasy Odyssey, which looks at art in conjunction with science fiction narratives. It proved to be “especially popular” among the younger generation, says Mat-Kkal, so the show had been extended by a month. “The exhibition was intended to experiment with the spectrum of various genres of science fiction through audio-visual images and texts.”


MHTL: SF2021 (Copyright © MHTL, 2021)

The MHTL team built the identity around the idea of branding a spaceship. “We set up the SF2021 as a spaceship travelling through the science-fiction world,” continues Mat-Kkal. And yes, there is a firm hint to one specific and well-known space agency running through the veins of this project (NASA), which is highly intended by the designers. “We wanted the exhibition hall to look like the entrance to a spaceship, and as we intended, the white, high walls were enough to create the scene.” As such, the design team plastered the blank space with posters, splashing primary hues here there and everywhere. The navy colour, according to Mat-kkal, evokes “a realistic cosmic colour”, while the more yellow-green shade is inspired by the luminous sky stickers we all used to tag on our walls when we were young. It’s a coherent blending of past and present, just like the ambivalent feeling you get while questioning the universe and its great vastness.

With all of this in mind, the studio set about pulling the imagery of airplanes and spaceships into the entirety of the branding – presented through the identity manual and within various other mediums, “but never forgetting to have fun through little hints,” she says. Otherwise, there’s signage, flyers, banners, website and everything else needed for the exhibition, with typography designed in collaboration with a painter. All of which synchronically looks at the ethos and goals of SF2021, meaning that the whole thing is devised to “feel like the point of view of an astronaut in a spaceship”. It’s a wildly imaginative identity, to say the least, and its visitors are more than invited to come and be transported into space through its playful design.

After the launch of SF2021, we can only expect even more great things to come from the studio. First thing’s first, though, they will be finally creating a MHTL website, which is set to launch in autumn. This, along with plans to “produce goods” and hold events under the name and theme of MHTL, plus the continuation of commercial, cultural and artist projects, means this is definitely a studio worth keeping an eye on.

GalleryMHTL: SF2021 (Copyright © MHTL, 2021)

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MHTL: SF2021 (Copyright © MHTL, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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