Website designs by Yehwan Song feature a code to be cracked or a puzzle to solve

3 January 2019
“I love interaction design because it’s all about defining the rules and the results are unexpected and fluid,” explains designer and developer Yehwan Song. Originally from Seoul, Yehwan is now based in New York City and creates websites and interactive pieces which flip our understanding of web design, concealing visual tricks and riddles in everything she makes.

First introduced to the medium when she “accidentally took a geometry and construction math course,” Yehwan became “fascinated by the shapes made by an array of points under certain rules," she recalls. "Once the rules were made, points following these rules started to make specific patterns, which became beautiful natural shapes and graphs. When the rules were slightly changed, the shape changed as well but again, made its own visual patterns.” It was this discovery which prompted a fascination with designing with parameters; generating unexpected visual outcomes through set rules and processes.

As a result, her work is incredibly process-led: “all my focus is on ‘what kind of rules do I need to make’ to show the concepts and the projects,” she tells us. Although wide-ranging, these rules are always used to impose restrictions on a concept, and often manipulating technology we are familiar with in unorthodox ways. “And then I just keep checking if the rules work well by trying and repeating variable inputs and testing under the multiple conditions. In the end, I observe or archive the outputs that are naturally generated under these rules and these eventually become the ‘visual output’ of my projects.”

One example of Yehwan’s manipulation of technology is her self-initiated project Chase and Runner. Utilising the Google Street View API, Yehwan inverts the users’ perspective depending on which device they visit the site on. If you enter it via a desktop you become the “chaser” and can see 12 different locations extracted from Google Street View which are 100m away from a selected maker – this marker can be moved and the images will be updated in real time. If you enter the site via the mobile, however, it presents a completely different experience. Instead, one image of a street 20km away from your phone, in the direction you are facing will be shown, effectively making you the “runner”. The difference in these two experiences simultaneously creates an online game of cat and mouse and prompts an interesting experiment into how user experience can not only be tailored to each device but made completely unique.

When creating her website for the Opentrecnet Graphic Design exhibition in Seoul, Yehwan once again exploited the user experience of a traditional website. The exhibition was focussed on archiving and sharing trends within the field of graphic design. To reflect this theme, Yehwan created a site which constantly archives itself, taking a screenshot every three seconds which slowly become stacked up on the right side of the screen and which are navigable, allowing users to jump back and forward between precise moments.

Whatever the output, it’s Yehwan’s lateral thinking which produces such interesting results. Her work explores new ways of presenting information, breaking out of the confines of the traditional top-to-bottom scroll of a site. It’s her visual tricks, on the other hand, that make Yehwan’s work so rewarding. At times confusing upon first inspection, there’s always a code to be cracked or a puzzle to solve.


Yehwan Song: Chase and Runner


Yehwan Song: Text Fire


Yehwan Song: ISIA WT Summer School Archive

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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