Designers are perceived as people who create delicate beauty by making something out of nothing. Among various types of designers, the graphic designer, one that came on after the advancement of technology, remains as a vague profession to most people. The Granite Tower (GT) met with graphic designer Kim Hyun Su to discover specifics of the profession and to listen to his own story of pursuing a path as a designer.
GT What is a graphic designer?
Kim A graphic designer creates images that can deliver particular messages through use of visual aids and effects. The definition itself is very broad, and graphic designers utilize various types of medium, including printing, magazine covers, or even television screens that are created through computer designing programs. I personally think that graphic designing, compared to other types of designing, allows more flexible thinking, since visual expression of image is very important.
GT What motivated you to become a graphic designer?
Kim When I was young, I was full of curiosity and liked watching science fiction movies. I once dreamed of becoming Superman, but after realizing that he is a fictional character, I looked for other ways that can help me fly like him. As I learned computer technology, I realized that graphic design can help me realize my thoughts through composite images. I practiced with computer programs by myself, and it was exciting to see my imagination spreading out through images before my eyes. I became an independent graphic designer after working for a design company until 2014.
▲ Graphic Designer Kim Hyun Su. Photographed by Kim Ji Won.
GT Why did you particularly choose to utilize neon sign in your work?
Kim The reason I utilize neon sign is that I can create various shapes with it, and colors that are shown through neon are gentrified. Furthermore, the most distinctive merit of using neon light is that I can write sentences and express messages with it. Through neon signs, I particularly write sentences and expressions in Korean. As I looked through various neon designs in the internet, I discovered that most writings were in English. I wondered why there were not many neon writings in Korean and felt that expressing visual messages in Korean will also be very beautiful. Therefore, I decided to design neon sign with messages written in Korean.
GT From what source do you usually receive your inspirations?
Kim I receive inspirations regarding messages in my artwork when I listen to other people’s thoughts through conversations. When I compare their concerns with my own life experiences, I can come up with a message that people can easily empathize with. In order to listen to the voices of many people, I sometimes upload a post on my Social Networking Service (SNS) account at dawn, asking people about their concerns these days. Many people tell me their stories, and through these stories, I come up with a message that I want to deliver. Sometimes, films are effective sources of inspiration about emotion and messages as well.
GT How do you create your works?
Kim After I come up with an idea about a message, I find an appropriate background image from the internet. Then I insert the message or expression that I came up with into that image and add neon sign effects on it. After adding a few small designs that are related to the message and polishing the entire image with graphic programs, I upload my finished work on my SNS account. Since most of my artworks have a dark atmosphere, I usually upload my works in the evening so that viewers can empathize with the message more easily.
GT Tell us about your most memorable works.
Kim The image that I feel most attachment for is one with the message “Do not delay things to achieve your dream” because the message encourages me in my everyday life. Besides that work, my most memorable work was the one that I uploaded in the first anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster. The message was “It is too deep to forget you,” and even though I did not intend to relate the message with the disaster, a large number of people cherished the memory of victims by empathizing with it. By looking at reactions of the viewers, I realized that my messages could be interpreted in various ways depending on different perspectives.
▲ Kim’s two most memorable works. Provided by Kim's blog
GT What are some difficulties that you encounter as a graphic designer?
Kim Economic profit was actually not my goal when I became a graphic designer. However, I think that the economic aspect is the concern that most independent artists share; I also have concerns about the commercialization of my artworks since the earning is inconsistent. Furthermore, I need to have more knowledge because I work by myself. But to me, this is more convenient since complete freedom of expression is guaranteed compared to workplaces where I had to comply with guidelines and directions.
GT What kind of message or value do you want to convey through your artworks?
KimI personally think that concerns about personal relationships is one of the most difficult concerns for people to overcome. By incorporating advice and stories about different interpersonal relationships in my works, I hope they can soothe and console people’s pain. I also hope the images that I produce can become a source of change to viewers. Those changes can happen in any way, including changes in thoughts, emotions, or even atmosphere. I wish my messages, as words of comfort, can at least result in positive changes in viewers’ hearts.
GT What is your advice for readers who want to become a graphic designer?
Kim I think there are several necessary traits to become a graphic designer. Curiosity will help you be exposed to diverse thoughts, and artistic sense will help you follow the social trend related to design. Most importantly, I think people who possess their own unique perspectives are likely to succeed as designers, because they can pursue their path and dream without any hesitation. As a person who is also in the process of development, I want to recommend aspiring graphic designers to enjoy various experiences. Those experiences will become invaluable assets not only for your artistic activities, but also for your entire life.