Designer Sun Young Oh focuses on words, through fonts or cat flow charts

What happens when a typographic and fine art practice collide? Highly logical images that crumble under scrutiny.

Date
8 February 2024

Sun Young Oh, a graphic designer based in South Korea, spends a lot of time thinking about how to put words together. We first came across Sun Young after seeing her illustration of a cat that functioned as a strange English language exercise – the word ‘cat’ was broken down into other related phrases along the legs, tail, etc. But on further investigation, we found a whole practice built on explorations like this.

Sun Young creates typefaces where letterforms fall apart before your eyes – like a game of dominos – and designs that deconstruct phrases into assorted parts: “I enjoy finding connections in seemingly unrelated elements,” she says.

So where has this linguistic, almost poetic, approach to design come from? We have Germany to thank for some of it. Sun Young spent quite a while in the country, where she learned German and found herself navigating multiple languages. The experience led Sun Young to think about language “differently”, noticing that it isn’t as logical as we’re always led to believe. “Despite being a practical tool for communication, language has this abstract, ambiguous, and sometimes arbitrary aspect.”

Otherwise, Sun Young’s background in fine arts has played a large role in her graphic design and typography. “I constantly blend these two disciplines”, she says. Right now, the designer has a couple of typefaces on the go, and is inspired by how we can push typographic experimentation further. “I’m currently interested in variable fonts that transform typefaces beyond the usual adjustments like weight or angle, something like adding a weird feature or transforming completely.”

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Sun Young Oh: Map of Cat (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Cat (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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The Sculptural Imagination of Seanie Barron by Jon Wood, design by Daly & Lyon, lettering by Sun Young Oh (Copyright © Askeaton Contemporary Arts, 2022)

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The Sculptural Imagination of Seanie Barron by Jon Wood, design by Daly & Lyon, lettering by Sun Young Oh (Copyright © Askeaton Contemporary Arts, 2022)

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The Sculptural Imagination of Seanie Barron by Jon Wood, design by Daly & Lyon, lettering by Sun Young Oh (Copyright © Askeaton Contemporary Arts, 2022)

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Sun Young Oh: Cat – Catalogue (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Mar-Marine-Marinade-Marionette (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Stories of SUR (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Stories of SUR (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Map of ACC (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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Sun Young Oh: Domino Mono (Copyright © Sun Young Oh)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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