Sejin Choi blurs the boundaries between graphic design and art
The Seoul-based designer talks us through his playful work which experiments with the Korean writing system, Hangul, in a variety of forms including dance, performance and poster design.
- Jyni Ong
- 5 December 2019
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Dancing Hangul characters and smooth visuals galore feature in the Seoul-based Sejin Choi’s work. Currently a senior designer at StudioText in the Korean capital, Sejin also works freelance on a number of individual and collaborative projects. He often plays with the elementary forms that make up the Korean writing system Hangul, expressing language in an experimental variety of forms and playing with its meaning in turn.
Originally, however, as a child, Sejin set out to be a cartoonist. Eventually deciding to study visual communication at university, he developed a prominent interest in the various ways of “handling visual language”. This is something that could be expressed through painting, photography and many other kinds of pictorial image-making, but for Sejin, it was a combination of all these elements, not to mention typography most importantly, that the designer chose to focus on.
Experimenting with a number of design systems, he soon realised that he “prefers an image that can provoke a story rather than just a nice image alone.” And as a result, he started to use visual metaphors that could be interpreted in a many number of ways. In turn, his work often features elements of the human body, metaphors or different dimensions of space that can be read in several different ways. Over time, he’s collected interesting graphic references, from his days as a child diving into the quiet atmospheres of Japanese shonen manga comics to his adulthood when he gained an appreciation for the emotive gestures of traditional Hangul calligraphy.
In a recent poster design collaboration with Hyungmin Kim, the duo designed a poster and identity for Bigriver Festival. Visually interpreting Bum-yong Lee and Myung-hoon Han’s song Dream Conversation, the pair created a design capturing the dialogue format of the song. “We usually talk about a world full of love,” Sejin goes on to say. “We think not only love between family members or lovers, but also consideration and compassion for the discriminated and the alienated is love.” To represent this, the two designers created an image of giving and receiving love, making a heart flat and performing a relay race where the flag is passed between runners.
In another design for the National Hangeul Museum, Sejin collaborated with Byeongseok Go, Sieun Park, Hwasu Yang, Hoontaek Oh, Nagyeong Woo, Jin Hee Yoo, Juhyun Lee and Haesol Lee to bring typography to life with an interactive poster. Titled Dumchit-Hangul, the design is a kit for expressing Hangul lettering using the body with only limited movements as a tool.“The Hangul script is used in syllabic blocks meaning each letter differs in complexity and can be expressed through combinations achieved in varied modules,” says Sejin on the smooth-moving poster design. The body is reimagined as a kind of writing tool, like a pen or a brush, and each body part acts as a mechanical cog of a wider well-oiled machine. Importantly, the design responds to a number of rules involving a group of people making letterforms with their bodies to communicate a sentence.
The intersection of live performance and design is a common practice for Sejin. He explores the relationship between the digital and real-life across a number of designs. In another design titled Zero One Dimension, Sejin sketched a dance performance as a starting point for the project. He continues, “I accidentally turned it over and the photo felt weightless. I then described the scene as a boundary that crosses the stage to a different dimension.” Continuing to explore different ways of making images in the future – from material to conceptual – Sejin hopes to further “blur the boundary between graphic design and other areas of art (especially cartoons.)”
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.