In Conversation: Lee, Jaemin

We paid a studio visit to graphic designer Lee, Jaemin’s studio in Jongro, Seoul. A studio he runs alongside his partners at Things We Love (TWL). We can see posters here and there as well as hand picked items from TWL set on shelves and desks around the office. His studio was full of books and music CD’s. The furnitures were something we’d never see at stores that was custom made. At his desk a witty jazz music flowed  and he invited us over a cup of warm coffee as we opened our ears to his stories.




Tell us about your work process.

I don’t have a fixed platform when it comes to a design medium but I can tell you about my working method. The keyword is “repetition and variation”. You can think about Mozart’s Little Star Variation as an example. It is to create a large number of variations with one subject matter. This methodology may be a way of testing out how the form and element will construct but it also creates a sort of algorithm. I usually work with type a lot to practice my methodology using certain characteristics typography provides.



Do you have your own way of typesetting in Korean?

In my opinion, practices of graphic design can be divided into two directions — image and/or text. I believe uses of images are in a way literal. On the other hand, texts can be expressed less literal in that way. That is why you can see my work with typography often since I like the indirect element about it. Unlike a motion film or a book I was more attracted towards a piece of poster where I can express myself in one flat piece. The typesetting is different overtime according to the subject matter, grid, and medium.


When you were first designing posters or other design matter with Hangeul (Korean) Typography did you have your own reasons or was there a specific movement going on?

I have no doubt that Hangeul is an excellently designed language. However, I do not intentionally try to promote or participate in a specific movement on how wonderful Hangeul is. I just worked with what was natural for me. Every language carries it’s own characterists that distinguishes itself from others such as meanings that you will never understand from a dictionary but from being local. It is to know the subtle and the slight differences and from different nuances. That is why I chose to work with Hangeul often because that was part of who I am. Another reason was not because I was against roman alphabets but I just enjoyed the formative function of how Hangeul was written that roman alphabets were unable to express.



Tell us about FNT. Is FNT and Designer Lee, Jaemin function as a whole or paths into different direction? Do you have specific goals for FNT?

FNT and myself walk in two different directions. Of course my voice will be heard from looking at FNT’s portfolio since I am part of it and that I take charge of graphical projects. However, FNT’s main meaning for existence is about the concept of a space. The studio is run with my other two partners. When it comes to visual or branding related projects I take charge of it. For other projects with strategy and others my partners take charge of it. FNT focuses on work that are more commercial and work that will brings more formation of sympathy from others. The work that I myself do on my own is more self-initiated. For example, music related works are stuff that I enjoy doing on my own which is why it’s only posted on my website. Currently, we are also at a point to work out the balance between Things We Love(TWL) and FNT. TWL is a shop that sells goods invented, discovered and rediscovered by us.




There are many young designers that are influenced by your work. How do you feel about this?

I did not notice that young designers were influenced by my work but I do believe everyone is influenced by everyone else. I am also influenced by someone as well.  I haven’t thought about others work being influenced by mine but I cannot say that this is neither good or bad.


There is a increase number of interest in Hangeul from America. I have even seen non-Koreans design with Hangeul. Do you have certain thoughts about the type of works that you see?

I was not knowlegable about how much Korean design was known in America but Internet has definitely helped close the gap for obtaining new information.



Do you have anything to say to young designers outside of Korea?

Work hard from your position. Always have your own faith in your design philosophy.